PR Truths Uncovered By “Bar Rescue”

taffer bookI see that Jon Taffer has published a book. Taffer is the host of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” which is my favorite show. I won’t buy the book, called Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reactions, but I hope lots of other people do, just so Taffer makes even more money than he already does.

I can’t quite see Taffer as a man of letters. But I love him as that oafish loudmouth who storms into someone else’s saloon, tells the owner the awful truth: He’s a fool and a slacker and will be out of business within two weeks unless he fires the incompetent bartender, cleans the cockroaches out of the kitchen, rips out the tacky decorations and stops hitting on the barmaids and drinking up all the profits. Taffer also tells the owners when their most cherished dreams—like the pirate-themed grog shop in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and the hookah bar in Omaha—are idiotic and should fail.

bar_rescueI live for “Bar Rescue” marathons, and all PR professionals should do so, too. That’s because Taffer’s projects are exercises in practical branding. He knows how to analyze all aspects of the small businesses that employ him—from the demographics of the neighborhood to the financials that will make or break the business—to play up what’s working and fix what’s wrong.

He even knows how people circulate in those singles bars that function as meat markets. In one failing establishment, he installed what he called a “butt funnel.” This was a narrow channel from one part of the bar to another, so customers would have to rub up against one another as they passed through. This, he explained in his cheerfully bombastic manner, makes people more likely to chat up one another, spend more time in the bar and buy more booze. Voila!

Taffer can do what he does because he knows more about his clients’ businesses than they do.  He can also view them objectively. That’s why, during his limited time in his clients’ presence, he is a partner and not a vendor. A partner knows enough about the organizations he works for to help them align all their operations to support the brand; vendors know only enough to subsist from project to project.

PR firms that succeed are those that forge lasting relationships with their clients, and these relationships develop and deepen because the firms understand their clients’ needs, even when the clients don’t. Developing that level of expertise isn’t easy, but it’s a goal worth striving for. Cheers!

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