Pub Promotion In A Poor Economy

By Publications Checkout
Pub Promotion In A Poor Economy

Genna Patterson investigates what it takes to promote your pub in a cut-throat economy, and discovers two thriving pub-listing services provided by Publin.ie and Beoir.org

Once a country with a thriving pub culture, Ireland has seen cutbacks and closures since the economic downturn of 2008. A recent report commissioned by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland shows that in 2011, the total value of bar sales declined by 7.2 per cent, with a 5.5 per cent fall in sales volumes. So, with a seemingly reduced pool of customers, how do you get your pub on the map? Well, how about going online, 2012’s map equivalent?One of the most obvious ways in which to promote a pub is by using social-network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These can be utilised by creating a welcoming home page – not just a regular member page, but one specific to your pub. Showing a photograph of your pub will help people recognise it if passing by or looking for it. Currently, there are 950 million users of Facebook (June 2012), while Twitter has 500 million users (April 2012). Ireland is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top social-media users per capita. Posting updates of drink specials or games nights and competitions taking place in the pub can help go a long way to drawing the customers back in. Some pubs, such as Charlie Malone’s in Limerick, have taken to offering free food on certain days of the week. While these specials are all well and good, they will only successfully attract customers if they are well publicised. In contrast to having a social-media presence, not having one can actually hinder your sales. If someone hears about your pub and Googles it, to find no information, they will quickly move on to one that does. Failing to make your mark in the cyber world leaves you lagging behind those who do, and those who are actively engaging with their patrons online.One such website, based in Dublin, is taking the hard work out of social media for Dublin pubs. Publin.ie is a price-comparison website that lists the best-value pubs in Dublin. The search options are categorised by name, drink, price or day to find the best deals available, thus saving punters trawling through pages of Facebook or Twitter to find the best deal. Up and running since December 2011, Publin.ie was created by John Geraghty after thinking about the logistics of such a site for nearly a year. He began working on it part time at first, but it has quickly become so successful that he now works on it full time. When asked how he keeps up to date with all of the 210 pubs listed and reviewed on the site, Geraghty says, “Most of the time, I call around to pubs individually to get their prices, get a few photos, and have a chat with the staff to see if they’ve heard of Publin. Most of them have, which is great to hear. A lot of pubs keep us up to date through Twitter, Facebook, and email. As we move into pub events listings [comedy nights, quizzes, etc.], I’ll rely more on their websites and calling on the phone.” Geraghty noticed a gap in the social-media market for a listings service, although Publin is so much more. It has also created various entertaining pub crawls based around social and cultural references, such as the Father Ted crawl, the Luas Red Line crawl and the Seachtain na Gaeilge crawl. These pub crawls incorporate many of the pubs on the website list, thus bringing more business to these bars. Geraghty says, “I originally started organising pub crawls around locations, historical events, or famous Dubliners, but it’s moved on since then to include TV shows, movies, current affairs ... generally, if there’s something popular out and I think I might be able to make a crawl out of it, I’ll look through the A-Z of pubs and see if there are any connections I can make. They’re usually tenuous, but tongue-in-cheek.”Publin also uses Facebook and Twitter to enhance its service. Twitter, in particular, is useful, as it is updated constantly and is more interactive than Facebook. Pubs can use it to build up a rapport with people more easily, even though people are using assumed names. “It’s great when interacting with pubs, as with just one click we can re-tweet specials they may be running for that night only,” Geraghty says. So, clearly, if your presence is online, outlets like Publin further your name in turn.In reference to Twitter’s use for Publin, Geraghty notes, “Twitter has been really great for Publin. We’ve got around 1,200 followers at the moment, and it’s been growing organically very well. Most of our media exposure has come from chance discussions we struck up on Twitter. For example, we asked Róisín Ingle of The Irish Times if she would re-tweet us to her followers. She then contacted us, asking for a tour of Dublin pubs to tie in with an article she was writing. It was great exposure. The same happened with The Sunday Business Post, Stellar magazine, BBC Travel and a few other media outlets.”Although Publin is currently only based in Dublin City and suburbs, there is scope for the creation of other pub-listing sites around Ireland. Geraghty details how Publin would first like to expand further out to the Dublin suburbs to make sure that it has that market covered first. As far as the rest of the country goes, he thinks the site works best in densely populated areas, where there is more competition between pubs on pricing. However, he acknowledges that tourists do need to know where local pubs with a good reputation are. Publin is considering a trial run in Galway. If it goes well, it will begin to expand from there.Another site that offers a similar service, but a more specialised one, is Beoir.org. It hosts a full website with articles about craft beer, information about events, and a directory of breweries, off-licences, brewpubs, pubs and restaurants that stock craft beers. The website contains a wealth of information for brewing your own, too, with advice on where to get or how to build your equipment for brewing. Failing that, the site helps you find a reasonably priced pint of craft beer anywhere in the country. It also has a smartphone app called BeoirFinder, which currently features a map with pins directing users to the nearest pub selling craft beers around the country. This app was launched in October 2011, and while simplistic for now, it has the potential to develop and enhance the current service.BeoirFinder focuses on craft beer, i.e. beer that is not run-of-the-mill, but made by small, independent breweries or brewpubs. Beoir.org began life as a group of beer enthusiasts setting up their own online community back in late 2006. The app was created by one of its volunteer members, entirely on his own initiative, and he makes constant tweaks and fixes. The organisation is currently looking at a modification that will allow users to update entries in real time, which will help improve the accuracy.The treasurer and co-founder of Beoir, John Duffy, details that, currently, it is very much a voluntary organisation, so any member who has the skills and the time pitches in to keep things running. He notes that, as is the way of these things, in practice, there’s a group of maybe four or five members who do most of the work. “With the directory, we try to keep it as open as possible, and anyone who submits an entry can maintain it as well,” he says.At the moment, Beoir gets close to 10,000 unique visitors every month.Duffy says of Beoir’s creation, “It all started because there was nothing else like it on the web, nowhere where beer enthusiasts in Ireland could meet and discuss their hobby, so the community forum was the nucleus. One day, a member suggested keeping a list of all the pubs we knew that served the beer we liked, so we started that, and it grew with the community and the Irish beer scene. When we migrated the site in 2010, this list was brought across into the fully featured database we have now, and then the app was built around it.”When asked how long craft beer has been trending in Ireland, Duffy seems surprised that it is trending at all. “Is it? It’s still a mere 1 per cent of the overall beer market. I think the introduction of reduced excise duty for microbreweries in 2005 is where the roots of the current movement are. This has made it poss
ible for lots of new breweries to start up and, more importantly, stay in business during the first difficult years.” However, Duffy is adamant that Beoir is assisting with publicising craft beer in Ireland. “At Beoir, we do our best to get the word about the breweries out, and several of them have their own excellent PR skills and work very hard at getting out and being seen, both in the real world and the virtual one. Media interest is sporadic, though. While the occasional feature is heartening, we’re still without a regular beer-review section in any of the main papers, for example.”Beoir stays on top of craft-beer news and stocking locations by any means necessary. It says that the ideal is to have its own members on the ground, drinking in the locations, and reporting back on what’s available. However, it also tracks the breweries’ social-media communications on where their beer is stocked. It finds that the combination of social-media websites and Google Street View has made compiling a national directory much easier than it was when the group initially started. Again, your online presence giving you further, indirect coverage.Despite being a nationwide service, currently Beoir appears to show more attention to Dublin locations. However, Duffy says, “It may seem that way, but it’s probably because it’s where more of our members are, and where the biggest concentration of craft-beer pubs are. We would love to see more stockists in the thinly spread areas. Looking at the map, there are vast swathes of Meath and west Ulster that could do with more craft-beer pubs. Obviously, if they’re out there and we’ve missed them, we’d love to hear about them and get them included.”Beoir supports Publin when it comes to competition. Duffy notes, “Anything that helps people find where to drink the beers they want is a good thing. For too long every pub in Ireland was doing the same thing and serving the same drinks. Nowadays there’s a whole range of options available to the drinker in terms of facilities, price, food options and, of course, beer selection. In the age of the mobile web, it’s easier than ever to be discerning about what we drink and where. Our BeoirFinder service, and Publin’s, are ways of driving customers towards the good pubs, in the hope that the ones falling behind raise their game too, to the benefit of customer and business alike.”Similarly, while Publin doesn’t see Beoirfinder as a competitor, it admires the app and has its own app in development. Currently they are in talks with a large drinks distributor about teaming up, which means that it will take a little longer to develop, but it will be more comprehensive in the long run. John Geraghty says, “The app will show you where the nearest pub is in relation to your current location – a description, price list and photo of that pub, an events guide for music, pub quizzes, comedy nights, karaoke, movie nights and other events. You’ll be able to check in to pubs directly through the app, too. I’m hoping there will be a large update on it, as I think it should be the best on the market when we do release. It will, of course, be free to everyone. We’re hoping that the app will supplement other mobile city guides that tourists will use when they visit. They’ll be able to see places in their locality serving good pub grub, as most tourists will eat in pubs during their stay here. In short, it’s coming soon, it has everything, and it’ll help people find value for money.”With all of this free promotion on Publin.ie, do the pubs see any extra custom? Geraghty says, “It’s sometimes hard to quantify how many people we’ve sent to any pub, but we do hear some stories anecdotally from people we’ve met on nights out. Also, we get a pretty warm reception in pubs, so that would indicate that we are sending some people to them. Smyth’s of Haddington Road contacted us recently to say that they received a booking for 60 people through Publin, so that might be happening more frequently than we now know. A lot of people use the site not just to find cheap deals, but also to find new watering holes that they hadn’t previously considered, so I’m sure they tell the bar staff if they get chatting to them.”Beoir, however, finds it a little more difficult to quantify the success of its app so far. John Duffy says, “We’re not really keeping tabs on it. The real measure of success is if it gets people into the places listed, and obviously we can’t track that ... however, we get about one query per week from businesses looking to be listed on the directory, so I think it is being valued by the trade.” Currently Beoir is the only listing service to cover all of Ireland, and while it may be a while before Publin expands out of Dublin, these sites are certainly not a hindrance to the pub culture at present. As the world becomes more social-media inclined, why not join those already online to compete? Some pubs still advertise in local newspapers or by word of mouth, but it cannot be denied that using websites and online communities to spread the word about what’s going on at their venues is currently where it’s at. Perhaps the future is sites like Publin and Beoir, as people like to mix social activities with an interactive online presence. Having people ‘check in’ to your pub raises awareness of the premises and inevitably boosts trade. Whatever forum a pub chooses to advertise its wares, it is key to boosting sales, getting customers in and ensuring that the business survives. And in this economy, that’s tough enough. So power up the laptop, get online and try to lure the punters back in