Corrupting the Wine Market With Spin
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.