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In Conversation with Terry O’Reilly: The importance of social media marketing for foodservice and hospitality

Terry O’ Reilly is a 40-year veteran of the advertising industry and host of the award-winning CBC Radio One show, Under The Influence. As the RC Leadership Conference keynote at RC Show 2019, O’Reilly talked to us about how restaurants and foodservice companies can successfully use social media to grow their business.

O’Reilly began his career in Toronto as a copywriter for multiple advertising agencies such as Chiat/Day, creating campaigns for many top brands, including Labatt, Molson, Pepsi, Tim Hortons and the Hudson’s Bay Company. He went on to co-found a creative audio production company in 1990 called Pirate Radio and Television, producing scripts, sound and music for radio and television commercials before developing an award-winning podcast – chosen by iTunes as the “Best New Podcast of 2011” and one of the “Best Podcasts of 2015”.  

Impressively, O’Reilly has won a few hundred national and international awards for his writing and directing, and worked with such notable actors as Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Newhart and Martin Short.   His many keynote speaking gigs provide an opportunity for him to share his insights about key marketing issues faced by all organizations and how these have shifted greatly over the last 20 years, with the emergence of social media.

 “Social media has changed everything.  It allows a company to advertise or to reach customers without an investment of money but with an investment of time –  in this new day and age you can reach people on their mobile phones and you can build your brand.”

O’Reilly feels that there has never been a more powerful medium than social media because it travels and moves with the consumer.  A customer doesn’t have to be sitting in front of a TV or be by a radio to receive your message and if they want to order take out or make a reservation they can do it from anywhere.  “Social media enables a restaurant to reach its’ customers easily and knowing that, smart restaurateurs should be reaching out and making it as simple as possible for someone to do just that,” he says.

However, it’s not just a matter of reaching out – the challenge remains in getting noticed amongst all the social media noise.  According to O’Reilly, the way to do that is through creating great content. “I’ve always believed that if you don’t have a story, you don’t have a business,” says O’Reilly.  “Tell me the story of your business, tell me why you do what you do –  I know what you do – but I want to know what drives you, what your passions are and what makes your restaurant or food service business different.”  

Creating content that is interesting versus self-promoting is a key strategy in developing compelling content. When a potential customer looks at your business’ content, you want to ensure it’s so interesting that it’s shareable and that it can potentially begin a dialogue.   

But before you begin that dialogue, there are certain social media essentials you must be aware of.  “You need to be respectful on social media, don’t be invasive and be transparent,” says O’Reilly. “Be interesting and innovative and show that you know how to communicate on social media, and if you have a great product, you’re going to do a lot of business.”

You can hear from industry leaders like Terry O’Reilly at the RC Leadership Conference at RC Show 2020.  This one-day special event hosted at Hotel X in Toronto, brings together knowledgeable experts who are constantly looking towards the future and leading the way.  

This year’s session will focus on diversifying your profits and provide actionable advice on how to conquer changing cultural and operational demands.  For more information, head over here.

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