Social vs Traditional Media in Wine Marketing
Listening to a prospective client, they VP in the room said: "We want to start to tell our story and deliver our messaging primarily through the media, through wine writers, reviews."
The other publicists reading this may have a good idea why this declaration was somewhat shocking. Today, when public and media relations specialists like myself sit with prospective clients, oftentimes a great deal of focus is placed on marshaling, managing and exploiting social media to communicate and tell the brand's story. Telling the story of the products and the producer via earned media (press), is a far less common instinct in today's wine industry, particularly among it's younger members and marketers.
Crafting and delivering a pitch to the media has always been my bread and butter. I'll say right here it is a true craft that demands good instincts, the ability to tell a story well, excellent interpersonal skills, a broad perspective on current events and industry trends and courage. Interestingly, over the years what I've found holds back most marketers from engaging in media relations is the courage to ask for the coverage by the media. That goes back to most people's fear of rejection. But that's another post.
The question today for many in the wine industry is emphasis of effort. How much effort, where communicating brand messaging is concerned, does one put on social media, press relations, advertising, events, etc. The trend, particularly among small and medium sized wine companies, has been toward more social media efforts and less press pitching. This is a mistake.
The lure of using media relations as a primary marketing tool derives mainly from the instant gratification it provides, the ability to speak directly to potential consumers of your product, and from the inexpensive nature of the tool. While these advantages of social media communications are alluring, what a social media messaging and communications effort can't do is result in the kind of authoritative endorsement of a product that is at the heart of media coverage of a brand and product.
Put another way, @gollyilovewine's retweet of your tweet announcement of the birth of puppies in a warm corner of the cave to their 2,500 Twitter followers is not the same as when a bonafied media outlet's wine writer describes the motivation for your decision to build caves in a 2,500 word article that includes a photo of your winery's dog and her puppies. One endorsement is more authoritative than the other. The authority of the messenger is hugely important in the substantiation of a product's claims.
When I pitch a new client to use my communications consulting services I almost always provide a balanced plan that seeks to efficiently deliver a particular message to a particular audience. The communications activities almost always include strategies that include the use of social media tools, sampling (if a product), the development of messaging tools and outreach to the media. More and more I find that the enthusiasm for reaching out to the media is less than the enthusiasm for reaching out to @gollyIlovewine.
While it's true that you can probably find a social media consultant who will change a retainer much below what I or other wine industry publicists would charge for a media relations campaign, it's equally true that the results of each campaign will likely be very different. It's likely that what's produced in a press relations campaign will end up driving a social media campaign. And it's likely that the results of the press relations campaign will result in far more sales than the social media campaign.
The point is not to disparage social media as a tool. Some of my best friends are social medians. The point is that many looking to enhance there marketing efforts are leaving precious, sales-inducing results on the table by not embracing the kind of mindset the VP across the table brought to our meeting the other day.