Wednesday, May 19, 2010

PR Challenge for Coffee

I am a Public Relations student, right now, at Missouri State. I recently did a project in my PR class about the life of Doris Fleischman, Edward Bernay's wife. Bernays is the self-proclaimed "father of PR". And although that may sound a bit self-righteous, he did make some rather major alterations to American culture through PR tactics. 

Did you know he is the reason that Americans enjoy a hearty breakfast as opposed to a pastry-heavy breakfast in Europe? Let's just say he worked for the pork and chicken industry.

Did you know he is the reason why it is culturally acceptable for women to smoke? He created an entire campaign around Easter Sunday that had attractive women smoking at the parades. He called them "freedom sticks". Because of this PR campaign, an entire generation changed their values and saw it acceptable for women to smoke.

If Bernays can do all this with PR, why can't specialty coffee professionals do the same. 

That disconnect of treating all coffee the same, like I discussed in my last post, can only be cured by baristas around the country. It is our job to change people's opinions and behaviors about coffee. Public Relations is all about promotion, brand awareness, and education. That is what the specialty coffee industry needs if anyone will be able to know the difference from a cappuccino at a gas station and a traditional cappuccino. Or to know the difference between a Starbucks machiato and a traditional machiato. 

Starbucks changed our culture once before just like Bernays. Now, it is the third wave coffee shops' job to do it once more.

It will take education, research, dedication, patience, and the willingness to listen. Snobbery about coffee is not the answer. As baristas, it is our job to make sure the customer understands what they are ordering and to serve the best product we can.

It will take intentional events, classes, and making information accessible to the average Joe. We need to make learning about coffee an easy option.

Sure, sometimes we will have to encounter people who may treat us rudely or even worse--like every other barista they have encountered. But if we treat people with respect and kindness, we can create a culture revolution just like Bernays.

One customer and one smile at a time. 

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  1. I love that picture of you!! :) Delightful!

  2. It was my first latte at The Coffee Ethic...very memorable! :)