Lessons Learned While At Work on Wine
I think it must be rare to have the opportunity to evaluate the work we each do in the form of a written publication. Much more rare at least than sitting back and evaluating the way we just made a sale or missed a sale or the way we got that plank to level or the way we were able to get a passing grade on a test. We think about these things, but rarely write down the process that gets us from here to there.
Perhaps even more rare is the opportunity to get paid to evaluate our day-to-day occupation.
I recently completed a project in which I wrote a short book on wine public relations, its best practices, it’s do’s and dont’s, its purpose. It’s a project I should have undertaken years ago without prompting by a payment for the work. It should go without saying that by committing to "paper" the best way to do what we do is a revelatory experience in a number of ways and I recommend it highly.
LESSONS LEARNED (Obvious and otherwise) FROM WRITING
ABOUT WHAT WINE PUBLICISTS DO
1. Everything a wine publicist (or any publicist) does revolves around telling a story.
This is really marketing/branding 101, yet oftentimes it’s not the way we think about our work. The same can be said for those in sales, education, entertainment and even food production. Facts are nice and facts are vital, but outside the context of a well-told story facts are just leaves floating on a great expanse. They have little context. In the end I am working to tell my deliver the a compelling story to the consumer that will intrigue them enough to investigate the wine around which their story revolves. ADVICE: As you go about your business, think about your work as an act of story telling.
2. There is no downside to self evaluation
Patterns are the path to stasis. It is so perfectly easy to follow a pattern once established. The pattern becomes easier and easier to recognize and duplicate, yet it becomes and the fall back position preventing from looking at challenges in a different light. Writing about "what wine magazines want" for example appeared simple to me at first. Yet as I started down my well worn path of understanding, I bumped up against assumptions I’d not considered in some time. As I looked at those assumptions, spelled out on the computer screen, it became obvious there were certain wholes that had developed over the past five or six years, particularly with regard to technological developments that have changed the way magazines work.
ADVICE: Challenge those ideas and practices that seem to be holding up well.
3. It’s rare that the best product is developed in isolation
I think it is literally impossible to spot every problem, opportunity or situation that faces you in the course of your work if you go about that work in isolation. Even the artist is enlightened by the words of the critic, no matter how much it hurts. The now completed publication on wine PR went through six editings, and it got better every single time. Its structure was discussed over many conversations with many people. Its flow and intuitive qualities are far better for it.
ADVICE: Show your work to others, test your assumptions with other eyes.
4. Base your philosophies on principles that won’t change based on fads or technology
Perhaps a better way of expressing this is that "standards are standards". In writing about what works in Wine PR it quickly became obvious that certain best practices would have been the same 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 25 years ago. Yet the way I practice public relations today is radically different than how I went about it just 15 years ago. Nevertheless the philosophy of the work is unchanged. In how best to deliver a story, how best to choose a media list, how best to work with a writer…the basic principles at play here are unchanged even though I employ these principles in vastly different manners today then I used to
ADVICE: Identify the essential principles that relate to what you do and keep focused upon them
Incisive comments, and I’m in agreement with just about all of them. A couple of points do come to mind…
The potential downside to self evaluation is that there may be a tendency toward over-analysis in the world of wine PR. So much time is spent contacting writers who aren’t interested in one’s client that it becomes difficult to see that your work really is making a difference to the way your client is perceived. The grand-slam, outta-the-park, cover-of-the-Wine-Spectator moments rarely occur but it’s that long term, semi imperceptible buildup of the client’s image that really matters in the end. Too much rumination on a lack of the big blast can be a detriment to simply putting your head down and making the phone calls and sending out the email necessary to garner exposure.
Ultimately, it IS all about telling the story in a way that journalists will want to retell to their readership. Even point #4 emphasizes this. Regardless of whether you’re using a website and regular email updates or if you’re marching at the head of a parade through the middle of town, banging on a big bass drum and shouting to the gaping masses “________ winery is great!!!”, it’s still about coming up with the most effective way to get one’s client’s message out to the target audience, whether that audience is a “Sideways”-crazed public or if it’s a jaded member of the beverage media.
So when/where will the book be available?