Social vs Traditional Media in Wine Marketing

SocialI was told something the other day that shocked me.

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.

9 Responses

  1. Tom - May 23, 2012

    I also look at it this way: the person who can help you develop the pitch for magazines and newspapers will almost inevitably give you the tools you’ll need for social media too. Both are invaluable. But a social media campaign can be pretty easily fashioned from a bigger media campaign, but the reverse usually isn’t true.

  2. Marcia M - May 23, 2012

    There’s no doubt that use of traditional media remains extremely important to wineries. The greatest trick, perhaps, is striking the right balance of efforts across many marketing platforms. Shirking one (or more) undoubtedly leaves some sales opportunities on the table.
    Do run a post later on the fear factor you mentioned. I think it’s one of the reasons wineries hold back on pursuing traditional media coverage. It’s putting yourself out there for potential criticism. (And it’s easier not to put yourself out there at all!)

  3. Bruce Bieber - May 24, 2012

    It’s ALL in the Mix. Ja!

  4. Steve Raye - May 24, 2012

    I think the definitions and lines are getting hazier and hazier and maybe are approaching a point where the construct has little meaning…”earned media” being a very unclear term.
    An alternate perspective is that age and demography of consumers of the media is more of a distinction than the media itself…how they tend to receive info: we hear all the time that younger people use social media and older people read subscription/paid media (newspapers, magazines et al.). But that’s not just simple, it’s simplistic. Of course younger people read WS and WE and WSJ and NYT. And of course older people read blogs, participate on Twitter and Facebook and consult Snooth and Yelp for reviews and referrals.
    Bottom line, there are no rules, and there’s no believable data that could prove to me that one media vehicle is more effective than another in making a given sale. Because no medium, no article, no review exists or informs on its own. It’s just one more brick in the foundation of a person’s wine knowledge.
    I think the goal for all of us in wine marketing is to make sure the content is out there to be found by consumers at the point in time and how they’re interested in accessing it. Sometimes that’s push (a blog post, an article in Wine Enthusiast) and sometimes it’s pull (reading a review of a wine on Snooth or Yelp). And sometimes its like Dr. Dolittle’s “pushmipullu” which in the world of wine would be a sommelier recommendation of a wine of which a consumer recognizes the name.

  5. Carl Giavanti - May 24, 2012

    Thanks for initiating the discussion Tom.
    Some of the smaller producers I represent view Trad Media as esoteric and expensive, and generally use a do-it-yourself approach to social media. Few are successful in gaining much coverage either way. I spend a lot of time explaining the importance of taking a balanced approach.

  6. Alan Goldfarb - May 24, 2012

    As I transition from a 20-year career as a wine journalist to a wine media relations consultant (who better to know the media’s MO?), it’s become increasingly evident that social media (SM) as a sales tool is becoming proportionately important to a media campaign, as Tom so eloquently points out (he knows no other way).
    Even though SM isn’t aimed at my demographic, media consultants who live in the old paradigm, will be finding themselves left behind (see my piece “The Changing Face(book) of Winery PR”, Wine Business Monthly, March 2012). SM is imperative to a media campaign.
    But that is not to imply that traditional media is no longer viable, valuable, or even dead. A consultant, however, must drill down deeper now in order to capitalize on this aspect of the campaign. Toward that end, local-trolling, to coin a term, is the way to go. When a winery principal travels — and many are on the road nearly constantly — it is the consultant’s job to ID those traditional media members in that particular market, who can bring value to the client.
    A good media consultant knows how to bring the horse (i.e. the media member) to the trough, no matter if it’s trad media or through SM. Making the horse (forgive me my former media colleagues for the metaphor) drink, however, is another matter.
    Nonetheless, the ROI will come back to the client, to those that have the patience, money, and vision, to wait.

  7. Tom Wark - May 24, 2012

    “Patience”…..what a key concept associated with media relations. It is so vital for those engaging in media relations to appreciate the concept.
    When a consultant does not impose this imperative to have patience on their client, problems arise.

  8. Steve Raye - May 25, 2012

    A former boss of mine once said: “Patience is a waste of time”

  9. El Jefe - May 28, 2012

    “Social medians” – I bet you know some social deviations too.

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