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Meet Niyaz Pirani of Knife & Spork Public Relations

Today we’d like to introduce you to Niyaz Pirani.

Niyaz, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In college I wrote for the Daily Titan, Cal State Fullerton’s newspaper. I covered news, but mostly entertainment, and found a love in sharing my experiences with others.

I was hired as a news assistant by the Orange County Register  and started 2 days after finishing college. I worked up to being a news reporter, while also covering the national music beat … mostly the emerging pop-punk scene of the early 2000’s, metal and hip-hop. Later I took over over the popular food blog Food Frenzy blog and ran it with my reporter buddy Jeff Overley. We gained a great following in LA and OC and at the time were one of the more prominent food blogs in the area.

In 2010 I went to work for a local union representing public employees, the Orange County Employee’s Association. We worked on local, regional and statewide actions and policies, all the way up to the governor’s office. It was important work that made me appreciate the grind of long-term, difficult projects.

In late 2014 my wife convinced me to start my own restaurant public relations firm to focus on what I loved and Knife & Spork Public Relations, representing local restaurants (knifeandsporkpr.com), was born.

We moved to Northern California to start my business, wanting a fresh start, but for family reasons, and because I quickly found that more people who knew me in Orange County were interested in working with me, we came back. Now I’m a firm believer in building community and bringing them with you from project to project because it’s the relationships you build that will sustain you. Personally, I wouldn’t want to start over anywhere else if I don’t have to. I really love and connect with Orange County.

Since leaving my journalism career I’ve also had music and food articles and photos run in various publications including OC Weekly, Saute Magazine, Vice Munchies and the Los Angeles Times. I look at my job now as the natural progression of my past lives.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has definitely not all been a smooth road. Owning your own business is hard because you have to become the vision, the planner, the execution, and the accountant. Working in social media, too, is also challenging because it’s always changing and a content idea or strategy you had a week ago may no longer be of value because the platform just updated in some way.

When I started I was driving to from Norcal to SoCal every 3 weeks to gather content. I did my fair share of sleeping on friend’s couches, staying with family and Motel 6 stays. Even when I did move back to Orange County my wife didn’t get a job transfer back for another 10 months. So I lived alone in a studio apartment with charts on the wall just concentrating on building my ideas and skills. I started out just as a writer, but now I am also a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, consultant and more.

It’s also challenging to work with so many individuals. Everyone has their own way of doing things and particular style. Sometimes you find that you just don’t work well with a client and that the working relationship is going to end. I used to take it to heart, but I know that this is just part of the life, and life goes on if you maintain a positive outlook.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Knife & Spork Public Relations story. Tell us more about the business.
Knife & Spork Public Relations is a social media and public relations firm that specializes in restaurants. My belief is that every restaurant has a story to tell, so I try and find ways to tell the story of the people, the dishes and the growth of the business through video, photo and writing.

I think this work comes naturally to me because of the skills I learned being a reporter. I look at each client as their own beat and I cover each a such, using my social media platforms to communicate with my guests. My focus is very much based around building communities of regulars around the restaurants I work with. I want to outreach, make relationships with, and highlight the diners who will come to these restaurants several times per month, if not per week.

I’m most proud recently of the work I’ve done to become a better-targeted marketer with the back-end advertising tools provided by Instagram and Facebook. Overall, I work with a very talented group of restauranteurs and I get to be their public voice, in words, images and video. Every client is a little different, and mastering the nuance has been my favorite part of my job.

Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years?  Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc?
I think most traditional publicists will enter the social media pool within the next 5-10 years if they haven’t already because the ability to connect directly with consumers is too important to be ignored. Instagram Stories and Video, especially live video, will become the new reality television, with the influencers with the biggest audiences running their content like individual television channels.

I’m already working on my own content to relay my client news, like new dishes, events and promotions, directly to my own audience. I think for PR people to position themselves for the best success 5 to 10 years from now, they also need to position themselves as influencers and build communities around their client news using the same tools used to promote the brands. I also plan to double down on the storytelling abilities that brought me to this point.

Creating television-quality stories, short commercials and raw video content are big now, but we’re just in the infancy of how saturated it will become in our society.

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