A Wine Publicist’s Vow of What He’ll Never Do
As a publicist working in Northern California in the wine trade, there are certain things I come to vow never to do. While many have to do with my trade, others have to do with the result of working in Northern California and working in the Wine Trade. Those things I vow never to do, in no particular order:
1. COMPLAIN ABOUT DRINKING OR TASTING WINE
I was reminded of why I never do this when today I saw a tweet from a wine reviewer who seemed to complain about having to taste a flight of wine early in the morning. (you know who you are). I’ve never done this and never will for the simple reason that the possibility exists that the person I complain to might turn back on me and explain they had to dig a ditch or climb a pole or work retail at the holidays or assassinate a target. Tasting or drinking wine just isn’t something to complain about
2. WORK ON BEHALF OF A COMPANY THAT OPPOSES WINE SHIPPING
Not only does opposition to wine shipping strike a highly anti-consumer tone, but working for someone that takes this position would mark me as a hypocrite in a serious way. In my early days in the Wine PR business I actually spent a good deal of time ghostwriting editorials for a client who hoped to influence lawmakers to make wine shipping illegal. At the time, I worked for an agency and not myself. Still, I long took showers when I got home at night.
3. ASK A WRITER OR EDITOR, “DID YOU GET THE SAMPLE I SENT?”
This is a cowardly question to ask a writer or editor to whom you sent a wine sample because, first, I know if they got the sample—my shipment tracking service tells me, and second because it’s not the question I really have. “Did you get the sample,” is a cowards way of asking “Did you like my client’s wine” or “have you tasted my client’s wine”. Once you send out a sample to a writer or editor, your job is to wait.
4. TRY TO GET MY NAME IN THE PAPER ON A CLIENT’S BACK
As a publicist, any time my name is in the paper as a “spokesperson for XYZ Business” I’ve failed my client. Not in a terrible or unethical way, but in a fundamental way. My job is to get my client’s name in the business and facilitate communication between the media and the spokesperson or owner of the business. If I do my job well, my client will see themselves quoted and saying something that defines their product or service. Using me as a spokesperson is a last resort.
5. MAKE PROMISES TO CLIENTS ABOUT WINE RATINGS
I always have and continue to be a wine publicist that believes having one’s wine rated by a reviewer or publication is an important marketing effort, resulting in important marketing tools. But when recommending to a producer client that they send wine for review, I never make a promise that their wine will be receiving a score or a review of a particular number or type. I don’t even promise their wine will be reviewed. These are things I simply have Zero control over.
6. PUSH SOCIAL MEDIA EFFORTS AS ANYTHING MORE THAN A TOOL
And a tool of only certain value at that. The rise of social media tools for marketing has made every publicist’s and every consumer product marketer’s life more difficult. The expectation has arisen among media and consumers that business will be accessible via social media. Because millions of consumers can have an impact on your brand via social media tools, publicists and product and service marketers MUST engage via social media. MORE WORK!! However, trying to use social media to advance a brand in serious ways isn’t likely to result in serious brand equity without serious work that might otherwise take place with other tools resulting in more useful results. So, tend to talk to clients about using social media prudently, rather than forcefully.
7. SAY A SINGLE NEGATIVE WORD ABOUT A CLIENT
Perhaps this should go without saying. However, the number of times I’ve heard employees or contractors say negative things about their employers or clients is too high to count. The way I see it, if I’m being paid to work for a business or paid to provide services to a business, I’m obligated to, at least, do nothing to harm thier interests and, at most, do everything to advance their interests. This is true if the owner is the the biggest asshole to ever walk the earth.
8. LEAVE NORTHERN CA FOR A POSITION ELSEWHERE
I made this vow a long time ago. The cost of living in Napa and Sonoma is outrageous. But it’s outrageous for a reason. I will play golf a number of times in January, February and March. They won’t start to paly in Michigan until May. And that’s just a commentary on the weather. It’s a personal thing, but until I am forced to, I simply will not leave this little piece of heaven where I’ve been privileged to work for 20 years. That said, a salary of a particular size WOULD constitute “being forced” to leave.