August 6, 2012
Taco Truck Stunt Attracts Positive PR for Appirio's Hiring Amidst Poor Jobs Report
By Jim Bucci
Food trucks appear to be popping up everywhere these days. The newest trend in on the go, ready-to-eat food service, food trucks sell their tasty gourmet treats right from their mobile mobiles to the masses. And they are hard to ignore when perched on a city street, usually brightly-colored and slinging intriguing and delicious-smelling food items. Appirio counted on the pull of the food truck when deciding to host a "We're Hiring" taco truck to shed attention on the open positions within the company and the fact they would be hiring at a time of record high unemployment.
With media attention swirling around "Dreamforce," the cloud computing event created by Salesforce.com and the pending 2010 U.S. Government jobs report, Appirio (a cloud services company) knew an excellent opportunity existed to draw interest in their company. With food trucks having reached a point of critical mass in San Francisco, Appirio and agency of record SHIFT Communications knew people would swarm to get the free lunch and learn about job opportunities.
"Appirio's internal communications team approached us for help with their recruiting efforts," explains Cathy Summers, vice president of account services at SHIFT Communications. "Engineering talent in the Bay Area was scarce and many local companies were vying to fill open positions, including larger technology companies with household names. Appirio tasked us with elevating their brand within the developer community via media coverage and engaging with potential recruits via grassroots efforts."
SHIFT selected Cloudstock, a pre-Dreamforce developer event, to host the taco truck to better reach the ideal developer audience and help Appirio rise above the noise of Dreamforce—one of the largest conferences in the tech community.
"We wanted to stand out at this event in a unique way and the taco truck did just that," states Summers.
The Strategy: Leverage the food truck trend by stationing a taco truck outside of tech conference Cloudstock, dispensing free lunch and info about job opportunities. Appirio and SHIFT anticipated the U.S. Government jobs report to reveal an increase in unemployment and few jobs added over the last quarter. The fact Appirio decided to hire new employees presented a counterintuitive angle and bright spot in an otherwise gloomy report.
The strategy centered on Cloudstock, the pre-Dreamforce developer event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco that attracts thousands of developers with an interest in cloud computing and a skill set to match—basically the ideal target for Appirio's needs. With so many qualified candidates milling about, the team needed a way to attract attention to Appirio's job opportunities.
SHIFT settled on a creative stunt by hiring a local taco truck to sit across from Moscone and hand out free tacos to anyone with a Cloudstock badge. To piggyback on the taco truck, the agency developed a media outreach strategy based on the jobs report issued the same day. Appirio desired to reach a variety of media outlets for both recruiting purposes, but to also highlight the fact that while most businesses struggled to stay afloat, they had expanded. With this message in mind, the agency constructed strategic pitches based on existing relationships, reporter beats and coverage around Dreamforce.
"We took a counterintuitive position with the media stating that Bay Area engineering jobs were readily available," says Summers. "The problem was actually a shortage of talent. Reporters from national business press and local media took that story and we even had local broadcast coverage of our stunt. Without that angle for the media, no station would have sent out a camera crew to cover our event."
And the free tacos did not hurt either.
The Challenge: Taco truck stunt brings forth an obstacle course of logistical issues to circumvent. Arranging for a taco truck to pull up outside of the Moscone Center during a busy tech conference in a red tape-clad city such as San Francisco is no mean feat. You cannot simply drive up and park. For the taco truck stunt to go off without a hitch, SHIFT navigated around a bevy of logistical issues, such as making sure to secure the proper permits, operating around street closures and staying at the ready for any potential hiccups to arise.
"Getting the attention of people in a crowded conference center is also a challenge," offers Summers. "We used social media to promote the free tacos in the days leading up to the event and that morning, but the stunt was hyper-local. You needed to be at Cloudstock."
During Cloudstock, SHIFT members alerted attendees within the lobby with signs, directing them to the taco truck, but event organizers rebuffed those efforts, escorting them out of the convention center and out to the street.
"The content of the jobs report was also unknown until the morning of the event," notes Summers. "The potential existed for our media pitch to end up in the circular file."
The Results: National and regional media members flock to cover the taco truck stunt, resulting in numerous placements, while Appirio fills open positions. Broadcast and local papers quickly jumped at the visual component, eager to see the taco truck firsthand and share images with their readers and viewers. Bloomberg Businessweek used the taco truck as an anchor for a feature story on how tech companies creatively recruit new employees with Appirio at the center of a much larger trend piece.
Coverage included 8.7 million impressions and placements in Bloomberg Businessweek, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, Palo Alto Daily News and CIO. Broadcast coverage included stories on KTVU-TV and KGO-TV in San Francisco. Based on media coverage and the taco truck, Appirio collected more than 50 resumes and filled 20 positions. In addition, reporters continue to mention the taco truck, including coverage in Computerworld.
"Our work for Appirio raised the company's visibility in local and nation media and directly with the company's target audience," explains Summers. "The work succeeded due to a creative on-site stunt and timely media outreach. Plus, having a PR team hustle tacos on a crowded sidewalk and not take no for an answer is tenacity as its best."
Secrets of Success: Read on as Summers offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Silver in the category of "Best Campaign Under $10,000" at the 2012 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations & Publicity.
- Utilize the hot trends of today. "Food trucks had reached a point of critical mass in San Francisco, which meant people would want to check ours out," she says. "Knowing what people are talking about and what's trending can turn a run-of-the-mill campaign into something timely and interesting."
- Be up-to-date on the current news cycle. "Even if you don't think bigger mainstream news stories are applicable to your client or company, take the time to brainstorm potential angles," she advises. "You'll be surprised what you can come up with."
- Entice your target audience with mass giveaways. "Who doesn't like a free lunch?" she offers. "While potential recruits waited for their tacos or sampled the delicious treats, Appirio representatives told them about the company and started to make that connection. It was a captive audience. Just make sure you hand that taco to the right person. Mass giveaways can help brands that reach a general consumer audience, but not those focused on a specific market. Look for gatherings that bring in your crowd."
- Align with an event sure to attract your audience. "Don't be afraid to ride someone's coattails," she advises. "Knowing that your target audience is going to be gathering at another event shouldn't deter you from finding ways to reach them."
Winner's Profile: An independent PR consultancy with offices in New York, Boston and San Francisco, SHIFT Communications serves 75 clients. Past and present clients include AOL.com, Overstock.com, Logitech, Johnson & Johnson, Yelp, ClubMed, Home Depot, Bing, Google, Virgin Mobile, H&R Block, Akamai, Novell, Nuance, WebTrends and Oakley Sunglasses, among others.