Corrupting the Wine Market With Spin

Image One of the greatest joys of working in wine public relations has been the remarkably collegial, helpful and generally encouraging attitude of my peers. In the 20 some odd years I've worked in this area of the wine industry I can't recall a single instance in which I was disappointed with my personal interaction with other wine PR folks. And I can't count the number of times other PR people have helped me in significant ways.

Still, there is something of a negative connotation associated with the idea of being a Public Relations Professional, PR Guy, Flack, Hired Gun. Honestly, I really don't care. You can call me and my peers anything you want, but we'll keep smiling and doing our work of corrupting the market with spin.

It's those smiles I'm looking forward to seeing tonight as the newly reformed Academy of Wine Communicators gather for an event at the CIA at Greystone in Napa Valley. If you work in Wine PR in any capacity, I suggest you attend. At the very least you'll discover that you really do have a network of peers who take their work seriously and are likely to help you do a better job at your own.

The AWC first formed I'm guessing about a decade or so ago. But it didn't get very far if I recall. The new incarnation is being driven by Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications, one the oldest and most respected Wine PR firms in America. Michael appears to me to be enthusiastic in all things he does. I suspect that character trait will be on view as he guides the AWC down the road.

The American wine publicist needs all the help we can get. This is not an easy job if your client or employer is a winery. Consider that there are more than 5,000 wineries in the United States alone. They all do the same thing: They ferment fruit juice, put it in a bottle, try to put an attractive label on it and try to sell it to consumers or retailers or restaurants. Trying to use smart public relations techniques to set your client's wines or employer's wines apart is not easy.

Interestingly, you'd think that under such competitive circumstances you'd see PR flacks like me and my peers use some pretty gimmicky techniques. But you don't. Occasionally you see a funeral for corks or something like this. But it's generally straight ahead, traditional PR using the new and old tools of the trade and forming relationships with writers to whom we try to pitch compelling story ideas.

It's not surprising, I hope, that frustration can often results from the attempt to be fresh and unique and different and compelling in your PR campaigns and techniques. This is why I think the Academy of Wine Communicators is a good idea. Having a vibrant and active resource of peers to gather with and bounce ideas off of and to learn from seems to be a critical aspect of one's professional development.

Again, if you work in or around wine PR, I suggest you look into the Academy of Wine Communicators.

8 Responses

  1. Alice - June 30, 2009

    Tell them to send me press releases! No seriously, I’d love to give a seminar on how to write press releases that will get attention instead of the garbage.

  2. Dr. Horowitz - June 30, 2009

    Nice write-up.
    I look forward to meeting winery PR people tonight.

  3. Arthut - June 30, 2009

    I think the AWC is an interesting enterprise. However, I’d like to offer one humble bit of advice:
    Just as there are vineyards south of San Jose (actually, A LOT of vineyards), so it is that wine writers do not only reside in the Napa/Sonoma area.
    Napa and Sonoma will not hold the “premier” title for long – in fact other regions are already nipping at their heels. I would suggest that all in the wine PR sector start looking beyond the boundaries of those two counties.

  4. Michael Wangbickler - June 30, 2009

    Thanks Tom for your encouraging words. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone tonight.
    Arthur: I couldn’t agree more. One of the principles that we intend to follow is to include participation from all regions, not just Napa/Sonoma. The world of wine communications is shrinking in many ways and there are great publicists throughout the country and world. We intend to include them in this endeavor. Through the use of Web 2.0 tools, this is now possible.
    Alice: Would love to have you give a seminar. Your insights are often spot-on, and could help many a fledgling (or not so) wine PR professional. Let’s chat about the possibility. I’ll send you a tweet.

  5. Robert Larsen - June 30, 2009

    Great write up, Tom. Not able to make AWC, but love that it’s happening. I’m in for the Hawaii meeting for sure!

  6. harvey - July 1, 2009

    i agree with your feeling about our colleagues/competitors, but after 44 years you will meet a couple of maggots. but all of us in wine have our advocacy role — consumers, media, trade, producers, their suppliers (inclduing us), etc. — so it’s a great collegial life in most cases. and you are certainly top of the line, and thanks for the awc encouragement!

  7. Buy Dissertation Online - July 2, 2009

    Blogs are so interactive where we get lots of informative on any topics nice job keep it up !!

  8. Arthur - July 2, 2009

    I’m encouraged by your response Mike

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