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?
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.
"Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” - Sir Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin
I'm a Branson fan for many reasons. He's a proven entrepreneurial success, inventive thinker, witty spokesperson and has a beautiful way of getting right to the point when making one. His branding quote resonates with me because it hits on two critical aspects of creating and maintaining a shiny brand: 1) you have to be committed to the process; and 2) you have to appeal to your target customers on a deeper emotional level. Branson also acknowledges that very commitment required can create cynics. (I'd add that cynicism multiplies when there is no performance measurement system in place -- when there is difficulty measuring the value of brand marketing, some companies stop trying, or worse, write it off completely.)
It is not enough to create a beautiful product or successful service. Owners and operators must continually and consistently communicate their brand's value to target audiences and through a variety of channels. In the wine, spirits and culinary industries we serve, all of which require a commitment to hospitality, these audiences consist of consumers, trade and media. Our primary communication channels are in person (tasting room, events, meetings), phone, online and via direct mail. This ultimately means that for our clients, we have a rather complex web of communication to manage or advise upon.
Recently, a new client asked me which communication audiences and tools were most important. He wanted to know which one we would do first, and so on. During the conversation, I realized that he didn't understand the sequential nature of brand communication. I explained that there wasn't a particular order; that in fact, we would be communicating with all audiences using all tools throughout the course of our project.
When I returned to the office that day, I challenged my team to develop a visual representation of our brand building philosophy, and I'm happy to report that I love the result:
The concept of magnetism reflects the necessity of attraction when it comes to marketing. Attraction is a committed state. It represents how successful marketers blend defined process (the science) with creativity (the art), and underscores with the force "squiggles" that is is also an active state.
Management vision and strategy, along with internal team commitment, are found at the bottom to indicate that they are the foundation; without both, the communication will not resonate as it will either lack direction, authenticity or engagement. Media and trade relations are the next building blocks, because they are gatekeepers who offer a way to reach a wider net of followers. The very top reflects the very important nature of consumer ambassadors -- typically your club members, who represent the heart of the operation given their loyal nature and ability to attract more dedicated fans. It is surrounded by the broader guest experience, paid advertising, online marketing and platforms, all of which directly touch consumers.
Our ultimate goal here at Trellis Growth Partners is to create brand magnetism for our clients, which we define as a successful state measured by shining increases in marketing and sales metrics. In my next post, I'll discuss how we label and measure this success.
- Dixie Huey, Proprietor
Lately, we have come across a few articles that discuss the benefits of using Facebook to communicate with customers and to build your brand awareness. While we agree with using Facebook as a tool to communicate with customers, we recommend integrating social media with email marketing.
Another wonderful Salud! auction weekend is underway. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest almost five years ago, this event has become near and dear to me and our company. I was honored to be asked to become a member of the procurement committee a couple years ago and have since enjoyed linking everything fromGraham's and Dow's Port to Brasada Ranch and client wines to this honorable cause supporting health care for Oregon's vineyard workers.
"You can't discuss changing strategy unless you are ready to discuss what makes people resist change and what part people could potentially play in creating more adaptability in an organization."
This morning while reading the weekly HBS Digest, I paused on the above quote by Harvard Business School Professor, John Wells, who was interviewed for "Strategic Intelligence: Adapt or Die" about his book, Strategic IQ: Creating Smarter Corporations. While he cites case studies of larger businesses, much of what he presents is relevant to small businesses, too.
All businesses that stay in business achieve milestones. Since starting Trellis Wine Consulting three and a half years ago, I've been on a fast-paced learning path filled with them -- some more cheerful and inspiring than others. The first milestones that come to mind include incorporating and registering a mark, getting my first client, getting my first big client, receiving a client's heart-felt thank you note (and wow did that mean so much), achieving a big win for a client, outsourcing some services to enable growth and focus, most recently, hiring a talented colleague and of course, celebrating each anniversary.
Owners and operators in the wine and spirits business go through many of the same milestones. Plus the first harvest, first bottling, achieving press recognition and distribution, hitting the "black" zone of profitability and so much more. The industry tends to celebrate the big numerical milestones (5, 10, 20, etc.) with fanfare around the anniversary including press releases and parties, which are a well-deserved reward for a job well done and thank you to customers.
Where some brands may fall short is using these anniversary milestones as a catalyst for growth. Why not think about the strategy for next 10 years while celebrating the last 10?
I am currently in the middle of an engaging research project for a supplier who is using a milestone as an opportunity to consider the company's next steps. For them I designed a research survey of key stakeholders including internal team, distributor managers, and trade. Each survey group requires a multi-step process beginning with survey creation and refinement, followed by list development, interviews, coding, analysis and reporting. The final report will include a full SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and strategic recommendations for growth.
We are studying strategic possibilities, portfolio changes, industry trends, brand awareness, business practices, competitors and more. For my client, gaining this knowledge will accomplish the following:
* create interest and buy-in given management's need for and desire to change to position the company for growth
* confidentially gather a range of diverse perspectives on the issues facing the company
* provide an organized format for all to voice creative solutions and an opportunity to analyze business and industry trends
* let customers and partners know that their insight is valued and considered -- this is a wonderful way to thank them intrinsically
* serve as a vehicle to reach and interact with the media -- our professional critics
So far, I've provided preliminary reports on the internal and distributor management audiences; my next step is to code and analyze over 500 trade survey response sets -- it's a huge number and double our assertive goals. And I know it will be full of knowledge for my client and me.
Taking time to pause and consider goals and direction for the future is critically important for any successful business, especially in our industry, where the competition is fierce.
In my next post, I'll discuss best practices for survey design and present a case study to demonstrate how data can be used to position a brand for success.
Today I read an interesting article, Inanity of Immediate Response by Daniel Markovitz, Stanford and Ohio State professor. While written for the Institute of Management Consulting (IMC) members, it also applies to wineries, which are first in the hospitality industry and second in wine production.
Markovitz laments the common consultant cry, "I didn't get anything (strategic) done today because I had to respond to my clients". We all get a flood of communication these days, and it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the amount, frequency and desire to respond. Since it doesn't look like the tide will recede, those of us serving clients and customers need to re-think how we process all of this communication.
Your inbox and phone should not plan your day -- your brain should. Just because you receive a communication, it doesn't mean you need to interrupt your work, particularly if you are deep in higher level strategy or an important project. (I typically schedule strategic thinking and planning work in the early morning and conduct it with my calendar and email account logged out to resist the urge to check them.)
Instead of constantly checking email throughout the business day, do so on a regular but timely basis -- say every hour or two, or once in the early part of the day and again at the close. If someone has a true emergency, they will phone.
When phone calls with requests come in, schedule the follow up in your calendar and communicate the timeline to your customer while you have his attention (versus the type A urge to drop everything and handle incoming needs immediately). Excellent service does not have to be immediate.
Managers should speak with staff about communication policies and develop a corresponding protocol. For example, phone calls are returned the same business day and emails within 24 hours. In establishing process, you will help your team prioritize which will enhance efficiency, service and ultimately, case sales!
I'm often asked by potential clients how I will work with them to get a specific result -- for example, improve distribution in a particular region, gain more media recognition, or improve overall sales. Some people are surprised that my approach to brand development/launch and turn around projects is always the same, even though the individual client needs may be quite different.
Delivering superior client ROI is my goal, so the approach I take to achieving it is very important. After a few years in practice, I'm confident that the Institute of Management Consultant's five phase scientific approach is the best out there. (In January, I began an intensive six month course, which is the first step to achieving the Certified Management Consultant designation recognized in 43 countries and awarded to less than one percent of practicing consultants.) It reflects the methodology I've developed as a brand champion over the years and my belief that marketing-driven wineries are more competitive in today's overly crowded market place.
I begin each engagement with the Entry phase, where I meet with a potential client to learn as much as possible about the company vision, goals, issues and concerns. This is also when I ask a series of questions to assess potential mutual fit and gain an understanding about the scope of the project. Next I deliver a proposal outlining goals, deliverables, scope and fees.
Assuming a contract is signed, the next phase, Diagnosis, begins. In this important research-focused period, I gather data using surveys and informational interviews to assess winery strengths and challenges. Then present a report synthesizing these findings and outlining areas for opportunity and challenge, as well as recommended direction.
The third phase is Action Planning, where I deliver a strategic marketing plan that will guide all winery efforts to achieve the client's goals. This detailed plan outlines the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) and how results will be measured.
Sometimes potential clients want me to jump directly to what is the fourth phase, Implementation. (In a few engagements, such as a creating a relatively straightforward website in a more limited project, this is possible, but most integrated marketing communications efforts require the full process.) During implementation, I am typically working with a small team to make sure that what is in the marketing plan gets accomplished.
The fifth and final phase is officially called Termination (I prefer Close or Transition). At this point, I've delivered the project as outlined in the original contract, and either need to transition out or create a new engagement letter.
Operating with a defined process enables me to use best practices, manage expectations, provide realistic timelines and ultimately, deliver results.
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