Relationship Building in the Craft Beer Industry: A Study of PR within the Growing Artisanal and Locavore Movements

A Summary by Patricia McCleary. The full study by Dr. Nicole Lee, North Carolina State University, Dr. Trent Seltzer and Dr. Coy Callison, Texas Tech University can be found in the PR Journal.

As the globalization of the world around us expands our horizons, people begin to experience and discover things they would not have had access to in the past. However, even as our reach continues to grow throughout the world, so does our focus on that which is immediately around us. In the past few years alone, the demand for local and artisanal products has skyrocketed. Many contribute this “significant and steady growth” to millennials, an audience targeted by this industry due to their willingness to spend more for taste, sustainability, and locality when in regard to certain products. Because of this, the artisanal and locavore movements, specifically in the microbrewery field, have become a key industry for the study of public relations research and techniques.

Dr. Nicole Lee, Dr. Trent Seltzer, and Dr. Coy Callison explore the unique role of public relations in these industries as well as how they perceive the role of communication and relationship building with the public. This research was done by conducting eight interviews with craft brewery owners and specialists in communication. Interviewees were located in Texas and California, two hubs for the craft beer industry in terms of economic impact (Lee, Seltzer, et al 9).

The uniqueness of the craft beer industry was one of the first topics discussed during this research study. The four overarching themes include a collaborative nature within the field, an overwhelming passion for craft beer, an emphasis on quality rather than commercial efforts, and an emphasis on community. In regard to collaboration, researchers found that microbrewery owners don’t only want their own companies to thrive, but rather, they want the industry to thrive as a whole. During special occasions in the industry, breweries will often collaborate on creating a beer together. Another finding was just how passionate this industry is about what they do. Interviewees all seemed to tell a similar story that they joined this industry because of how much they love it. People still continue to work in microbreweries because they love it, despite minimal pay. The third finding further emphasizes just how much people value working in this industry. Every person interviewed said some variation of how they care about making an excellent product, rather than making money. The final finding in this uniqueness category was the overwhelming sense of community and home that everyone shares (Lee, Seltzer, et al 10-11).

Concerning how the industry perceives the importance and role of communication and public relations, there were once again four themes that researchers found. These include viewing public relations as a necessity, a limited budget, the importance of building personal rapport, and the reliability of social media. Throughout the interview, brewery owners and communication specialists alike explained just how essential it is for people to hear about their breweries. However, due to breweries being small businesses, they often run on smaller budgets and most of this goes to actually crafting their product. As a family and community oriented business, the need for personal relationship building is vital to the continuation of success in the industry. Finally, social media is a way for breweries to personally interact with customers. Customers interaction with these and make announcements about products (Lee, Seltzer, et al 11-12).

In regard to relationship building, participants in this study explained five key strategies to promote connectivity within their communities: openness, access, networking, sharing of tasks, and positivity. Openness and access were often discussed together. Interviewees explained that it is their desire to be approachable to customers all-the-while teaching them about the industry. Networking gives microbreweries the opportunity to connect with certain events and people who live within their community. A sharing of tasks allows breweries in this industry to band together and lobby for more favorable outcomes for each person and their business. Positivity allows microbreweries and their customers to build relationships in a fun and exciting atmosphere through unique events and products (Lee, Seltzer, et al 13-14).

In conclusion, microbreweries as a whole provide a unique perspective on the importance of public relations in a growing field. Their emphasis on personal relationship building through the utilization of both social media and community show the public relations field how an organization is able to best use multiple mediums for continued success. Furthermore, this study with microbreweries does not only show us ways to employ these practices in other fields, but it also shows how organizations can best appeal to target audiences such as millennials in a changing field.

The full study by Dr. Nicole Lee, North Carolina State University, Dr. Trent Seltzer and Dr. Coy Callison, Texas Tech University can be found in the PR Journal.

Patricia McCleary is a member of the IPR street team. She is currently a student at the University of Florida studying public relations.  

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