Wine Publicity 101

Let’s face it, good press sells wine. That is why launching a campaign to gain publicity is a very important aspect of the wine industry and a great way to drive sales. In American culture, people love to trust the middle man. If we don’t know about something, we like to read about it from someone who does. When you look to buy a new car or a new fridge, you look to the ratings in Consumer Reports. People do the same for wine. Because there are so many options out there, we have to look to the professionals to make our decisions. So learn to love your wine writers, they’re here to stay, but take into consideration the following tips when dealing with the media…

1. Focus Your Pitch. If you are trying to get good press and are looking to target specific publications… do your homework!!! The easiest way to do this is to use Google, read what your target has written and figure out what projects they are working on now. Think of creative ways your winery or wines could be incorporated in a travel or lifestyle article. When you contact your target, make sure you are ready to provide them with all the information they need. You can predict this based on all of the background research you have done and present them with all the details. For example; a writer from a lifestyle publication is probably more interested in the restaurants to eat at that feature your wines or are near the winery, while a writer from a trade publication is probably more interested in the varietals, harvest dates, alcohol percentages, and so on.

2. It’s All About Packaging. Having a presence on the web is really your most important step in launching a publicity campaign for yourself. If you have an attractive, comprehensive and easy to navigate website you may have already gained customers, fans and created a landing site for good media hits to feed back to. People often make a large percentage of their judgments within the first 10 seconds they see something, and the internet is no different. Your website is a window to the world that represents your winery and this is a very important place to deliver your message. Spend time developing it, be very specific, keep in simple, and yet focus your message.

Try to make your site one of the best out there, remember that even if you are small and only produce 200 cases a year, you can make a much bigger name for your brand and your winery online, and this is important. Once your website is up and running you must make sure you maintain the content and keep it updated. When you drive people to your website you will want to make sure you want to keep them coming back! Use rotating graphics, encourage people to bookmark your site, post pictures of harvest and winemaker events, and make sure all vintages are up to date and ready to ship.

3. Create A Network Online. Beyond just your own website, be involved in other networks online. We live in a world of social networks, and more of these are connecting people to others who share their same interests, particularly in wine! This is not only a great way to meet cool people and discover wines yourself, but also a great way to promote your own wines and upcoming events. For a start, try logging on to Snooth, or adding the application to your Facebook account. Do some research on wine blogs and read them often, or begin checking websites and blogs like chow.com that talk about food as well. Post your comments and don’t be afraid to share your opinions!

4. Be Selective when it comes to Events. While events are often great exposure, if you attend every event you will be wasting your time. There are SO many events, you could probably register to attend something three times a week. Aim to attend events in specific markets you are targeting. If you are donating product for an event make sure you get details and request the appropriate signage and recognition, otherwise you will be wasting wine. If possible, have a representative in that market stop by the event to educate the staff on the wines before the event starts. The more they know, the more the consumers will know!

When planning your own media events, partnering with other wineries is often a great way to gain good media attention. Many writers have policies against attending an event sponsored by only one winery. Also, ALWAYS over-book. Just like the rest of us, people in the media are busy. Although members of the media often tell you that they will attend your event, things happen. People overbook their own schedules, and you absolutely have to plan for this. After all, it is much better to have to deal with too many people attending than too little.

5. Set Reasonable Expectations. None of us can run a marathon the first time out on the track. In the same way, while you should think big, it is hard to target the largest publications when you are first starting out. The wine business is built on name recognition and reputation and you have to build this. Just keep telling your story, and if you are honest and persistent, eventually you will gain the recognition you deserve. Talking to the media takes practice, so always start with the smaller publications like your local newspaper and slowly work your way up the chain. When targeting media outlets, start slow and find different and creative outlets, and try to use your online resources to communicate with and start getting the word out!

Be persistent and always follow up with any media leads. Remain patient with outlets that may take awhile to develop your story. Finally, don’t get too discouraged if you get some negative press, all PR professionals will tell you, all press is good press, and remember you are just getting started! Good luck!

By Rachel Reed, Program Development Manager, Inertia Beverage Group.