There are many marketing and advertising sources available to restaurants these days but one area that many restaurants haven’t explored is mommy bloggers.

You may wonder how these women can help you promote your business and the answer lies in the fact that they often have hundreds of followers, who read their blogs and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Their followers in turn also have their own army of followers, causing information to go viral.

At this month’s National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show show held in Chicago, representatives from both McDonald’s and Moe’s Southwest Grill talked about how working with mommy bloggers has worked for them. (To read our story about that, click here.)

Stacie Connerty, who works with restaurants including Moe’s Southwest Grill, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, and Chick-fil-A, talked at the conference about how best to work with mommy bloggers like herself.

Connerty launched her blog, The Divine Miss Mommy, three and a half years ago.

“Within about three months, I realized there was a niche to help people make it easy to work with bloggers,” she says.

The most basic thing Connerty looks for in restaurants that approach her is for them to be “authentic and straightforward,” she says.

Wading through the 150–200 emails she receives daily means she needs information quickly—preferably in the subject line.

She also likes to actually meet the executives she works with and advises restaurants to invite bloggers to their events.

“Even if you’re local, do something small and local and invite some people in,” she says. Some restaurants even fly bloggers in. “Events are really the chance to get some bloggers in and show them what you’re doing.”

But you can also invite bloggers in just because, and not for a specific event, and this will help create long-lasting relationships.

“Where you’re going to find success is continuing to work with those bloggers,” says Lauren Barash, spokeswoman for Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Moe’s flew several mommy bloggers into Atlanta, did a big event for them, introduced them to everyone, and threw a big dinner.

It also gave them information that wasn’t yet public knowledge, she says.

“Exclusivity is important and giving [bloggers] access to information or experiences that not everyone gets,” Barash says. “Your relationship will go further if you give them an exclusive first. “

Rick Wion, social media director for McDonald’s, says you need to work on the relationships you have with bloggers.

“Don’t just call them when you want something from them. You have to have those touch points beyond when you need something from the relationship. We’ve had great success with providing [bloggers with] access to people in our organization—the executive chef, the dietitians. Our bloggers are much more excited about talking to them than the PR guy. “

And Connerty asserts that actually visiting a restaurant group’s headquarters and meeting people there really helps. “I felt way more connected to [Moe’s] after coming there.”

You can’t underestimate the power of being with someone face-to-face, explains Barash.

“Meeting face-to-face is really important. Everything that happens online is an extension of what happens offline. So if you can take that and have that face-to-face meeting, nothing beats that. So keep that relationship alive … and focus on keeping that relationship mutually beneficial. What’s in it for [the bloggers]? What do they want—gift cards, access to your executives? Those are the things we would be mindful of to start with.”

When considering whether or not to work with a blogger, restaurants should thoroughly check out the writer’s site and look for quality over quantity, Connerty says.

“Look at the conversations a person is having. If you see 500 or 1,000 Twitter followers, that might not seem like a lot, but look at the conversations they are having. If 100 people are responding, it means what someone saying is really resonating with them. Look at conversations and engagement rather than just numbers.”

Also be sure to research the blogger before you contact her (or increasingly, him).

It’s nice to know that people know something about her before they get in touch, Connerty says. It needn’t be much, but it can be an ice breaker and it’s nice to know they’ve at least seen her blog, she adds.

This also works to the restaurant’s advantage since the owner or operator should always ensure that a blogger thoroughly knows the restaurant and the restaurant industry before committing to work with them.

As for pay, bloggers aren’t free but they are flexible. Connerty says she sometimes works for gift cards because she’ll eat at the restaurants she’s working with anyway, so gift cards are as good as money.

But she does advise restaurants who are serious about working with bloggers to set aside a budget for working with them.

Through working with several restaurants over the years, Connerty has also become a brand spokesperson for them.

In this role, she shows up at their events and then blogs about it. She is typically paid for this work and whenever she is, she discloses it on every single blog post.

Good relationships with bloggers can also mean you can get news out fast, even if it’s just a short blurb.

Connerty explains that the information a restaurant gives her might not be sufficient for a blog post, or she may not have time for a blog post, but instead she might send it out on Facebook and Twitter. “And I’ll do it because I have a relationship with [the restaurant].”

By Amanda Baltazar

Industry News, Marketing & Promotions, McDonald's Corp., Moe's Southwest Grill