October 17, 2017

5 PR lessons from the local coffee guy

If your morning commute takes you up Tremont Street across from Boston Common, you will no doubt run into the Boston Brewin’ founder and owner Tom Barnes. He’s hard to miss—greeting passersby with a combination of music, corn hole toss, spinning sign, or fist bump. What does the Coffee Guy, as he’s affectionately known, have to teach us about PR? In a sentence: authentic engagement with customers.  

  1. Believe in what you’re selling

While you sip your iced coffee (year-round, like a true local) or your seasonal latte, Tom won’t hesitate to tell you that the beans are not only organic and locally sourced, but that the profits are returned to the community through projects and donations to nonprofits. He talks about future plans for the business with palpable excitement. Not only does he believe in the broader mission, but he endorses his own products on the streets—literally. You won’t see Tom without a cup of Boston Brewing coffee or parfait at his feet while he gives out high-fives.

  1. Keep it personal

If you’re a customer of Boston Brewin’, the team of baristas will know your name. Even though they’re hustling each morning to serve as many harried workers as possible, they still make an effort to connect. Their tip jar secret? Drive contribution by engaging customers. They have a new question each week that pits two options against each other in a vote. Asking, “Are you a warm and wet-weather person, or cold and dry?” taps into identity, competition, and one of Bostonians’ favorite topics.

  1. Be the boots on the ground

The Coffee Guy isn’t content to manage his business from the shadows of an office. He’s not only literally on the street in his boots as a one-man PR team, but can also be found behind the counter, serving up whatever you need to make it through the morning.

  1. Make yourself familiar

When you see a person or symbol often enough, chances are you will choose the familiar over an unknown. Tom puts this idea into practice with his on-the-ground PR efforts. When you pass him day after day, you might just step inside his store, even before hitting Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner. Furthermore, the brand’s social media presence spreads the mission, logo, and voice beyond Downtown Boston.

  1. Speak with a sincere, consistent voice

For the Coffee Guy, this voice is positivity, rooted in a sense of shared community. From his public presence, to his company’s goals, to the products they serve, Tom stays true to his mission statement, “We are the people's coffee company.”


By Charlotte Gross