Giving Back to Core Consumers Through a Community Relations Program
Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Colorado are owned and operated by the company’s second largest franchisee, Breads of the World, LLC. An important part of Panera Bread’s culture is giving back to its local communities.
While each individual Colorado store makes various donations to local schools, food banks, shelters and non-profits, the bakery-cafes as a whole do not participate in a unified community relations program in Colorado. Breads of the World enlisted Linhart PR to develop a community relations program to:
• Reach Panera’s core audience: families with kids
• Create a third-party partnership with a well-respected organization to lend credibility and
support for the program
• Link the initiative to an established ‘honorary week/month’ to give the program a hook for news media
Linhart PR created an essay program – called the Panera Bread Rising Above Award – encouraging elementary students and parents to recognize educators who are leaders in the classroom for their commitment to Colorado’s kids. Essay contest winners received a $500 school grant and other special prizes for the school and teacher including a ceremony at his/her school during National Teacher Appreciation Week. To build credibility for the program, Linhart PR secured a partnership with the Colorado Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA). The team presented winning teachers with the Rising Above Award during National Teacher Appreciation Week each May.
Hundreds of elementary students submitted essays to Panera Bread and the Rising Above Award was showcased at the Colorado PTA’s Spring conference where audience members were touched to tears when students would read their essays about their special teachers. “There just aren’t enough teacher recognition programs out there. This one is very special,” was a popular comment from Colorado PTA leaders.
Each winning school hosted an award ceremony to honor their winning teacher, and events were well attended by family members, other teachers and the schools’ superintendents. Linhart PR earned media coverage for the award ceremony in several daily and community newspapers.
Due to the success of the program, Panera Bread continued the program for four years and also implemented it in its Ohio locations, too.