Last fall, we launched a national media study results report, and today I'd like to share our key takeaways for improving your winery's media relationships. This is of course not meant to be an exhaustive list -- it's a simple summary aimed at making measured improvements. For those who are looking to establish themselves as leaders, much more is required. However, these four tried and true methods apply to all.
1. Focus on building relationships with media on an individual basis. Learn their preferences, interests and policies. Connect personally and offer exclusives when possible. Read their work, share it and thank journalists when they cover you or your industry. You’re not in it for one vintage, and neither are they.
2. Recognize the value of sending samples. Samples are your most effective marketing tool. Put a sticker on the bottle back with price, case production and your trade webpage (you do have one, right? Fore more info see #4.). Avoid shipping in extreme weather and refer to #1 -- an individual journalist might want samples automatically upon release, per his set reviewing schedule or not at all; you have to know him to know his preferences.
3. Avoid the no-nos. Sending releases about gold medals. Following up to see if a press release was received. Blasting emails out to a group of media. Attaching preconditions to receiving samples or attending events. Repeated follow ups to see if an email was received.
4. Ensure you have the correct press materials. This is most notably a simple trade page on your website that houses your tech sheets and visual assets – logo, labels, bottle shots, property and people photography. A winery fact sheet addressing the 5 W's (who, what, when where and why) is always welcome. Be sure this fact sheet includes the full names of the owner(s) and winemaker, and that these spokespersons have up to date LinkedIn profiles, which journalists use for biographical information.
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.
You are very likely marketing your business in a less than inspiring way. I sure was.
Do you spend a lot of time talking about your clones, soil, or special barrel regimes? How your particular Chardonnay is long in the palate or perfectly balanced? And tend to highlight that you've been doing it for 10, 20 or 50 years? If the answer is yes, then your marketing needs to be more captivating.
The 15 minute TED Talk by Simon Sinek linked below stopped me in my tracks. (Warning, watching it will likely be both exhausting and invigorating.)
Before watching Sinek deliver his presentation, when approached by prospective clients and asked questions about our agency, we would highlight our strong relationships, proven results and processes, regular results reporting and constant cycle of seeking continuous improvement in everything we do. Etc. etc.
All of this is still true; it just isn't a compelling reason to invest in our services. That's because Sinek argues that people buy your WHY, not your HOW or WHAT.
The good news is that your WHY is likely a pretty clear vision with which to reconnect. It goes right to the heart of your company. WHY do you love what you do? WHY does your company bring you joy? WHY did you start it in the first place?
In our case, our clients do not buy the HOW we do it (our cultivation of strong relationships, industry expertise, benchmarking results, hundreds of communications with journalists monthly) nor WHAT they receive (increased recognition, high ROI measured in earned media value, increased demand).
Instead, the businesses who are a fit with our family of clients connect with WHY we do what we do. They want to work with a wine focused PR agency that is inspired and driven by their WHY, and people who derive pleasure from cultivating the relationships necessary to achieve recognition for their vision.
Interestingly, understanding this produced a common thread amongst all of our clients -- something bigger than bringing delicious wine and food to market. Such as a deep desire to create a legacy, share joy, provide for others, or create a community or culture. Perfectly, really swallowing this makes for much better storytelling, which is WHAT we do.
It makes my day everytime one of our clients is featured by the journalists who work so diligently to bring compelling stories to their readers. What makes your day as a business owner?
Engaging media can help you achieve press, which helps improve your visibility and increase consumer demand. But how do you maximize your recognition? If you’ve received a glowing review but don’t know what to do next, strengthen your coverage by following our five tips.
If you would like to generate more recognition and demand in 2015, be sure to prioritize your public relations strategy. Effectively serving the media to build your brand starts with developing and an action plan and associated budget.
Why plan for and invest in media relations?
In our November newsletter, we propose a toast of thanks to our clients and share several tips to getting a jump start to your 2015 planning. Click here to read more.
We have had the pleasure of serving the Knudsen family since summer of 2012 when we were hired to help launch Knudsen Vineyards. The project was immediately interesting to me given the family's deep roots in the Willamette Valley -- the family's patriarch, Cal Knudsen and his wife, Julia Lee, were early winegrowing pioneers. Over the last two years, we've provided the Knudsens guidance ranging from messaging and brand visuals to online marketing, sales allocation and media relations. And much more in between.
We just launched this September and I'm proud to say have already generated strong media coverage. Below are four factors in addition to serving excellent wine made with a passion at the proper price (which is simply the price of entry into our crowded market):
1. The family's willingness to participate in media events and host journalists at their property. This of course requires a commitment of time and resources, but as one of my wine PR mentors, Ed Schwartz, used to say: "There are three ways to get press -- a meeting with a PR person, a meeting with an owner or winemaker, or a meeting at the property." Not being regularly available to host and regularly meet with media on their turf drastically reduces your chances of achieving recognition.
2. The family's willingness to tell their story more broadly. For example, during the property lunch we served two vintage Argyle sparkling wines and a 1987 Knudsen Erath Pinot Noir in addition to the wine the family was releasing, 2012 Knudsen Pinot Noir. Page spoke about the property's history and links to other great wineries in the area more than the one wine currently available for sale. It's just not as interesting to journalists to taste one wine or hear one angle during what is for them a large commitment of time. I learned this skill on a very large level working with the Symington Family of Portugal for five years -- they created a multi-city Vintage Port Tour bringing together their own competition to tell their region's story.
3. The family's investment in marketing to ensure that their brand presence underscores the quality of their wine. It is very difficult for us to speak with media about how special a brand or property is when the company's online presence is lacking. A winery's website simply must use intriguing imagery and contain the simple tools that help media do their job -- a well told story, wine details and contact information.
4. Good old fashioned thank you notes. We all like to hear please and thank you, and not making time to thank journalists for attending and covering events is a big no-no. Page personally thanked every person who attended her media lunch and is quick to write notes each time coverage appears. We do this as a matter of course for our clients, but it's always nice to have a note come from an owner or winemaker.
5. Making wine available for media samples. This conversation began when we were discussing allocations as it's important that new brands both account for media and library samples. Promoting a wine without offering members of the media the opportunity to taste it is like asking a restaurant critic to rate an establishment without giving him access to the food.
"So if you want to hire outside resources to help you solve a business problem... get them in the boat with you so that you’re all accountable for creating value."
Today Janel forwarded me a Forbes.com piece, "Why Consultants Should be Accountable for Results, Not Recommendations." It reminded me of many of the lessons I've learned over the years -- most importantly, that clients hire us and most importantly, re-hire us for results.
As outside service providers, we are often in a position of giving marketing and public relations advice, but ultimately, our recommendations don't alone create tangible benefits. The results side of the equation comes from our process and our ability to form close client relationships and a wide media network. This includes the plans we develop, the ideas and pitches we create and at the end of the day, our ability to connect with media to provide angles of interest.
Our results-based process starts with the end result in mind before we're even hired. We ask potential clients about the results they'd like to see, and assess whether or not we can serve them based on their vision, quality, and reach (i.e., distribution). And we try to make absolutely sure that the client is committed and ready to be communicative because ultimately, we can not serve a client who is not "in the boat" with us.
If we proceed with a proposal and are hired, we focus on blending creative pitching with results -- measured by performance to plan goals in the form of monthly report metrics including pitches, samples sent and articles generated. PR can be a gray area and there is more to our value-add than numbers, but at the end of the day, the ultimate measure is... Did sales increase?
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.
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