PROLOGUE:
I just ended my 3-year term as a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and now have my sights set on working as a consultant to the food industry, working with various food companies, brands and commodity organizations. (In case you didn’t know, the Academy has a policy that states, among other things, that an Academy Spokesperson must avoid any conflict of interest, including being a media spokesperson for or endorsing any company, product or service). As a former supermarket dietitian and a former dairy council dietitian, I have experience working with brands and industry – and that experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Yet, the “food industry” seems to have a negative connotation lately, and in this age of disclosure, transparency and criticism over corporate sponsorship, I wanted to talk with some of the RDs who are out there working with brands and industry. What do they want us to know about their role in nutrition communications and the food industry? What advice do they have for RDs who want to work in this capacity? What tips and takeaways do they have for us? Read on for some valuable information from some of the best in the biz!

Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RD, CSSD
Blog: http://www.justwendyjo.com/blog
Twitter: @FuelinRoadie
Facebook: Fuelin Roadie
Pinterest: Fuelin Roadie

Although outside the box for many, Tito’s Vodka has been a company that I’ve joined forces with in Austin, Texas. Tito’s Vodka is a grassroots company that is interested in targeting & helping the Austin music scene, and through twitter we made a connection & it’s been love ever since! We discovered that we both share a passion for using whole ingredients (they don’t sell flavored vodkas, instead they teach folks how to make their own infusions), they have a huge passion for rescuing & supporting rescued dogs—which I am hugely involved in, as well, and we both LOVE the Austin Music Scene & wish to keep the musicians healthy and playing for many years to come.  In April this year we collaborated and hosted a culinary experience for musicians at my Fuelin’ Roadhouse in Austin. We successfully paired foods like kale & bacon infused vodka for a spicy salad, as well as bloody marry veggies on top of a grilled flank steak, and tart cherries & ginger made a smashing combination in a gluten free cake with vodka infused sauce.  Sometimes one has to think outside the box to reach your target audience & deliver a palatable message that meets their needs & speaks to them!

Lindsay Livingston, RD
Nutrition Coaching: The Lean Green Bean RD
Website: www.theleangreenbeanRD.com
Blog: www.theleangreenbean.com
Twitter: @LeanGrnBeanBlog
Facebook: The Lean Green Bean
Pinterest: The Lean Green Bean
Instagram: The Lean Green Bean

1. Figure out how to make it mutually beneficial for both of you. Be ready to pitch ideas about how you can work together to help them spread their message/get their name out there, but also remember that the work you’re doing for them should benefit you in some way (i.e. drive traffic to your blog, monetary compensation, conference sponsorship, introduce people to your book, etc). Also, remember that the best brand relationships are those that are ongoing/recurring, not the ones that are just “one and done”.
2. Know your worth and have the numbers to back it up. If you have a blog and want to work with a company to write a sponsored post, give them your pitch and then be ready to name your price. If they ask, make sure you have the numbers and reasoning to back it up. Use Google Analytics to show how many people you reach with your blog (ie their potential audience if they were to work with you) and share information about the number of followers you have on various social media sites who you will be sharing your post with.
3. Think long and hard about the brands you plan to work with. Make sure they are companies you fully support and believe in if you’re going to be promoting their products. Once you do decide to work together, always do your best work for them and go above and beyond whenever possible.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE
Author/Consultant/Speaker/Spokesperson
Website: www.jillweisenberger.com
Twitter: @NutritionJill
Facebook: Nutrition Jill
Google+: Jill Weisenberger
LinkedIn: Jill Weisenberger
Sound Bites Interview: Impressive Debut

1. Be clear with yourself what you represent and stick to those values. Don’t align yourself with a brand or a product for money or exposure. Do it because it sits with your core values and helps to further define your professional identity and personal brand.
2. Be uber-transparent. Brands will want you to promote their products through social media and media interviews. And you should do that because you have aligned yourself with that brand because you like, trust and respect them. But be certain that everyone knows your affiliation with the company. This way you maintain your integrity and so does our profession.
3. Step outside your comfort zone. That’s when good things happen.

Yvette Quantz, RDN, CSSD, LDN
Creator of Customized Nutrition Newsletters and Creative Nutrition Marketing
Websites: www.creativenutritionmarketing.com and www.yvettequantz.com
Twitter: @yvettequantz
LinkedIn: Yvette Quantz
Facebook: Customized Nutrition Newsletters

1. Determine what sets YOU apart from the pack and focus on your strengths.  Don’t be a copycat and try to do the same thing someone else is doing.  Your business is going to be successful based off of what is UNIQUE and DIFFERENT from the competition…not the same.
2. Remember that ultimately we are in the “people business” and people matter.   Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the “numbers”, be it food numbers or financial number, but this is where good brands go bad.  Remember the people you are serving in your business.  Relationships matter.
3. Implement a system to help you re-evaluate your brand and how true your business is staying to your brand on a regular basis.  For some businesses this is once a quarter, others 1 – 2 times a year.  But the point is to conduct a “brand” assessment and ensure that the work  you are doing is staying true to your values and beliefs of when you originally created your business.  It is OK if this changes, but if the original values and beliefs change then your brand has also probably also evolved, and you want to make sure everything is headed in the same direction! This re-evaluation process makes sure that happens.

Ilene V. Smith, MS, RD
Principal, I ON FOOD
Blog: www.i-on-food.com
Twitter: @IleneSmithRD

1. My top tip would be to make your world broad. Too often, we think of things only in terms of our nutrition expertise. But being a successful marketer and communicator means you understand traditional media, social media, pop culture and world events. Think about your advice not just as nutrition advice, and counsel your clients in that context.
2. Put yourself in the consumer mindset. If you’re a baby boomer, think like a millennial. If you’re a millennial think like a boomer. If you live in a big city, like New York, understand that what drives you to purchase is not what drives consumers in smaller markets. I’ll never forget as a boomer in my 40s listening to a bunch of 20-something brand marketers talk about how they were going to market a product to boomers by reaching them in their retirement communities. I had to remind them that even later boomers, then in their 50s, were unlikely living in retirement communities and were still living vibrant active lives.
3. Remember that, at the end of the day, what brands and industry care most about is the bottom line. That means selling more product. So think about what your role is in helping your clients achieve that goal. Regardless of whether or not you’re conducting a full-blown public relations program or writing nutrition-based materials, handling influencer outreach, or standing in a booth at a professional meeting, you need to constantly keep that end goal in mind.

Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD
Owner, Delicious Knowledge
“Making whole-food eating deliciously simple”
Website/blog: www.delicious-knowledge.com
Twitter: @delishknowledge
Facebook: Delicious Knowledge
Pinterest: Alex Caspero MA, RD

1. Don’t wait for them to contact you! Some of the best gigs I’ve landed have been ones where I’ve submitted a pitch letter first! Since I am very selective about which brands I partner with, I want to make sure I am connecting only with brands that I am comfortable being associated with. Make a list of brands that you love. What are they already doing? What could you help them with?
2. Negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for money! So many RDs undervalue their services and brands can take advantage of that. Understand that many brands WANT to be associated with an RD, especially if they are promoting healthy foods/healthy lifestyle. You are of value. If it seems too low, it probably is. When I was first starting out, the best piece of advice I got was “it should hurt you a little bit to tell them your fee.” Obviously, you have to be able to deliver if you want to ask for more money but don’t be afraid to negotiate what you think is fair. This is business.
3. Give a little bit more than what you are asked. I always try to figure out ways I can go above and beyond what’s in my contract. Whether it’s offering to guest pin for them for a weekend, promote on social media, etc. This lets brands know that while you are working for them, you are also working with them! It’s also a great way to be asked to partner again!

Michelle Dudash, RDN
Author of Clean Eating for Busy Families
Website: www.michelledudash.com
Facebook: Michelle Dudash RD
Twitter: @MichelleDudash
Pinterest: Michelle Dudash
Instagram: Michelle Dudash
Sound Bites Interview: It’s a Wrap!

1. Be sure that the product is consistent with your brand and beliefs so you can allow your passion for the product to shine through. Stand for something. And, so you can sleep at night.
2. Find your niche as to the type of spokesperson you are or want to be. For example, my clients seek me out because in addition to being a RDN I am also: a) a Cordon Bleu-certified chef, b) a mom of young children, c) a clean eating expert c) a jack of all media trades in front of the camera, writing, recipe development and social media. For you, it may be that you’re a sports nutritionist, a clinical expert or a vegan expert. The list goes on.
3. Disclose, disclose, disclose. When you are speaking, posting on social media, working with the media, and when talking with patients. It is crucial for your credibility, and it is the law.

Emma J. Fogt, MBA, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND
Speaker. Author. Media. Culinary Teambuilder.
Twitter: @emmafogt
Website & Blog: www.emmafogt.com
Facebook: Emma Fogt
Pinterest: Emma Fogt

I have worked with Dietz & Watson Inc. since 2007 helping them to brand their healthier Lifestyle Deli Varieties. This is a family owned and operated company which is local to Philadelphia so working with them has been hands on and fun.

1. Price yourself well for the market. The company is using your face, your credentials and your reputation to sell their products. Don’t undervalue that.
2. Review all of the marketing materials one final time before they are published to make sure there is no miscommunication – for example with content in newsletters, on the website, ingredient and recipe facts.
3. Bring your ideas to the table – don’t be shy. You will be surprised how much of your input is utilized and appreciated. You have the expertise and they are counting on it. Enjoy the leadership and creativity!

EPILOGUE:
Excellent advice from the experts! Thank you to all of you for helping me with my goal to share tips and advice with RDs so that MORE dietitians get their voices out in the media, social media, public speaking, and other avenues for nutrition communications. By working with brands, commodities, manufacturers, retailers, and others in the “food chain”, dietitians can have a seat at the table, be a part of the solution and make a difference.
I’m sure you noticed that the concept of “aligning your brand” came up quite a bit. Look for an upcoming post on branding for RDs to learn more about how to develop and define your personality, niche, and brand. “Disclosure” was also mentioned frequently. To learn more and to “Make the Pledge” visit RDs4Disclosure.org.
And check out Part 2 of this discussion where you’ll hear from more RD experts in the field of nutrition communications!

Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!

13 Comments

  1. Emma Fogt on June 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Great post Melissa- Such sage advice for branding. I can’t wait to read part 2!

  2. Michelle Dudash on June 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    This is a fabulous post, Melissa. Thank your for including me. I learned some great tips!

  3. admin on June 11, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Thank YOU, Emma and Michelle, for sharing such great insight!

  4. Leah McGrath on June 12, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Great post! So interesting reading the different ideas & perspectives – so many opportunities for dietitians. Loved Ilene’s comment about boomers in retirement villages – hah! My Mom was riding bikes, in a bowling league, volunteering and traveling into her late 70’s – and never lived in a retirement villlage.

  5. admin on June 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks, Leah!

  6. Shelley Johnson on June 12, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    I’d like to thank Yvette for pointing out that we’re all people – that’s the BEST part of what we do, in my opinion! I know there are a lot of new grads out there looking for unique career opportunities. I hope they see this post!

  7. Alex Caspero MA,RD (@delishknowledge) on June 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks so much for including me! This is a great post, will be sharing with others! Alex

  8. admin on June 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you, Alex, for sharing your tips!
    Melissa

  9. admin on June 19, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    So true, Shelley – it’s all about relationships!!

  10. Sara on September 9, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Great post Melissa and love the ideas and tips generated from this group of RDs.

  11. admin on September 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you, Sara!

  12. Alissa Rumsey on July 14, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Melissa,
    I just came across this post, and I wanted to let you know that this was SO helpful. I’m currently an Academy Spokesperson but am also one-day hoping to work more with brands, so this was a great overview. Thank you!

    • admin on July 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks Alissa! I’m so glad you found it helpful! Enjoy the spokesperson program!!
      Melissa

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