Public Relations Tactics

Kitchen Creative: Melinda Morgan Kartsonis on Food Service and Culinary PR

December 1, 2014

Melinda Morgan Kartsonis
Melinda Morgan Kartsonis

Melinda Morgan Kartsonis, APR, Fellow PRSA is the principal of Morgan Marketing & Public Relations, an Irvine, Calif.-based agency that focuses on food service and culinary public relations. She founded the agency in 1991, which represents nationally recognized clients including Del Taco, Wienerschnitzel and Juice It Up!

She is a member of PRSA’s Orange County Chapter, and has won numerous awards for work generated on behalf of her clients. She is also involved in her community and has volunteered her time with Human Options, The American Cancer Society, Share Our Strength and St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church.

With a specialized focus in the restaurant industry, Kartsonis has worked with organizations such as the International Foodservice Editorial Council and is an active member of the local chapter of Les Dames d’ Escoffier International.

For her ideal dinner, she says that she would share a table with her husband, her best friend Robin and her grandmother Morgan and that they would dine on “seared foie gras with sautéed peaches paired with Sauterne, pasta with shaved white truffles paired with Pinot Noir, Hawaiian Host Milk Chocolate AlohaMac budino with whipped cream and sprinkled with Maldon salt, followed by Greek coffee and mastika. Opa!”

What was your dream job when you were a child?

After watching “Born Free” when I was 10, I wanted to raise lion cubs in Africa. 

How did you get your start in public relations?

I moved to Chicago after graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations. The city is a mecca for public relations and landing a job on Michigan Avenue that specialized in travel and tourism was a dream come true. 

Why did you decide to launch Morgan Marketing & Public Relations?

It was always my goal to build an organization that delivers the best strategic counsel, creative direction and results-driven work to clients. Developing a warm and comfortable environment where team members are valued and respected was equally important.

What key skills do you think employers are looking for in new hires?

When interviewing potential new hires, we look for a combination of tactical skills such as copywriting, media relations, social media and crisis expertise. We also seek candidates who are a good personality fit and have a desire to learn. 

How would you describe your personal leadership style? Also, what makes a good leader?

The best leaders do so by example. It’s important to reward excellent work and provide motivation while fostering a positive, creative environment where team members can thrive.  

What are some challenges you face in your day-to-day job?

Crisis situations occur 24/7, and we work tirelessly as brand protectors. Additionally, the closure of many print publications has greatly reduced available editorial space.

Another challenge is knowing how and when to provide clients with recommendations in their best interest. At Morgan Marketing, we’re not yes-men, we are advisers. We’d be doing our clients a disservice if we said “yes” to everything.

How does Morgan Marketing & Public Relations use social media to reach their audience? And how can we best reach today’s on-the-go consumers?

Morgan Marketing’s social media platforms are a place to share exciting news about our clients and the Morgan team. Across all pages, we utilize creative and artistic photography combined with clever, concise copy to deliver key messages and build brand loyalty.

What are you working on in your office’s test kitchen right now?

Building a test kitchen when I purchased the building was a phenomenal decision. We use it for special media events, training, videos and recipe development — and the stocked bar comes in handy for the occasional team happy hour or creative brainstorm.

Recently, I have been creating cookies, pies, fondues and snacks using Hawaiian Host AlohaMac chocolates from Hawaii. Hawaiian Host uses real milk in their chocolate with premium macadamia nuts, which make a huge difference in the taste and consistency of the final products. Delicious!

What are the issues and trends that you hear concerning the PR profession? What’s top of mind when you speak with colleagues in the food service sector of public relations?

There is a lack of qualified personnel who can deliver strategic council, possess superior copywriting skills and secure media relations results.

Food service PR pros are total food nerds! I recently [became involved with] the International Foodservice Editorial Council, and whether we’re talking about new products, communications strategies or industry news, it always comes back to food for us.

You’ve been a member of PRSA since 1989. Why do you think it’s important to be involved in organizations that focus on networking and continuing education?

So we can learn, grow, develop and connect with like-minded professionals. I highly recommend to my PR colleagues that they pursue their APR certification. “Be the best you can be,” is one of my mottos.

What do you think the outlook is like for the soon-to-be PR graduates or new practitioners?

There are always opportunities for the best and brightest. New graduates have a huge advantage in the field of social media content creation, and they will continue to help shape this ever-evolving medium.

What advice do you have for new professionals looking to enter public relations?

Start building your network as early as possible through internships, informational interviews, PRSSA and other organizations. Volunteering one’s time on committees and leadership teams is another great opportunity. 

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about PR during your 20-plus-year career?

Surround yourself with the best people: team members, clients and the list continues.

What’s the best part of your job?

Hands down, the people I work with. Morgan Marketing has exceptional clients and a fantastic internal team. I feel fortunate to work with smart, talented and passionate professionals.

Managing Editor Amy Jacques interviewed Melinda Morgan Kartsonis, APR, Fellow PRSA for this month’s member profile.

 

Getting to Know...Melinda Morgan Kartsonis

Favorite movie?

I’m an unabashed Netflix binge-watcher — I can’t choose just one!

Favorite thing to do in your leisure time?

Cook a delicious meal for my family and friends

Best place to travel?

Travel is my passion, so it would be my last destination and my next adventure! Riding elephants bareback in Thailand’s jungles with my son was the thrill of a lifetime, I must admit.

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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