Less Is More: What PR Pros Can Learn from Grilled Cheese

Kelly Whalen,  Sheila Kulik

This April, Prosek Connecticut celebrated National Grilled Cheese Month the best way we knew how: with a make-your-own grilled cheese lunch buffet. We chose from multiple varieties of cheese – because it’s not a party without Havarti –  as well as a host of toppings to add on like bacon and tomatoes, and enjoyed a lovely meal together.

So, there we sat, a conference room of coworkers, indulging in the goodness of bacon-stuffed grilled cheese, when a heated debate quickly arose: How many toppings can one feasibly add to a grilled cheese before it really just becomes a sandwich? Does adding something other than cheese compromise the integrity of the grilled cheese moniker? To brie or not to brie?

After much deliberation, we defined The Grilled Cheese School of Thought: so long as there is still bread, cheese and a buttered grill involved, a grilled cheese piled high with toppings remains a grilled cheese. However, a grilled cheese is only as delicious as its fundamentals, meaning that the bread and cheese must first be expertly engineered before anything else can be added.

Well, we could wax philosophical about food all day, but there’s an interesting communications lesson to be learned here (you knew it was coming!).

At Prosek, we have a range of clients, each unique and brie-lliant in their own ways (was that pun too cheesy?). For the purpose of keeping the food metaphor alive, consider that we have our cheddar cheese asset managers, the Swiss cheese insurers, Colby jack hedge funds and a slew of other professional services providers who comprise our Prosek blend.

At the end of the day, our clients are simple organizations with stories to tell, but when the media landscape is so cluttered with fake news, it’s grating to cut through it all to decipher the true message behind every article, press release and headline. For those of us in PR that are tasked with developing messages that are both impactful and timely, it can be tough to compete in a refrigerated aisle full of tempting options. It’s time to ask the tough question: If Food Network has a list of 50 different grilled cheese recipes, how has the classic Kraft Singles variety remained the go-to?

The answer is pretty simple: American cheese is timeless and no-fuss. You know exactly what you’re getting into when you’re served a grilled cheese stuffed with those individually wrapped squares of golden, “pasteurized cheese product.” The taste is straightforward enough for just about anyone to enjoy.

When it comes to PR, it’s certainly tempting to use financial jargon and snappy language to enhance our pitches, but superficial stories don’t hold much water with esteemed media. The bulk of the work we pride ourselves on at Prosek involves taking the time to develop an authentic message that is strong enough to stand on its own, like a classic grilled cheese should be able to do without the added indulgence of caramelized onions or Applewood smoked bacon.

At the basis of every initiative for each of our clients, hours of research and discovery meetings take place. Before we can even think of a compelling press release, we’re putting together the fundamentals of our clients’ businesses, understanding what their offerings are and how they are uniquely meeting the inherent needs of their target markets. These basic ingredients are the bread and cheese, and if we are successful in our work, we should be able to sell these messages in even their most simple and pure form.

There is of course a time and a place for rhetoric in our work, just as there is a time and a place for fancy, souped-up grilled cheese. Our objective is simply to be focused in our messaging, letting the impactful content shine through. As a classic grilled cheese is able to deliver taste effortlessly with minimal ingredients, we aim to deliver straightforward messages that don’t need to be dressed up with fixings. Let us follow in the footsteps of the classic grilled cheese by keeping things simple and honest before we go reaching for the sliced avocado garnish. 

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