Charting the future of public relations
Tyson Foods Cooking Smart Program
Paul Holmes
Holmes Report

Tyson Foods Cooking Smart Program

Golin/Harris worked with Tyson Foods, Inc. to build its Cooking Smart program to demonstrate the company’s leadership in the food safety arena and build relationships with retailers.

Paul Holmes


Golin/Harris worked with Tyson Foods, Inc. to build its Cooking Smart program to demonstrate the company’s leadership in the food safety arena and build relationships with retailers.  To reach key audiences with the messages of the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™:  chill, clean and cook, Golin/Harris conducted media tours and in-store demonstrations in important Tyson fresh chicken retail markets and a national extension, including two print efforts, satellite media tour and deskside media tour.  During the program, awareness of the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ increased dramatically among key audiences by 128 percent in Tyson fresh chicken markets and 50 percent nationwide.  In addition, 31 million consumers were reached with branded food safety messages.


In recent years, the media has heightened awareness of food safety issues, often unfairly portraying the poultry industry as lax or unconcerned.  Because of this, consumers now rate food safety second only to taste as the most important factor to consider when shopping for food, according to a 2000 Food Marketing Institute survey.

As the poultry industry leader, Tyson Foods, Inc. has always been committed to food safety issues – from the egg to the plate.  Positioning the company as a leader in food safety has become one of the main proponents of Tyson’s brand-building strategy.

The company had introduced its Cooking Smart™ program to trade media only.  Cooking Smart™ reminds people to use three easy steps – the “3 C’s” -- when handling fresh chicken:  chill, clean and cook.  Because only 16 percent of Tyson’s target market was aware of the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ nationwide and only 14 percent in Tyson fresh distribution markets according to a Custom Research, Inc. (CRI) tracking study, Golin/Harris decided to reintroduce the 3 C’s program to a larger audience through consumer channels as part of its efforts to build the Tyson brand.


Golin/Harris developed a campaign for Cooking Smart™ based on the following objectives:

  • Generate publicity for Tyson’s Cooking Smart™ program in Tyson fresh distribution markets and nationwide
  • Position Tyson as a food safety leader
  • Build upon and strengthen relationships with retailers

The 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ program was designed to reach two key audiences:

  • “Kitchen Executive Officers” (KEO), women aged 25-54 who are mothers and/or the primary grocery shopper
  • Retailers in key markets where Tyson has fresh chicken distribution

To achieve the program’s objectives, the following strategies were implemented:

  • Identify two key times during the year when food safety is relevant to media and consumers:
  • Holidays – when more Americans than ever are cooking and entertaining for family and friends
  • Springtime  – when people are planning barbecues and summer picnics
  • Execute local market tours in key cities where Tyson has fresh chicken distribution in order to reach consumers directly and build retailer relationships
  • Implementation of a national media relations overlay to promote the Tyson brand and the company’s leadership in food safety to a national audience


For each of the multi-market tours, which were conducted at the two key times of the year, Golin/Harris executed the following:

Spokesperson: Identified and secured culinary expert and television personality Barbara McKay to serve as the Tyson spokesperson for the in-store demonstrations and media interviews.  

In-store demonstration: Partnered Tyson with a retailer in each market to hold in-store demonstrations. The in-store demos provided Tyson the opportunity to reach consumers one-on-one with branded messages and provide the retailer a “value-add” for their customers.  The demos were promoted with in-store signage and Tyson’s direct marketing newsletter, “Fresh Solutions.”  At each in-store demo, McKay greeted shoppers, explained the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™, and offered samples of Tyson recipes and coupons.  Demo tables were specifically positioned in the meat department so shoppers could use the coupons and be encouraged to pick up the Tyson fresh chicken products needed to prepare the sampled recipes.

Collateral: Created and produced informative and useful take-home pieces for both phases of the tour, which McKay distributed at the in-store demos.  The complimentary “Holiday Entertaining Planners” offered holiday recipes and entertainment ideas, while the “Summer Grilling Guides” featured grilling recipes and picnic tips.  Branded with Tyson logos, both take-home pieces contained the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ and other food safety tips, as well as the Tyson recipes that were being sampled.  The planners and grilling guides were also available on the internet, which helped drive more consumers to the Tyson web site.  

Media Relations: Executed a comprehensive publicity campaign in each market in conjunction with the in-store demonstrations to secure media coverage of Tyson and the Cooking Smart™ program and to drive traffic to the demos.  The campaign contained several components, including broadcast, print and radio interviews for McKay; media drop-offs with baskets consisting of the press materials and prepared Tyson recipes; press kit mailing to targeted local-market press; and local media invitations for the in-store demos.

The national extension of Cooking Smart™ featured several media components that complimented the multi-market tours, including:

National mailing: Wrote and distributed a creative, “themed” press kit to targeted national press during each phase of the program.  The press kits included Cooking Smart™ food safety information, as well as tips and recipes timed to each program.  The holiday kit featured a colorful design complete with snowflakes, while the springtime kit had a grilling theme with bright summertime colors.  The take-home pieces were also included in press kits.  Distributed a mat release focusing on food safety tips for barbecues and picnics during the springtime tour.

Web site component: Included a Cooking Smart™ section on the Tyson web site with additional food safety tips, as well as the holiday planners and summertime grilling guides.  The Tyson site address was included on all materials, and McKay encouraged shoppers to visit the Tyson web site during in-store demonstrations and media interviews to increase web traffic.

Audio News Release: Developed and disseminated audio news releases to more than 1,500 radio stations nationwide promoting the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™.

Satellite Media Tour: Participated in a co-op  “No Place Like Home for the Holidays” satellite media tour.  The host reiterated the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ messages and highlighted the Tyson web site while discussing safe and easy ways to prepare food for the holidays.

Deskside tour: Organized and executed a deskside media tour with prominent, national women’s magazines, including Ladies Home Journal, Healthy Living, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and McCall’s, to reach consumers nationally with Tyson’s food safety messages.


During the execution of the Cooking Smart™ program (November 1999 – June 2000), awareness of the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ increased dramatically among KEOs in Tyson fresh distribution markets and nationwide, according to CRI.

In Tyson fresh distribution markets, 14 percent of those surveyed were aware of the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ prior to the launch of the program.  After the second phase of the program was completed, awareness rose to 32 percent – reflecting a 128 percent increase.

Nationwide, 16 percent of those surveyed were aware of the 3 C’s to Cooking Smart™ before to the launch of the program.  Following the program’s implementation, awareness rose to 24 percent – reflecting a 50 percent increase.

Tyson’s Cooking Smart™ program reached more than 31 million consumers with branded food safety messages.

In the 15 targeted markets, 27 television placements were generated.

The satellite media tour achieved 19 airings.

More than 100 print placements were secured across the country, including the New York Daily News, Denver Post and Indianapolis Star.

More than 1700 radio broadcast placements were achieved.

Every broadcast, print and radio story included Tyson and Cooking Smart™ messages, achieving Tyson’s objective of generating awareness for the brand.

More than 20,000 people were reached through the distribution of the holiday entertainment planners and summer grilling guides at 23 in-store demonstrations.

Achieved positive relationships with top retailers around the country, including Giant Eagle, Kroger, Marsh, Meijer, Safeway, Shoprite, Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie.

“Loved the program.  We would definitely do it again.”  -- Joe Johnson, Columbus, OH Kroger manager
 “By the number of customers that showed up at the store, they loved it.”  -- Dave Carr, Indianapolis Marsh manager

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