Wine & The Pitch

Onphone It's one thing to write and distribute a press release.

It's one thing to write and distribute a press kit.

It's one thing to maintain a client's Facebook page

It's one thing to write the copy for a website.

But it's an altogether different thing to pick up the phone and pitch a story to a journalist.

It's this last act, this act of pure salesmanship, that I find most aspiring PR people either aren't very good at or don't have no interest in doing it at all. And it's this act of "pitching a story" that MAKES a PR person.

I don't remember the first time I picked up the phone, called up a wine writer and proceeded to tell them, "…and it's a quality that most winemakers are willing to expose" or "…probably the only wine producing region in Northern California that…" or "…the opportunity to meet them and taste these wines you'll see that…". But I do know that at some point in my first year in this business I realized I had no problem doing this and this made me a rare commodity among those who, like me, thought they wanted to be in the wine PR business.

So, assuming you don't mind pitching a story what elements of a pitch are important?

1. Know EXACTLY the specific story pitch you want to make

2. Be able to communicate that pitch to the journalist within 1 minute of getting on the phone.

3. Know when to hang up the phone because the person you are talking to isn't interested.

4. Don't take "I'm not interested" personally

5. Keep notes about your conversation, no matter how short.

If you are looking to hire a PR person to bring in house, inside your wine organization, make sure they have the ability to reach out and deliver an effective story pitch to a journalist. If you are looking to hire a consultant or agency, make sure they can and will use the story pitch and can use the story pitch as a tool.

It's interesting. Nearly every article or white paper or blog post I read about wine and PR the topic is about social media or websites or online tools. Few if any talk about this most basic of PR tools…the pitch.

6 Responses

  1. Geoffrey - December 14, 2009

    Speaking of a journalism story on Wine Bloggers.. Here’s a pretty good one that is floating around Twitter and Facebook about the guy from Pardon that Vine…

  2. Austin James Carson - December 15, 2009

    The “Rachel Ray” approach will always trump that of the sophisticant (which is not neccessarily a bad thing).

  3. Mark Storer - December 15, 2009

    As a journalist on the other end–and as a new wine-business owner, I cannot stress enough that this is true. I’m looking for a fresh angle to write and most P.R. agents or consultants don’t even consider that when contacting me.
    If you can give me a fresh angle, chances are, I’ll take it. And it’s a lesson I intend to take to the journalists I approach.
    Say, Tom….? 🙂

  4. Charlie Olken - December 15, 2009

    Other than the fact that Tom has never pitched me on anything excpet sending him a T-Shirt to wear in one of those videos that do not appear very often, I have to say that all of this misses one ingredient that I consider the most important of all.
    KNOW TO WHOM YOU ARE SPEAKING. Pitching me on a story that is of no interest to me because of the way I write is a waste of both our times. The two best folks ever in the PR business, and Tom is excluded because he has never pitched me, were folks who knew my publication and knew my newspaper columns and appreciated that I do not do BJ journalism, no matter how interesting the story. I write about wine, and if wine is not at the heart of the story, do not bother me.
    Amazingly, there are a couple of folks in this world who come to me with ideas, not very often thankfully, but which fit my needs to a T. How come they get it and others do not? Hard to say, but I am guessing it is because THEY KNOW TO WHOM THEY ARE SPEAKING and they only ever suggest ideas that fit my writing.

  5. Ryan - December 16, 2009

    As a journalist who works on wine stories, some other advice:
    1) Don’t say – “The Times/Journal/Spectator wrote about us…” because there’s nothing journalists hate more than being told their competition already covered the story. Plus it makes it old news. If the story was written somewhere else, it’s better to say that while whatever publication ran a story on the topic, they missed an important part of the story. It gives us a new angle to pursue, instead of a re-tread story.
    2) Try to fit your client into a trend that we can write about instead of pitching us a puff piece about an individual company/winery. For example, there’s a documentary out now about the state of merlot five years post Sideways. Perfect hook to mention when you want to discuss how your client’s merlot is doing well despite the negativity, or what the winery is doing to boost sales after a dip. The other big trend is the plummeting of sales of bottles priced over $50. Maybe your client is doing something unique to get their wines out there.
    3) Superlatives are great. First, biggest, newest, etc etc etc always help sell a story.
    4) Contrarian point of view. Give us something that’s going in the opposite direction of the crowd. Helps us sell it to editors (we have to convince people to let us write these stories too!)
    5) Follow up with a phone call. I get tons of e-mails every day, some I find interesting and mentally file away for a later date, only to forget about it in the pile of other things I have to write about. A friendly “just wanted to see if you got my e-mail” a day or two later really helps.

  6. Samantha - December 17, 2009

    Gotta agree with Charlie here, when I get emails from people wanting to send me bottles of Australian wine to taste I know right away that they have no idea who I am and what I do. They are wasting my time….but I tell them to keep their bottles in an effort to keep from wasting theirs.

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