Food for Thought with Krista Simmons

This week we sat down with talented travel writer and video producer Krista Simmons to talk about three of our favorite things: food, travel and the pursuit of creativity. She travels the world creating content for publications including Travel + Leisure, Departures, New York Magazine and the LA Times and just started a new venture as her own boss at Fork in the Road Media. Read on for an inside look at how video content and social media impact food and travel writing and the dream meals of an international foodie.

Krista Simmons

  1. How has traveling the world changed you the most? 

    I’ve always said that traveling is the one thing that you can spend money on that actually makes you richer. It’s changed my life in so many ways, but what I’m most grateful for is that it’s given me a deeper sense of empathy. Experiencing other cultures has given me a sense of compassion towards how others grow up and the issues they face (especially as women). It’s taught me a deeper appreciation for the privilege I was born into. Simply having a US Passport is a real blessing in this day and age, and I always try to remember that in the way I view the world both at home and on the road.

  1. How have you seen food and travel writing evolve in recent years? 

    I loved watching the evolution of 360 degree storytelling. Food and travel are such visual subjects, and it’s really inspiring to see how stories can be told in a way that gets viewers excited to hit the road and try new things. A few years back, it was a total uphill battle to convince editors that video and social were important. Fast forward and now it’s the most lucrative part of my business, so much so that I’ve started my own media company called Fork in the Road to tell these digital stories in a meaningful way.

  1. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a travel writer or content creator? 

    I always say the only way to do something is to do it. It’s so important to carve out time to nurture your creative side. It’s not an easy road, but it’s absolutely one worth taking.

  1. What’s the most underrated place you’ve ever traveled to? 

    I honestly am all about traveling to the under-the-radar spots with bubbling culinary scenes that no one knows about. I’d so much rather be sitting on a little plastic stool slurping up curry in Yangon, Myanmar than a patisserie with a line out the door in Paris. I am always after what’s new and next. It’s exciting to know that you can help bring light to those places and stories, and hopefully bring business to deserving people who haven’t yet been discovered by my audience.

  1. What would be your ideal food day if distance was no limit (breakfast, lunch and dinner)? 

    If I had one of those fancy PJ’s, I’d zip around the world for a three part tour. Breakfast I’d be back in Shanghai for soup dumplings with my younger brother Danny. We had such a blast shooting there together. For lunch, I’d be somewhere in the Sri Lankan tea fields stuffing my face with string hoppers and coconut-laden sambol alongside the locals. For dinner, I’d end up at Etxebarri in Basque Country with my girlfriends, looking out at the bucolic landscape while enjoying one of their perfectly prepared wood-fired steaks and a great glass of rioja.

Five Things We Learned at the First Potluck Conference

At Soda Pop PR we think it’s important to mix it up and get out of the office to attend industry workshops and conferences. Last week we headed to DTLA for the first Potluck Hospitality Conference, to learn more about the business of social occasions and mingle with some inspiring local and visiting creatives. In the spirit of the conference’s “Bring Something to the Table” mentality, we’d like to share a few learnings.

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1. You Get Back What you Put in: Our day kicked off with a pep talk from the infectious entrepreneur Ellen Bennett of Hedley & Bennett who got everyone on their feet with an early morning dance party before sharing her story. Ellen is the poster child for making things happen and “climbing through a window when you can’t find a door” and we always love hearing her talk about having fun in the process of working hard.

2. Do Your Homework: In a session on “Creating Brands That Connect” Lila Theodoros of Oh Babushka discussed the importance of coming to play. For example if you’re meeting with a graphic designer, come prepared with a mood board, key words, color palate, etc. to help them get to know you and your brand before starting a project.

3. Create Connections: We are such big fans of The Modern Proper, a blog dedicated to restoring the lost art of hospitality and loved having the opportunity to meet founders Natalie Mortimer and Holly Erickson. Hospitality doesn’t just describe our clients at SPPR, it describes the way we do business and like Natalie and Holly we believe in the power of creating a community. It was great to hear them talk about how vitally important it is to take time to build and maintain relationships both personally and professional. In a day when the human attention span has decreased to 8 seconds, hosting a successful event and seeing return on investment for experiential marketing is all about creating personal connections.

4. Encourage Engagement: For many brands, experiential marketing now works harder than traditional advertising strategies. We loved hearing what Lauren Sims had to say about her agency’s experience creating “photo moment” heavy activations and what really works when it comes to engagement. She has three main strategies for securing social posts from attendees: offering tools to further their own personal brand through aspirational content, product giveaways in exchange for shares and highly personalized products featuring the attendees name or photo.

5. Do Something New: Martha Stewart Weddings editor Shira Savada is tired of mason jars and bird cages and we don’t blame her! Whether you’re talking about weddings, social media or client events we can all agree that once you’ve noticed a lot of people are doing something, it’s time to move on. Trends happen because someone tapped into their own creativity to offer something personal and we can all use a little more of that!

We’re Hiring: Spring Intern (Paid)

The SPPR team is growing and we’re looking for a rock star intern to join the team this Spring. Candidates must be hard-working, creative and quick-learning college students/recent grads with a passion for the food & beverage industry. If that sounds like you, read on.

Responsibilities include:

  • Assisting with general daily office and administrative duties
  • Creating media lists and event/campaign recaps
  • Researching, writing, editing and distributing press materials
  • Working as part of an account team to implement media plans
  • Tracking print, online, broadcast and social media for ideas and coverage
  • Preparing client bios, fact sheets, press clips and images
  • Drafting social media content and managing a content calendar

What we are looking for…

  • Organized, self-starter, takes initiative, is resourceful and likes a challenge
  • Strong interest in public relations
  • Excellent written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills
  • PC proficient, particularly in the Microsoft Suite, including Word, Excel,  PPT and Outlook
  • Internet research and social media savvy
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Experience in handling routine office tasks
  • Excellent people skills, attention to detail and amazing follow through
  • Preferably some experience working in the culinary, wine or travel industries
  • Someone who wants to learn a lot, have fun and grow with us!

Please send résumé, cover letter, 2-3 writing samples & a brief overview of why you want to join the SPPR team to sayhi@sodapop-pr.com.

This is a full-time (35-40 hours per week) paid internship. Candidate must be based in Los Angeles.

SPPR New Year’s Goals: 2017, Let’s Do This

Everyone loves a clean slate and at SPPR we’re filling ours with a to-do list of fun projects and foodie goals for the New Year. Read on as the team breaks down our plans to eat, read and travel our way through 2017.

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(Photo c/o Oh Happy Day)

Dyan:
To Go: Sun Valley, Idaho. My husband and I have been talking about exploring a new winter destination for our annual ski/snowboarding trip for years. Aside from the picturesque setting, abundance of runs for beginners and an outdoor ice skating rink, it also has a rich history (Hemingway was a fan, he completed For Whom the Bell Tolls while staying at Sun Valley Lodge!)
To Eat: My dream would be to plan monthly trips to different cities with the sole purpose of trying the best culinary classics and hot spots in each location.  Realistically? I’d like to hit up the Roberta’s Pizza Pop-Up before closes. I’m also looking forward to my friend Steve Samson’s new restaurant Rossoblu which is scheduled to open soon!
To Read:  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I’m a fan of his podcast and this book summarizes the best tools, tactics and learnings from his most notable guests. It’s over 700 pages and meant to be digested in small, manageable doses. It’s safe to say, I’ll be reading throughout the year.
To Do: I purchased a journal over the holidays with the goal of setting aside time to jot down my non-work thoughts and creative ideas. I have dozens of notebooks but they all contain work plans, meeting notes, to-dos, etc. Creative writing was a passion of mine in college (I’d die if you found any of my old journals, so “My So-Called Life”) and I’m eager to pick it back up.

Kelly:
To Go: Sedona! Since my husband recently got his pilot’s license, we plan to do a weekend getaway to this beautiful place neither of us has been to before.
To Eat: Erven in Santa Monica
To Read: I was gifted Big Little Lies, so I hope to read it before the TV series comes out
To Do: My goal is to shop my local Sunday farmer’s market more often in 2017. Shopping local is so important and in California we have an abundance of delicious, fresh food, I need to take advantage of it!

Becky:
To Go: Back to Italy; Our new client Lucini Italia has me missing the land of pasta and olive oil.
To Eat: Belcampo; I met the founder Anya Fernald at an event last year and have vowed to treat myself to an organic, highest-quality-you-can-get steak (or at least a Belcampo Burger) at some point soon.
To Read: I bought J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy a few months ago and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I have so much love for J.K. that I’m feeling guilty for putting it off.
To Do: Refresh my living space. I’ve had the same couch since my husband and I were dating and the same dining room table my parents passed down to me after college. It’s time to make some big girl furniture purchases.

Colleen:
To Go: I am hoping to make it back to Paris this year and spend my days writing in coffee shops and haunting Shakespeare and Company.
To Eat: I know I lose all of my LA foodie cred for this, but I still haven’t been to Gjelina! Definitely need to remedy that in 2017.
To Read: One of my all-time favorite authors Joan Didion has a new book coming out (in 61 days, not that I’m counting) so that is at the top of my list. Also, Infinite Jest. I swear this is the year that I finally finish David Foster Wallace’s epic and exhaustingly long masterpiece.
To Do: In light of our recent election results, I’m committing to take a more active role in opposing injustice and supporting causes doing good work.

Deidre:
To Go: 2017 is all about the U.S.! I have some fun trips lined up, including: Nashville, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco and NYC to name a few. Fingers crossed for an opportunity to go abroad – I’ll even be happy with Mexico if I can make it happen.
To Eat: There are so many in LA I am eager to go to! Especially wanting to hit up the celebrity hot spots, like NOBU Malibu, SUR and AOC.
To Read: The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive
To Do: I really hope to attend another Ellen taping! If not, attend a late night taping like Jimmy Kimmel, learn to meal prep/ spend less money on food and get outside more!

Camryn:
To Go: New York! I’d love to visit my younger brother who’s out there for school.
To Eat: I’ve really been wanting to try Maré on Melrose. You have to use a secret entrance!
To Read: A Gentleman in Moscow, a gift I received through our SPPR holiday book exchange.
To Do: Go to a cooking class!

Food for Thought with Dana Renee Ashmore

As 2016 winds down, we’re excited to share one last interview in the “Food for Thought” series. This week we welcome Dana Renee Ashmore to the blog. After years as a film and television producer, this inspiring lady used her great eye, florist chops and passion for giving back to found Gratitude Collaborative. The L.A.-based company offers curated gift boxes with a built in donation to provide meals to USA children in need. (It also happens to be the perfect holiday gift source if you’re panicking about what to get your boss/best friend/mother-in-law this year.) Read on for Dana’s insights on social media, creativity and what having a mission means for your brand.

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1. What do you look for when you’re searching for brands to include in the Gratitude Collaborative boxes?

We look at brands that we have tried and tested and love, and we love working with smaller brands and knowing the people behind the items we sell. We also trust our friends and people we work with. Every week we sit down and discuss new brands and see if we can find new ones to bring on.

2. How do you find inspiration when you’re in a rut creatively?

Step away and do something fun. Whenever I spend too much time trying to think of something to do, or feel like I’m in a rut, I just get out with friends and take my mind off of it. I think sometimes over-thinking can really make it worse. It’s really doing what feels natural instead of forced.

3. What are challenges you’ve encountered running a small business that aims to give back?

A couple things:  Our brand is that we are a gift company that gives back by providing meals to kids in the USA. In the beginning, our charitable efforts were well-intentioned but unfocused.  We provided art classes, after-school sponsorships and schools supplies to families that needed it. We still do more than provide meals, but at the time, people were really confused by what we were doing. They knew we gave back, but our brand wasn’t aligned with our mission. I think with a company that gives back, you just have to be clear on what you do, and make it easy to understand.

Second, what to do with the little money you have, and how to get yourself out there. Since your profits are not all going back to you or the company, you have smaller margins. It’s hard to make the right choices to help get your name out there. It’s hard when no one knows you and you are just getting started. It’s hard to try to sell yourself in an over-saturated and overexposed market.

4. How do you make sure your social media content is always on brand?

The best advice I have ever been given is to take 90% of my photos with a digital camera and the rest with my iPhone. That’s not for everyone, but for what we sell, we want the flowers to always be consistent in lighting and colors. In the beginning we tried a few things that didn’t work and then naturally fell into a place where we feel comfortable. I also use an app called Planoly; it helps me see my photos in a grid before they post so I can make sure they match with the other ones. This app has helped so much.

5. If you could speak to pre-business starting Dana, what advice would you give? Is there a piece of common advice given to small business owners that you would tell her to ignore?

Trust yourself and Customer Service is a must. Starting a small business is full of small decisions that can cost you lots of money.  You have to know ahead of time that not everything is going to be a win and leave financial space for that to happen.  As for Customer Service, we have someone that checks emails almost 24 hours a day to make sure we are available. Our customers are the reason any small business is running, and you have to remember that even when you’re tired, frustrated and hungry. Some customers will always think you are Amazon and have hundreds of people working around the clock. Instead, you have 3.

Keep up with Dana Renee at Gratitude Collaborative and on her beautiful Instagram.

Friendsgiving with Tillamook

November is the perfect time to give thanks, and we always look forward to sharing our gratitude with loved ones while happily embracing the excuse to reach for second servings and dessert (without judgment). One of our favorite new traditions however, is Friendsgiving, the chance to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with your buds before or after the family festivities. A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to spend an afternoon with some of our favorite creatives, writers, bloggers and photographers, celebrating #RealFoodSunday with a Friendsgiving Brunch hosted by Tillamook.

Old friends and new were brought together at Light Lab to enjoy a beautiful Thanksgiving inspired brunch prepared by Barrett Prendergast of Valleybrink Road while learning more about Tillamook’s #RealFoodSunday movement.

Tillamook launched Real Food Sunday because of their devotion to making food the right way – with the highest quality ingredients, nothing artificial and without cutting corners to increase profits. Real Food Sunday is meant to make choosing Real Food easier for everyone, starting with one day a week. So why Sunday? Sunday is the day when big meals are cooked, families eat together and plans are made for the week ahead. Sundays are special. Tillamook believes Real Food should be a part of that, and we couldn’t agree more.

Seasonal décor styled by Anne Sage provided endless holiday inspiration and major #FOMO.

Guests enjoyed and took home some of our favorite real food goodies that were generously contributed by Alma Chocolate, Bob’s Red Mill, Entube, Health-Ade Kombucha, Hester & Cook, Jacobsen Salt Co., Le Grand Courtage, Mountain Valley Water and QUIN Candy.

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We are so thankful to have clients, partners and friends that value the importance of a shared meal and good food! Cheers to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Team Soda Pop PR