10 Questions: Amity Thomas

Every couple minutes, a little ping from the computer tells food writers another email from some public relations person somewhere has arrived. Yes, we complain about the pestering. But without Thomas and her ilk, news of grand openings, upcoming events, menu changes and the like would be slow to filter through.

Thomas works with the Martha Tiller Company. Their PR portfolio includes a number of local restaurants--from Alo to Park Cities Prime--as well as DIFFA and other organizations. Each year she plans maybe a dozen major events and any number of small gatherings.

That means a life of parties, without all the fun. Such is the life of a restaurant PR person. On the upside? Besides calling on kind, thoughtful writers (who never hang up on them), it just may be all that free food...

1. Why are PR people so pushy?
To make their clients happy. Because, you know, clients are riding our backs, wanting to see results. It's a chain.

2. How much of a pain can writers be?
[Laughs] I don't even know how to answer that.

3. About how much of the information you send out gets picked up?
I would say 75 to 80 percent. You've got to know who is working on what and what interests them.

4. With restaurant clients you get to party all the time, right?
Of course...No, not really. You're working at events. But most of what I eat is catered--on little trays.

5. So you get free food at the restaurants?
Sometimes, not always. But it does have its benefits, for sure.

6. Ever tell a client 'that's a bad idea'?
Yeah, sometimes. But usually you can roll their idea into an idea that works or help them come up with a better idea. It helps when they're creative, as well.

7. Is business tougher these days?
Absolutely. That's a chain, too. And the press is getting smaller. There aren't as many avenues for media exposure.

8. What's it like working on the inside, with the chefs?
It's enjoyable. Chefs are creative people, by nature. There's an art to what they do, so it lends to creative ideas. And chefs are more laid back, more down to earth than many corporate clients. Most of them, anyway.

9. Do you get away and eat at non-client places?
All the time. I love going to new restaurants.

10. Yeah, but you're probably fishing for new business, aren't you?
That's right--well, not really. Just joking. PR is not necessary for everybody. But it's a hard market right now. I would like to think restaurants that are opening need PR.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries