At the risk of stretching an analogy, it’s worth pointing out that the practice of wine public relations shares some similarities with wine itself, at least when compared to wine styles. There’s big, bold and aggressive on one end of the spectrum and soft, delicate and restrained on the other. What’s right for you?
Not surprisingly, the answer can depend on the personalities involved and the ingredients at your disposal. While that might make a lot of sense in determining a wine style, it will probably strike some wineries as a little wishy-washy when it comes to wine PR. And we don’t like wishy-washy.
In wine public relations, we advocate a balanced approach. That doesn’t necessarily mean “not too hot, not too cold”; rather, it refers to a public relations campaign that covers multiple channels and media platforms. Like a wine made in a style to appeal to a particular critic, a narrowly concentrated public relations program leaves few other options if the target is uninterested.
A balanced winery public relations program should consider a number of important channels, including social media, events, direct communications (e.g. website) and of course media relations. The emphasis a winery places on each of these areas will vary depending on the winery size, positioning, marketing priorities and price of its wines, but whether you are large or small, your public relations program must have balance to be successful.
In the area of media relations, much is made in the wine business of scores by the leading wine publications. There’s no question that high scores carry substantial weight with many in the trade, but in my experience this can be insufficient to meet broader public relations objectives. I remember talking to a client a few years ago who had been a winemaker at a winery that received scores in the mid 90s from two of the top wine magazines. “It didn’t move the needle,” he recalled, in reference to subsequent awareness and sales of the wine. I’m not saying that scores are not important to the trade; my point is that scores alone often are not enough to make a significant increase in sales and awareness.
A winery public relations program that targets only wine publications misses tremendous opportunities with wine media for other outlets (blogs, newspapers, magazines), not to mention lifestyle, food, travel and business media. If a winery aspires to attract a younger customer base, consider that in 2010 the internet became the leading source of news for people under 30. Sure the wine magazines continue to have a strong following, and some have developed robust online channels, but younger wine consumers are increasingly turning to blogs and mobile apps for information on wine. And that’s for people with a strong interest in wine. Many average consumers probably don’t follow wine closely enough to read wine magazines, wine blogs or wine columns. They get their information from more general interest lifestyle media or other outlets not strictly devoted to wine.
A winery public relations program should certainly have a strategy and plan in place for working with the wine magazines, including the submission of samples for review and proactive outreach on topics unrelated to samples such as winery news and areas of expertise. But a balanced, well-rounded PR program should contain story lines and initiatives that appeal to lifestyle and other non-wine media, it should incorporate social media and it should have an event presence that puts its people in touch with consumers and other audiences.
Many wineries strive for balance in their wines. They should consider balance in their public relations as well.