Today's Lead Story: 
Lee & Associates: The State of the Art of Promotion

The art of communication is ever changing in the world of produce promotion.

For half a century, the Los Angeles-based marketing and public relations firm, Lee & Associates, has creatively promoted a varied array of fresh produce, from asparagus to papaya to potatoes to tomatoes (and just about everything else in between) to the press and consumers. When it comes to the art of promotion, nothing is more important than communication, and in the 50 years since he founded the company, Leo Pearlstein has seen his share of changes in the communicative tools of the trade.

Pearlstein and his two sons, Frank and Howard, say that now is a very important transitional communication period, especially when it comes to the media. According to Frank, "Each person we deal with in the media has a different set of preferences. Some might want the information sent by fax, another via phone, one by snail mail and someone else will demand it by email. We have to adapt to find out how each individual media representative wants to receive his or her information."

Another change in media preference is the length of the stories which are reported. Leo remembered, "Years ago, a news segment on one story might last up to ten minutes. Today the pressure of time is squeezed and squeezed further. Stories are condensed into seconds."

He also said that the sensational news stories seem to predominate a newscast, and trying to get news of agriculture might be put on the backburner because, to the newspeople, "it might not seem as exciting." That translates into hard work to get their clients' message to the public, which takes both creativity and a knowledge of the audience they are working with. Fortunately, 50 years of hard work gives you a lot of knowledge to lean on.

Leo said that he likes to stress the positive health benefits of produce. "We can really take advantage of the good news associated with the consumption of fresh produce such as the health benefits for the consumer. Those health benefits are a great message to work with, and at the same time we can also remind people about 5 A Day, the Cancer Institute, the Heart Association and other beneficial aspects of the product."

Being truthful about the current crop is also important when dealing with the press. Leo said, "Our attitude on produce is to let people know when the product is available, whether the crop is big, small, good or bad, and what is the best way to use it."

The Internet has become a useful tool for the Pearlsteins, and Frank said the advent of a new division of the company focusing on Internet marketing will further strengthen that aspect of their business. "It's called MarketingBlend," Frank said. The story behind the name results from the fact that "when it comes to promotion, you still need to blend traditional, 'offline' marketing (radio, television, magazines, etc.) with newer Internet marketing."

Leo added, "Today the traditional media is more important than ever. How do these dotcom companies spread the word about their sites? By TV, radio, newspapers and magazines; that's how." He pointed to the proliferation of radio ad spot frequency for dotcom companies and the blitz of dotcom ads during the Super Bowl earlier in the year.

According to Frank, "We use the same method to draw attention to a website as we do to draw attention to a product we are promoting. It is a blend of new media with old. We still need both."

Among the many firms Lee and Associates represents in various fields are produce-related companies like The Oregon Potato Commission, Ready Pac Produce, Marie Callender's Croutons and Mrs. Cubbisons Croutons and Stuffing.

Whether it be by its website, phone, fax, mail or email, after 50 years, Lee & Associates, with their strong niche in food and consumer products, are still creatively promoting and delivering the goods.

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