By: Heather Garlich, Senior Director, Media and Public Relations, Food Marketing Institute
Voice of Food Retail 2017

I admit it: I take photos of my food. As a communicator, I enjoy sharing my latest culinary feat or a white tablecloth experience so my friends and social media followers can connect over every enjoyable morsel I eat or each gastronaut-esque adventure I execute in my home kitchen. Food relates to our senses, it supports our bodies and our minds, and it also reflects the unique culture and personality of the individual cooking it or eating it – or even Instagramming it. Food retailers are embracing their roles as arbiters and curators of these food experiences, so we recognize the need to challenge FMI’s ways of communicating the priority issues of food retail to better depict our members’ dynamic marketplaces.

Visually Engaging our Audience

FMI’s 2017 efforts to enhance its website so that it serves as a reflection of the evolving food retail industry was a priority for our external communications. We produced an engaging information architecture that supports FMI strategic goals and creates an environment that is valuable for members and motivates non-members to join FMI. We established FMI’s digital presence as a bold expression of the Voice of Food Retail that offers engaging visitor experiences and anticipates visitors’ needs by providing accessible information, resources or calls to action located in intuitive categories. We broadened the FMI association brand to be inclusive and welcoming to members and non-members. By paying rapt attention to our interview research findings, we discovered our website audience falls within three descriptions of issue-based, network-based and learner-based visitors. The new website’s traffic generates a notable mix of 24 percent retailer/wholesaler members, 33 percent associate members and 43 percent non-members, signaling just how important FMI is to stakeholders and outside audiences beyond our valued membership base.

We successfully executed our fourth annual in-store photography shoot with a supporting member company to enhance our own photo archive, digital communications channels and marketing efforts. We agree that it’s much more authentic to leverage real people and situations in our photography assets.

We continue to emphasize the future of shopping and customer communications by prioritizing our Digitally Engaged Shopper project with Nielsen. We worked closely together with these notable research partners to develop the narrative that ultimately served our Web experience and online assessment. We secured a CNBC exclusive interview that provided a springboard for conversations that were later realized by the Amazon/Whole Foods deal announcement, yielding more than 300 media hits after the news broke.

Tuning and Broadcasting our Channels

We tell and contribute to stories regarding the food retail industry via multiple channels. Notably, we garnered more than 2,200 FMI media mentions this year and we continue to grow the quality of our coverage in the business press, discussing omnichannel, supply chain and other relevant trends that demonstrate the viability of the future of food retailing.

In tracking the most popular 2017 blog topics opened by FMI members this year, we find the blogs that offered true application and case study earned top spots. Of the more than 220 blog posts published this year, the top topics of interest included descriptions of the store manager award winners; a blog on ways stores are employing social media strategies; new technologies that are affecting our industry; the influence of the millennial shopper; and the top findings from the Power of Fresh Prepared Foods.

Respecting the emotional connection to food, we produced more human interest pieces to support our brand via our blog and social media channels. For example, we personified leadership qualities by producing videos featuring prominent food retail and FMI executives to promote our FMI Future Leaders eXperience professional development event. Our videos garnered more than 5,200 views on the subjects of mentorship, teams, career advice, storytelling, personal brand reputation and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Video continues to be a major component for all of our public relations strategies.

We recognize food retail as a real-time social network; our members have the opportunity to communicate, engage and share across audiences both physically and virtually each day. In turn, we urge you to connect with us on social media via Twitter, FacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.