A Thoroughly Modern Food Festival

There’s no denying that modern technology has very firm roots in our society. As we have evolved over time, so has our machinery, with it becoming ever more sophisticated. With lines of communication now extended through the technologies we have at our fingertips, I spoke to Susan McNaughton, an enthusiastic advocate of social media. We chatted about her involvement in the Crail Food Festival, and how she has utilised her skills in this area to help them pilot this event.

How did you become involved in the Crail Food Festival?

My husband and I run a small accommodation business, Sandcastle Holidays, which owns Sandcastle Cottage in Crail. Having owned the business for 20 years now, we’ve established a number of relationships with local residents. They were aware of my new business venture in social media management, and invited me to a Crail Business Group meeting, where I talked about how I was using social media to promote my business. It was at this meeting where Graham Anderson of the Honeypot Guest House and Tearoom talked about his vision for the Crail Food Festival, based on an idea he had been discussing with Finlay Kerr of the Caiplie Guest House in Crail.

What were your initial thoughts about the festival?

Hearing Graham and Finlay talk about the benefits of local produce were not in any way isolated, which made me think that this could really work. Just before they mentioned the prospect of a festival, I had attended the first AGM of the Fife Diet, whose ethos tied in directly with what Graham and Finlay were striving for. With such a wealth of local produce available in the Fife region, we are trying to encourage people to take advantage of this, rather than resorting to convenience.

What strategies have you used to help promote the festival?

Initially, I set up a Facebook page and Twitter account to start generating coverage. Using this strategy, I felt I could promote the festival, whilst helping local businesses by encouraging them to add comments about their participation. Not all of the businesses involved had been exposed to social media tools, so I was happy to assist in setting them up with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. When using Twitter, we based our people search on those who listed food as one of their interests. We knew that people from Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow would be the most likely to embark on a day trip to Crail, so we further focussed on these groups as well as those based in Fife. This promotions approach was relatively unknown to the business people in Crail, who had used the more traditional advertising techniques of posters and press releases to promote previous events. This has still taken place, however I have focussed more on using on-line means, such as creating content for the Visit Crail blog, using short videos on YouTube, and linking photographs of the area back to the festival.

How successful do you feel the use of social media has been in promoting the festival?

Ask me on the 19th of June! We’ve done the right things, we’ve put the word out, we’ve engaged with new friends online, we’ve used social media to entice suppliers and participants, as well as generating new business for Crail. We’ve also managed to get some press coverage by engaging with freelance journalists on Twitter, and promoting the event at the Fife Tourism Conference. But the hard work involved here won’t just stop as soon as the festival is over. We’ve set up a Flickr page, so visitors can share their images from the festival, and we’ll be asking for feedback so that the festival can continue in future years. As a business owner in Crail, the ideal scenario for me would be to see local business owners engaging with their customers in a very 21st century way, by using the same tools as I have in promoting the Crail Food Festival. I’d welcome the opportunity to help more people in the area learn to take an active role in promoting Crail as a destination.

What can local businesses and producers do to tempt people to adopt a more ‘local’ attitude?

I think a better story needs to be told about our food. We need to make people more aware of where their food is grown and what’s in it to allow them to make more informed choices. With the use of intelligent labelling, we can give customers more information on what they’re actually eating. It’s also key to listen to customer feedback and react to this, to ensure you are giving customers what they want. A good example of this pro-active approach is Ardross Farm, who use Facebook to inform their contacts of specialities arriving in store, and to listen to requests from customers for items they’d like to see stocked. This can make all the difference in tempting people to shop at the farm shop rather than the supermarket.

What’s the best thing about local produce?

It’s so delicious! By eating locally you’re not only eating fresh food which is in peak condition, but you’re helping to make local businesses successful. This in turn helps strengthen the local economy and makes it possible to continue to live in places as beautiful as the village of Crail.

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