Anyone who knows or has lived in San Francisco during the second half of the 20th century, knew who Herb Caen was. Known as “Mr. San Francisco,” he started his daily column for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 1938, discussing the city’s events and activities.
He became so popular that the Chronicle estimated they would lose more than a 50,000 daily subscribers if he left the paper. But he was not only famous; he was very powerful.
In the 1970s, I was involved in a San Francisco restaurant in the city’s popular Union Street area. More about my involvement later.
But as you may know, the restaurant business is a tough business even in the best of situations, but in San Francisco, it was brutal. At that time, there were so many great restaurants in the city, many of which had been around for years, that opening a new one took tons of courage, or craziness.
And our restaurant did struggle… until we hired a PR consultant. Her main job was to do one thing: get us in Herb Caen’s column, which she did beautifully. Examples of her work:
One day Vivian Vance, who played “Ethel” on the I Love Lucy Show, had lunch with her new husband at the restaurant. It was in Herb Caen’s column the next day. The lunch crowd for the rest of the week was the best ever.
One evening, the entire second floor of the restaurant was taken over for a party honoring Cyril Magnin, a San Francisco businessman and owner of high-end clothing stores in San Francisco and Beverly Hills. Sure enough, our PR strategist got Herb Caen to write about the party. After that, the number of requests for renting out the second floor for parties were so many, the restaurant was turning business away.
Finally, here’s where I come in. My contract cleaning company was hired to clean this restaurant seven nights per week. It was one of my first clients, and I was there working every night with one helper. During an interview with the restaurant’s French chef, he mentioned that one of the reasons he liked working at the restaurant was that every day, “the kitchen was immaculate.”
Well, our PR expert thought this comment had power. While her intention was to promote the cleanliness of the restaurant, Herb Caen asked who cleaned it. My company was mentioned in his column. Within six months, I went from cleaning one restaurant to cleaning six restaurants in the city.
Once again, an example of the #PowerofPR