Delivering Non-COVID Wine Announcements When the Media Isn’t Covering Wine

What is the likelihood that a company announcing legitimate wine-related news in the midst of this COVID-19 emergency will attract the attention of the media—if the announcement has nothing to do with the COVID-19 emergency or its consequences?

That’s a rhetorical question.

For obvious reasons the media is intensely focused on the impact of this unique moment and how it is affecting people, communities, and industries. Attempting to get the media to report news that has no relationship to the outbreak is nearly a fool’s errand. Nearly.

Where in previous times an announcement of a new winemaker or a purchase of land or an event might allow somewhat wide broadcast via a press release or email in order to get the attention of the media, today that announcement must be highly targeted in order to find coverage. Today you are looking to deliver your announcement almost exclusively to writers and editors that specialize in the exact type of news you are announcing.

Who specifically tends to publish or report on new winemaker appointments? Probably the local paper in the town where the new winemaker’s winery is located will be interested and the correct writer is likely the one that covers ag or wine or personnel moves. Perhaps the local or national wine business writers will be interested. And perhaps you might reach out to an appropriate local wine blogger or podcaster that has shown a desire to focus on winemaking in your region.

This is probably the best you can do. Attempting to go farther afield is likely to be a waste of time.

So, why not, instead of sending out a press release,  just pick up the phone and call the few folks who are likely today to care. It’s a small list. The point is that while everyone is generally focused on a single issue, you are going to have to take direct action pointed at a very select group of writers and editors to get your message out to those who care.

The last time the media was completely focused on a single theme was after September 11, 2001. For two to three months after, wine news was hard to find outside a few dedicated media outlets. And that’s understandable. This time, it’s going to be 6-8 months at least before you can expect the news to favor any story that doesn’t have a COVID-19 angle.

If you are a publicist or in charge of media at your company, now is the time more than ever to replace digital communications with personal outreach. Write up the announcement. Sure. But don’t just email it. Call. Chat about wine with the writer or editor. Grant them the opportunity to discuss something besides the experience of working from home or homeschooling or when to lift the quarantine or the state of the shelves at the grocery store. But select your audience carefully. Go narrow, don’t go wide.


4 Responses

  1. Paul franson - April 19, 2020

    Sorry, but most reporters now are very busy now we don’t need phone calls. A targeted email is better. Save the phone calls (and wine meeting or lunch) for later.

    Ps I was on pr a long time and have been a writer and editor even longer.

  2. Tom Wark - April 19, 2020

    Well, you are right about the meetings and lunches..

    But I’m finding personal outreach these days with very specific and very relevant stories are being welcomed, and welcomed via phone. I’m not talking about something superfluous. I’m talking about ultra relevant stories discussed with the specific witers who cover those specific topics.

    That said, email can work too. Up for a Zoom?

  3. Blake Gray - April 20, 2020

    I’m with Paul. Don’t call me with your new winemaker announcement. If I answer the phone in the first place, and that’s why you’re calling, I won’t take your call again.

    To be sure, I am still writing stories about wine AND actively looking for stories about wine. I need more stories about wine. So I’ll take your pitch. If it’s a good story idea I’ll be grateful for it.

    But send it by email. I’m uninterested in 90% of the pitches I get, because too many are that you hired a new national assistant sales manager, or just released your Cabernet, or won a silver medal/got 91 points for some wine. I’d rather have the chance to read it.

    And please don’t circle back or check back in with some mass-transmitted email. When the world was normal there was a possibility that I missed your email because I was traveling. Now, nobody is traveling. We saw your email the first time.

    The exception is if you took the trouble to write a specific pitch to me. I try to respond to all of those, because I get so few. Which gets back to Tom’s main point. You want attention? Take the time to learn who the writers are who might care, and what we might care about.

  4. sao anash - April 20, 2020

    I’m a publicist and I’m with Paul on this. I have been maintaining contact with a few writers on a personal level via email, just to see how they are faring, but I’m most certainly not calling any of them. Most are buried under a gazillion invitations to Zoom with winemakers, or to cover aspects of how Covid-19 is affecting the biz. I continue to write up press releases and pitches and send them off. I then follow up if necessary with an email. But as a courtesy to my writer contacts, I’m actually going out of my way not to call any of them.

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