According to Public Relations Society of America, "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."
True. So how does a winery do this?
When boiled down to its essence, PR is about devising a strategy to share your winery's story in the right way with the right people. These audiences include consumers, trade and media; each needs a specialized approach. Since our agency focuses on media relations -- working with journalists who cover our industry through lifestyle, trade or food and wine angles, the remainder of this post will highlight specific recommendations for working with media.
The Right Way
Just as you wouldn't want to be on a date or interview with only one person doing the talking, public relations professionals must take into account the intended audience's interests, preferences (and in our case, policies) to be effective. This means we spend a significant amount of time researching individuals before approaching them. It is important to find a common ground, ask the right questions and most of all, offer something of value before making an appeal for consideration.
For example, some media only want to communicate over email; others prefer the phone or social media. There are journalists who don't want to be bothered before their weekly article is due on Wednesdays, and others who publish pitch schedules to which they'd prefer you adhere. Many are open to pitched ideas so long as they appeal to the readers and "scoops" or exclusive content is always preferred.
In all cases, once you have done your research and gained the attention of a journalist, providing a clear and concise story and profile of relevant and timely information is critical. For a winery introduction this includes an story overview, wine list, background on principals, and vineyard and property information. The key here is to provide all of this information in a format that does not overwhelm. And keep it relevant: a scoring publication doesn't want to hear about your wine club, and a Georgia based writer will not likely be interested in receiving samples of your winery only Riesling not distributed in his state.
Some pet peeves to avoid include boasting about points from other publications, leaving out suggested retail pricing, documents that are too lengthy or worse, not providing any information at all. Uninvited follow up calls are usually a "don't," and complaining about reviews or not being included in a piece might cost you a relationship.
The "little things," like being polite and thankful, go a long way. Journalists are bombarded by people wanting coverage all day long, but the number of thank you's they receive after offering recognition is shockingly low.In the end, the right way boils down to approaching journalists one by one, and focusing on building a long-term relationship. The good news is that the relationship is the fun part.
The Right People
Our clients tell us that one of the main benefits of working with PR professionals is our ability expand their networks. An important part of our work is sharing our relationships; therefore our ability to nurture long-term networks and create new connections is key.
For a winery, approaching the right people starts with devising your PR goals and progresses to connecting personally with journalists who might be interested in your story in your select markets. For example, if Minnesota, Florida, New Jersey and Arizona are your top markets, starting with media in those states plus your own region makes sense. This should include a mix of print, online and possibly radio and television connections.
Once you've selected your regions, you can connect with aligned journalists in three primary ways: pitch stories, seek meetings with traveling principals and offer send samples for consideration. These are the only ways to "bring the story" to the market shy of bringing the journalist to the winery, which can be costly unless he is already traveling to your area.
Building relationships with the right people also means keeping in touch. So a one and done approach after gaining coverage will have a much more limited impact than deepened ties over time. Put a reminder on your calendar to read your target journalists' work periodically and be sure to communicate any compliments not related to your winery. For example, just today I read an Orvieto piece by a gent who provided a great history lesson. So I emailed him with praise just because.
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