One of Washington’s largest AVAs, the Horse Heaven Hills is home to 25 percent of the state’s vineyard acreage. The region is coveted for its excellent growing conditions, which include ample sunshine and wind for even ripening and disease prevention, respectively. The growers who farm in the Horse Heaven Hills are a special bunch, and over the last decade they’ve produced four wines rated 100 points by Wine Spectator.
When the AVA’s Wine Growers Association approached us in February to support its public relations efforts, we were thrilled. As part of our strategy, we organized a press trip just prior to the organization’s annual July Trail Drive event. We invited a select group of regional media to explore the Horse Heaven Hills AVA with the goal of generating increased awareness and coverage.
The Mercer Ranch House served as our central location, and throughout the two-day adventure we visited several vineyards, tasted an array of wines and connected personally with most of the growers to learn their histories and growing philosophies.
Since the start of our engagement with the Horse Heaven Hills Wine Growers, we have generated 20 articles from regional and trade magazines, newspapers and blogs. We also increased the organization’s online audience with 92 new connections on Facebook, representing a 7.4% increase in fans. We expect another wave of press to come through from our media experience and a
national media sample send we’re pitching in September.
Planning a Successful Media Trip
There are countless factors involved in planning a press trip. For me, this was press trip planning 2.0 because we were working with an entire AVA growers association consisting of over 20 different brands. From outlining the itinerary, scheduling vineyard tours and inviting media guests, to coordinating lodging, transportation, and gathering over 30 different wines, there were countless details, and this was just the planning phase.
Below, we detail a few tips and tricks to add to your checklist when planning a media trip. These include but are not limited to:
Select a solid implementation team
The Horse Heaven Hills members dedicated a lot of time and effort to executing the plan. It was so refreshing to work with a team that is as ardent about growing awareness of the AVA as promoting individual brands. This region is home to a very authentic group of growers who are supremely dedicated to their chosen crafts. Their ability to work constructively together was a critical factor in our success.
Pitch the right media
Determining who to invite to attend a press trip is another very important factor. You will want to ensure the media you are inviting generate content on a regular basis, cover a variety of subjects, and have strong readership.
Here are a few helpful tips for selecting a great group:
Allow ample preparation time – trip planning takes (much) longer than you might think
Do not make the mistake of thinking that press trips are coordinated overnight. We planned every detail of the Horse Heaven Hills press trip over a six-month period. This gave us an appropriate amount of time to outline and implement our plan and to connect with and invite regional writers, who maintain very busy schedules.
If you are arranging a trip that involves writers flying in from a different state or internationally, we recommend beginning the planning process nine months to a year before, and then contacting your guests at least six to eight months in advance. The more time you allot for preparation, the more likely your desired guests will be able to attend. Advance planning also allows the internal team to lay all the groundwork such as coordinating lodging, transportation schedules, etc.
Build a detailed and sensible itinerary
Make a detailed outline – right down to the talking points for each vineyard tour. Our initial outline also demonstrated that we had some crunch points – with 28 vineyards, visiting each property wasn’t feasible. So we paired family growers and neighbors at central locations, which both demonstrated camaraderie and reduced driving time. We also built in some down time so that our guests could relax and refresh –- no media member wants a fully planned out day.
By developing an outline, we were able to provide our media guests with a solid itinerary and expectations of what they would be doing during their stay. We did include a few surprises to keep it fresh.
Pull together appropriate follow up materials
You will undoubtedly have informational materials you’d like to provide for your media guests. We strongly encourage providing them electronically instead of handing out a large folder with rack cards and sell sheets, which are of little use to the media.
To streamline materials transfer, we purchased USB drives and loaded them with AVA information, winery principal biographies, information on the wines tasted throughout the event, and so forth.
Organizing press trips is not a 26.2-mile trek, but does require a lot of work. If you have been thinking about organizing a media trip, remember: allot yourself plenty of planning time; outline a trip that provides your guests with memorable experiences and breaks to recuperate; and ensure you have a solid team to help you execute the plan.
Visit our website or contact Trellis Growth Partners today to see how we can help elevate your media relations efforts. This fall, we will be coordinating another media trip for Stoller Family Estate through Oregon’s Dundee Hills so stay tuned for an update on the next media adventure!
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