How To Pitch a Wine Blogger

WINEBLOGGERs-LOGO-Web09 With the North American Wine Bloggers Conference coming up and given other issues surrounding this blog occupying my mind of late, I wanted to address the issue of Wine Blogging and Wine Bloggers from a public relations perspective. Specifically, I wanted to address the issue of How To Interact With a Wine Blogger.

In case anyone needs reminding, and I doubt anyone in or around the wine business does, media relations are those activities that a company or individual undertakes to inform media outlets of there existence, their mission, their product, the value of their product to a medium's readers/viewers/listeners, or news associated with their activities. Companies and individuals do this not because it is their duty, but because they hope to see their message delivered to the end user of their product…the customer. And in the process, they hope to sell more. I hope this information doesn't come as a surprise to anyone.

Blogs are, decidedly, media outlets. Some folks may not have the same respect for them that they have for more traditional or longstanding media outlets and some folks may question their utility as conveyors of information, and some bloggers themselves may see themselves as different and new animals, but this is beside the point primarily because these folks are misinformed. I mention this only to set the stage.

How then, if you want to deliver your message to customers via blogs, should you interact with wine bloggers? Let me suggest the following:

1. Pair Down Your Targets
There are hundreds of wine blogs. Outreach to any single wine blogger takes time. Time is likely the commodity you have the least amount of so you must ration how you use. it. In paring down the number of blogs you plan to reach out to you have to try to answer a couple questions: Which Blogs Write For An Audience Likely To Include My Target Customer? And, Which Blogs of This Sort Have A Readership Large Enough to To Care About? Answer these two questions and you can get to work.

2. Know The Blog
Once you pair down your target list, it's really important that you get a handle on the tone of the blog, the topics they tend to cover and how they cover the topic. For example, while you might want to convey your companies unique value proposition to the wine trade, rather than consumers, and while FERMENTATION might seem like an appropriate vehicle for such an effort, if you read this blog you'll find that it's probably not the place to pitch a story about the dangers of direct shipping. However, you might want to pitch a story to FERMENTATION on the political efforts being made in your neck of the woods to stamp out direct shipping. If you are looking to send samples of your wines, as another example, it would be a good idea to find out if your target blog accepts samples and if they tend to review wines of the type you produce. Know your media targets. This is one more way to save valuable time.

3. Follow The Blog
Just how hard is it these days to follow 50 or 100 wine blogs? Not too hard. Get a good RSS reader hooked up. Every day scan the headlines of the blogs you are following. Stay up to-date with what they have published. You'd do the same thing with traditional media. It's prudent.

4. Pitch Your Story With Gusto, Honesty, Sincerity & Respect
Chances are that you have one opportunity to really interest a blogger or any writer or media outlet in your story du jour. So, do it right. This means pulling no punches. It means contacting the blogger and not hiding the fact that you are pitching them a story idea. It means you are telling them why their readership is likely interested in the story. It means respecting the bloggers time by not writing a novel when you email them. It means not disrespecting them by assuming that just because they are bloggers they demand a much more informal, gee-your-are-my-pal approach. The best pitch letters and emails are short, concise, compelling stories that are, in the end, sales literature. If you have done your homework concerning the blogger, if you've honed your story idea and if you can deliver that idea in writing, then you've put your best foot forward.

5. Get'em What They Need
If Jim Laube or Steve Heimoff asked you for more information after you pitched them a story, you wouldn't sit on that request for very long (I hope). You shouldn't with a blogger either. If we ask for more information you don't care if we really want it or if we are putting you off. You care that you can get it too them in as timely a fashion as possible.

6. Remember, No Means No.
If you do enough story pitching you are going to hear "no thank you" pretty often. Unless that "No, thank you," also includes a "never contact me again,", take it like man, move on, keep monitoring th blog, and look for other opportunities to reconnect with a new pitch or new information in the future. But don't' be a pest. The point here is that a blogger, just like an editor, knows what they want. If they don't like or can't use your pitch, move on, try to understand why it didn't appeal to them, and adjust your approach in the future.

7. Careful With Duplication

Unless the information you want to get out concerns a very big piece of news (and that is rare), then be careful pitching the same story or angle to multiple bloggers. Like other writers, editors and publications, bloggers don't want to be "me too" writers. They want a unique angle for  story that speaks to their interests and their readers and they probably prefer to be the one to write it. Pitching the same story to multiple bloggers at the same time is like sending the same set of roses with the same card to numerous women at the same time.

My hope is that many of your reading these suggestions recognize they just as easily could have been a description of how to reach out to the traditional wine media or any media for that matter. This in itself should indicate that where wine bloggers are concerned, you aren't dealing with anything too new.

9 Responses

  1. PlantDrEMB - July 21, 2009

    Very helpful commetns
    BUT from Merriam-Webster:
    Function:transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s):pared; par·ing
    Etymology:Middle English, from Anglo-French parer to make, prepare, pare, from Latin parare to prepare, acquire; akin to Latin parere to give birth to, produce, Greek porein to give, present, Sanskrit pṛṇāti he gives
    Date:14th century
    1 : to trim off an outside, excess, or irregular part of
    2 : to diminish or reduce by or as if by paring
    — par·er noun

  2. Derrick Schneider - July 21, 2009

    My status as a wine blogger may be questionable: I guess you could say I’m more of a food blogger than a wine blogger, but I’m more of a wine writer than a food writer. Nonetheless, my two cents.
    I think much less of sloppy press releases. Every typo, every flub, and every mis-addressed email increases the odds I’ll hit the delete key. Most press releases get about two chances unless I find the topic very intriguing. I’ve gotten press releases that say “We love your blog ____________.” I’ve gotten emails addressed to other bloggers. And, of course typos and grammatical nonsense run rampant through virtually every press release I see.
    That said, I don’t blog many things based on press releases, but I retain the information for freelance story ideas, twitter, or my classes.

  3. Michelle Lentz - July 21, 2009

    From a blogging perspective, I get really frustrated when PR folks send me countless press releases for events in LA and Seattle, for instance, and even include passes. If they read the blog, they’d know that not only am I in Cincinnati, a lot of my posts revolve around wine in my city, which is a continent away from LA. Now if air fare was included in that press release …
    My other pet peeve is when the PR folks try to be my friend. “I read your blog and I loved your post on XYZ,” which is amazingly transparent when XYZ was my most recent post.
    I love the PR folks who are up-front about things and go out of their way to send me relevant information. They’re few and far between though. Everyone is so excited to send things to bloggers that they’re forgetting to learn more about the blogger.
    Great tips!

  4. Clinton Stark - July 21, 2009

    Very good. Maybe add:
    8. Pitch value, not freebies.
    Also, there could be interesting flip side of this article for wine bloggers dealing with media and agencies.
    1. Clearly communicate your target audience. They will want to know geo, age, key demographics, etc.
    2. Demonstrate creativity and willingness to craft unique ways to help make the effort successful
    3. Under promise. Over deliver. Always do what you say you are going to do – every time.
    4. Know the PR – what are their objectives?
    5. If you engage with them, give it everything you have. Report results (good/bad). Build relationship & have fun.

  5. Andy - July 21, 2009

    Tom, this is an excellent post and I also take a good chunk from the comments — like taking the flip side as Clinton states.
    In the position I have managed to squeeze myself into, I basically did everything wrong (which in the end seemed to be “right” for the circumstances), but you are dead on with what you write.
    Now that my purpose in wine blogging is shifting, I will take your tips here to heart: continue to look for and find ways to offer value to my community.
    And to Michelle,
    got a suggestion for you next time you get passes for events in LA and Seatle: spin them off as a gift/prize to readers of your blog who might be out that way!
    Last but not least, I have found twitter to be a very great way to get to know the people I am “marketing” my blog to. Great because I can see how much more diverse the individuals are beyond their own blog themes and perhaps find other avenues to build a relationship, trust and perhaps a mutual project or goal.

  6. Robert McIntosh - July 22, 2009

    Interesting post and on a topic we want to make a big part of the European wine bloggers conference so many thanks for your insight.
    I don’t think European wine bloggers get approached nearly as much as US ones but I guess it will happen as bloggers over here get a higher profile. It would be good to have some guidelines and best practice suggestions in place

  7. fredfric koeppel - July 23, 2009

    it’s amazing how many emails I get from people asking me to run a piece of news or an announcement or a product promotion on Bigger Than Your Head, when reading a few weeks’ worth of posts would reveal that I NEVER run news or announcements or product promotions. it’s amazing how many emails I get that begin, “Hi, this is Jessica [or whatever] from We would love to partner with your cool blog. Please get back in touch and have a nice day.”
    and then they spell my name wrong.

  8. Mark - July 23, 2009

    Great info. I don’t have many readers of my blog but the winemakers have already found it as well.
    Respect between professionals needs to go both ways!

  9. Dylan - July 26, 2009

    Many of these points boil down to what is number 2: know the blog. In knowing the blog you’re able to pair down your targets more effectively. In knowing the blog you’re able to be understanding of what offers value and why you may be rejected. Know your blogger and blog, the rest will follow.

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