Trust Me…I’m a Wine Publicist

Nobody like me is fooling anyone, least of which the folks I’m told by the more cynical among us that I’m trying fool: The media. I know and the media knows that when I, as a wine publicist, reach out to wine writers, I am working on behalf of a paying client to convince the writer that this paying client is worth writing about. Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they don’t. I like to think that clients pay Wark Communications the really big medium-sized bucks because I do a good job of telling the clients story.

But you want to know why wineries and wine related companies still pay publicists like me to tell their story? All you have to do is look at this survey of which types of messaging people trust more.

After recommendations from friends and “consumer opinions posted online”, the next most trustworthy form of “advertising” (as Nielsen calls it) is “Editorial Contents Such as Newspaper Articles”. That’s right. Earned media—the kind of coverage that results from Media relations and reaching out to the press—is ranked above 16 other potential forms of “advertising”. This is why a solid, affordable, consistent, well-designed media outreach strategy should be a part of every wine companies marketing strategy.

Now, I don’t particularly like the idea of a newspaper or magazine or online article being called “advertising”. It’s not advertising. It wasn’t paid for and no one controlled what was being written, beyond the writer and their editor. But of course when an article says nice things about a company, it does turn out to be “advertising”, and among the best you can’t buy because people trust messages delivered by a third party far more than messages delivered by a person that wants to sell you something.

So, what does media relations in the wine industry amount to? How do manipulating and devious PR folks like me work with the saints and angels of the media?

• Press Releases
• Wine Samples
• Emails that contain story ideas
• Telephone calls, twitter DMs, Facebook messages with story ideas
• Tastings organized for media
• Arranging interviews and meetings with clients

There’s a bunch more, but I’ll leave it at that.

The point is this: Anyone who has determined that bounding on to the social media train alone or devotes substantial funds primarily to advertising and in the process ignores media relations is foolish. The trust that the media retains with media consumers remains very strong and baring the disclosure that all writers and editors are bought and paid for by the Devil, that trust will remain strong.

Now, there is no requirement that a PR Firm like Wark Communications, Diaz Communications, Benson Marketing , Adams-Walter Communications or others that work inside the wine industry be retained in order to carry off an impressive media relations campaign. Would it hurt you to pick the phone up yourself, call a writer, tell them why your approach to wine making or servicing the wine industry is awesome and suggest you meet? I mean would it? No. However, Some media relation firms and independent PR consultants stay in business because they might be somewhat better at it. At the very least, we have internalized a few things such as:

• Don’t waste a reporter’s time

• Try to get info to a writer that they want quickly

• Know what a writer or magazine tends to focus on before pitching a story

• Know when it’s appropriate to send a wine sample unsolicited and when you need to ask

• Learn to say “thank you”

• Read broadly enough to know what stories are trending up in media and consumer interest

• Pitching a story creatively is as important as having a story to pitch to a writer

• When a writer says “no” to your story pitch it doesn’t mean they don’t like you (probably).

At any given time there are upwards of 250,000 wines in the American marketplace. There are hundreds of services aimed at the wine industry. There are hundreds if not thousands of consumer wine stuff being sold. There are scores of new wine books in the marketplace every day. Which will get covered by the trusted media? I have news for you. It’s unlikely that a tweet by @bigoldwinegeekdude is going to get the story rolling. It’s more likely that a big old wine media relations geek or geekess will get the story rolling.


7 Responses

  1. Jo Diaz - September 18, 2012

    Tom, years ago, I was an artist. I made some very impressive pieces of work. One was a very elaborate necklace. I was at a show, and this woman came running across the street to where I was showing (and selling) my work. It should have been an instant sale. She was so ready to buy it, the way she was draw to it… running as she did. But… I copped an attitude… the same attitude that many winemaking rocks stars have copped; i.e., “That work is so good, it should sell itself. I’M not going to pimp it…!”

    Later, when I began advocating for others, the thought of my earlier behavior came flooding back to me. Artists, owners, and those involved in the process can’t say (unless there’s something wrong with them), “Didn’t I do a great job!”

    This is what keeps us in business… the ability to be cheerleaders for others; and, I love doing that as much as you do, I know.

    (Thanks for the cheer leading plug for Diaz Communications, too.)

  2. Rusty Eddy - September 18, 2012

    Tom: Great stuff. Would you mind if I passed this post along to my PR class at UC Extension in December?

  3. Robert Larsen - September 19, 2012

    Super well done! Required reading for all in the biz, I say.

  4. Melissa McAvoy - September 19, 2012

    Great read for a fresh face in the PR wine game!

  5. Tom Wark - September 19, 2012

    Melissa, Always happy to help.

  6. Fredric Koeppel - September 19, 2012

    Excellent work, Tom. I started posting the “Pitches from Hell” that I get on my Facebook page. These mostly come from PR and marketing people who have done no homework, have obviously never looked at my blog and usually misspell my name. And you bring up an interesting point. about saying “Thank You.” Of the hundreds or thousands of wines that I review over a year, I receive a thank you message perhaps in three or four cases. I work hard at my blog; a little appreciation for having tasted and reviewed a wine isn’t out of place.

  7. Media relations can be powerful PR juju for wineries, but only when it's done right | Washington | Wine | PR - September 20, 2012

    […] his Fermentation blog this week, Tom Wark write about the power of well-executed media relations and the importance of doing it right. It’s good stuff, and well worth the […]

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