Media Relations and the Frustrated Wine Writer

There are certain skills and a certain set of principles involved in media relations, be it within the wine industry or any other industry where a company has a story to tell the media.

I want to demonstrate an example of a failure of both the skill and principles using an email pitch that was sent to me yesterday.

“Dear Tom

I recently started a wine import company focusing on terroir – driven wines. Getting it off the ground takes a lot of work even with a really good portfolio. We would benefit greatly from press coverage of our new company. I’m hoping you will consider writing a story at Ferment (sic).



No doubt this new import company could use some press coverage. In fact, positive press coverage that explores a company’s unique contribution to an industry or region, for example, will yield exposure for the company and its products/services that can then be further exploited via social media and with partners. Done right media relations works and works really well.

But as I said, there are skills involved and some principles that need to be adhered to. Conscientious sales people will recognize these skills and principles:

Be a good writer. Not great. Good will do.

-Spell things correctly.

-Always check to make sure you have names of people and publications correct.

-Recognize the difference between a good story and a run-of-the-mill tale.

-Research the media person’s writing before pitching so that you know whether or not there is any chance at all they will be open to the story idea you are bringing them.

-Whether calling or emailing them, keep your story idea pitch short, to the point, compelling and in line with the kind of stories and articles they tend to write.

-Be willing to take “no” for an answer and move on.

-If the story you are pitching can easily be applied to another company in the same industry, then stop what you are doing and start over considering what makes the company, service or product unique.

-Be flexible. If you are asking a writer or journalist to meet you or with your client, it’s going to be on their schedule.

-Keep notes on who you’ve reached out to and when. It’s easy to forget you did so and stupidly repeat the pitch. Plus, going over notes and outcomes will a good idea of which story ideas work and which don’t.

-Always have background material ready to send, but don’t send it with the story pitch if reaching out via email. If they ask for information, send it. 

-Never lie. Ever. 

-Always tell the truth.

The person who contacted me violated 6 of the items noted above. That’s not to say there isn’t a really interesting story embedded in this new company. I just have no idea what it is and have no good reason to investigate.

Another thing to keep in mind is this because it will make it easier to start reaching out to media: Writers and editors and journalists GET what you are doing and why. They do the very same thing all the time. They pitch stories to editors that they want to write and they have to adhere to the same rules, principles, and skills I’ve noted above. It’s one of the reasons you often see publicists and writers migrating back and forth through the same door throughout their careers.

Use media relations as part of your marketing. If it’s done right, it will produce a healthy ROI. But if it’s done wrong, you may be the inspiration for a blog post by a frustrated wine blogger.


6 Responses

  1. Doug Wilder - April 4, 2017

    This post caused me to think of how some of your rules apply to all of us. It came shortly after I responded to an unsolicited offer of services. I don’t usually pay much attention to those but I had some time and opened the link and began reading the presentation that offered what looked to be high quality work. However, the information contained at least a dozen incorrectly spelled words and poor punctuation, easily the laziest work I have seen in over a quarter century in the wine business. Compounding that was the expression of attention to detail on the work they produce for clients. According to their site, they work with people both of us know. I sent them a brief reply letting them know they need to edit before publishing if they want to be taken seriously.

  2. Lewis Perdue - April 5, 2017

    And then there is the “fake news” release: “WX Brands Issues Incomprehensible PR About Buying Some (Or All?) of Jamieson Canyon Vineyards & Bread and Butter Wines”


  3. Tom Wark - April 5, 2017

    I read it. It was….less than clear. Less than effective.

  4. Jeremy Parzen - April 5, 2017

    Have healthy, informed, and reasonable expectations.

  5. Kim Badenfort - April 5, 2017

    If your pitch looks like spam, it will probably be treated as such.

    Luckily there are some solid PR folks out there too who do a great job and understand what a writer/editor needs to see to move forward with a potential story.

  6. Marina - April 7, 2017

    Thank you, Mr. Wark, for this article. Not only did I enjoy reading it but I learned from it. I appreciate the joy of learning something I’d not considered in the past. I’ve copied and pasted your list into a Word file for future use.

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