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Marketing,PR Advice,Public Relations,Wine,Wine Business,Winery

I Just Got a Gold Medal. Now What Do I Do With It?

This question came up at the UC Davis PR Extension class: PR for Small Wineries, where Jose, Steve Heimoff, and Bart Hansen (Dane Cellars) and I were presenters for Rusty Eddy’s annual class on wine PR. It did last year, too, so I guess I can’t write about this enough.

[NOTE TO SELF: If I’m asked back to Rusty’s class again next year, make sure this a topic of conversation, because Steve will back me up on this one, even though the class won’t want to hear it, for the most part.]

This is a constant question that’s asked by winery owners, once the gold medal has been achieved.

My first answer is always, “Let’s just make sure that you don’t ask me to write a press release and go tell every writer you and I know.”

Why?

Writers are looking for news; a gold, silver, or bronze (kissed-on-the-lips-by-your-sister) medal isn’t news, in the correct sense of the word. There are tons of wine competitions, some more credible than others, some more relevant to a region (Sonoma County Harvest Fair, for instance, impacts wines sales in Sonoma County), there are some where the panel of judges are just sommeliers, etc.

So, back to the original question, because it’s a common one, a good one on many levels, and I’ve got great marketing answers for you.

Tell the world, sans wine writers. If writers happen to fall upon the news (in a wine shop on a bottle of wine as a shelf talker), within social media options like Facebook and Twitter, your newsletter and your blog), not to worry. That’s an accidental happenstance. And, they’ll digest it their own way.

The audience for this news is consumers… p-e-r-i-o-d.

Get the word out there in as many ways as you can, as I mentioned above:

  • Get your marketing department to create shelf talkers, and hand them to your sales team
  • Social media options
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
  • Your newsletter
  • Your blog
  • O-n-l-y Media
    • Your local newspaper (they’ll post all awards, sports, academic, artistic, business, which also includes wine)
    • www.AlaWine.com

You’re the one responsible for spreading the news to the right people, but not the media; with the exception of your local newspaper and the AlaWine site.

Why?

Imagine being a wine writer, and you’ve decided to start writing about gold medals. Honestly, that’s all you’ll ever write about again. With over 6,000 wine brands in the California (alone), if each one has six wines that are being offered (give or take), that’s 36, 000 potential awards that could be given out in a year’s time, in just one wine competition. Let’s say there are about 30 wine competitions. That’s an astounding number of 1,080,000 potential awards.

Okay, not every wine gets a medal, so let’s take that back by a third, that’s still 360,000 potential stories–again, for California, alone–and we’ve only got 365 days in the year.

There’s only one Website in the world so diligently devoted. It’s AlaWine.com; so make hay while the sun shines on that vintage, and get ready to do it all over again next year… and all the years thereafter, because it’s part of your marketing job.

Just don’t think this is “news” in the United States; because, while it may be to you (and it should be), it’s not news for writers looking for meaty stories.

Your fans will love knowing, so go for it in that arena.

And, by-the-way, congratulations on a job well done.

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20 Responses to “I Just Got a Gold Medal. Now What Do I Do With It?”

  1. Jo,

    I recently gave this same advice to one of my clients. Wineries truly need guidance and your recommendation is spot on in my opinion.

    We’ve discussed marketing competition medals in meetings of Academy of Wine Communications here in the Finger Lakes. There should absolutely be a distinction between a winery’s consumer, trade and wine media/blogger outreach strategies. More time-consuming to carefully consider each group before sending information? Of course it is. I prefer wineries to go one further: devote time to research (via past articles, blog posts & comments on other blogs, tweets, facebook posts) core wine media and bloggers as people: their likes and dislikes, oftentimes they’ll be quite vocal about what they see as news and what they don’t. If winery principals or their PR and marketing team are actively engaged in conversations with the wine media and bloggers, this will be much simpler for them to navigate.

    From what I’ve heard from wineries I’ve talked to, there is a group of wine consumers looking for medals to guide them as they gain confidence in their developing palates. If a winery is new, the consumers who watched the tasting room go up and the vineyards being planted will be eager to hear of that winery’s first medals. Awards and recognition are well-received by Facebook fans. The winery could use these markers as opportunities to educate their customers/fans by telling the back story behind winemaking decisions for that vintage, what made it unique if it is, how the winemaking team overcame a struggle, why this competition is important, etc. rather than a generic post about winning the medal.

    Thank you for bringing this topic and your recommendations to your blog. I’ll be sharing this post with my clients and winery friends.

    Melissa Dobson

  2. Jason Phelps says:

    Very interesting article and solid advice.

    As an amateur winemaker entering competitions for me is important to get feedback to help me understand the qualities of the wines I am making. But at the end of the day those medals, and I have 28 of them!, only make a difference to me. I do of course use them to establish credibility for my growing food & beverage blog and consulting activities, but I am quite clear that it isn’t news in its own right and doesn’t mean much more than a sense of pride that I was recognized for something I produced. It sure is fun too!

    Jason

  3. lynn says:

    T H A N K Y O U!!!!!

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Jason, They also mean something to the people who are interested in buying your wines… Make no mistake about that. They also mean something to media, they just want to discover that on their own, when they’re thinking about writing your story. They just don’t want it to be a lead in.

    Congratulations, by the way. I’m betting that you’re doing a splendid job on the home winemaking front!

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Melissa,

    You’ve also brought out very solid points for when this information is important… And, *you’ve* backed me up, too. It’s good to not be our here on a limb by myself, chanting the chant. Thanks.

    There are many audiences for a wine and its awards/reviews:
    1) The winemaker, as Jason points out, for self evaluation.
    2) The wholesalers, as they consider the worthiness of a wine… And, it’s the small distributors who care, because they hand sell; versus the big guys, who only think about a few sources ~ Parker, Spectator, and Enthusiast.
    3) Media, when they don’t think anyone is watching.
    4) Retailers, because shelf talkers and end aisle displays sell wines.
    5) Consumers who need guidance and will take the information as news.

    If you’re a wine marketer… know your audience, and adjust your message… It’s that simple.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Lynn,

    Thanks for backing me up from the media level… It’s interesting to note that a media person, a winemaker, and a wine marketer have weighed in on this… proving my point.

    So, no… thank YOU. Hopefully, we’re not preaching to the choir!

  7. lynn says:

    Jo,

    I have so often wished that wineries would take just a little time to understand how the media works. (And if I understand you, this is what your UCCE class proposes to teach them.) It would save them and us so much time, work and sometimes ill feelings if clear understandings were first established. A young or inexperienced PR person can often do a winery more harm than good; and a clear understanding of who wants and needs what between wineries and wine writers can mean a great deal.

    Not every wine writer wants or can use the same kind of info. I, for instance, never write about wines; but I am always interested in people, vineyards, insects (yep), regions, clones, geography, culture, history, etc. Those are fodder for MY mill, but not for every writer’s by any means. PR people who have been around for a while (and some wineries seem to work very effectively without them) rely upon individual relationships with members of the media for effective outreach.

    Off the soapbox and back to work now…but thank you so much for addressing this important topic; and yes, I agree wholeheartedly, that few members of the media or publications want to hear about gold medals. T’ain’t news to us.

  8. My favorite is when the winery sends me a breathless!!! announcement of the Double Bronze Medal they just won in Indianapolis, together with a full-color photocopy of a Parker review. And that was for last year’s wine, not the vintage they actually sent. There’s another 4 pages filled with recipes, info on the family dog, kids, etc. etc. but no price! It is enough to make a wine critic go nutso.

  9. Jo Diaz says:

    Always-with-a-sense-of-humor-Steve… ;^)

    It’s done innocently enough with lots of pride… But that’s where pride can bite someone in the butt, bringing out a vanity that only makes sense to the owner of the press release.

    Interestingly, it’s the clients I’ve had that just don’t work out, because they hire me, but don’t trust me…And, as we all know, solid relationships with advice (when hired for just that) is built on trust.

    We (wine publicists) try, Steve (and all other writers), but they think their dogs and recipes make all the difference in the world, when they should be more worried about what’s in the bottle and the solid bridges they’re building, by giving writers what they want, not giving people what they “think” they should want…

  10. lynn says:

    OK…this is what I mean. Each writer has his or her own thing. I love to hear about the family dog (big dog fan here), the kids AND the recipes….especially really good, “home cooking” type stuff that they actually use. But I, too, toss the breathless announcement of the double bronze…ho, hum.

  11. Jo Diaz says:

    Lynn,

    More good information about what writers want and need… Know your media outreach, before you reach out…

    And, yes, some people, like yourself, appreciated the recipes and dogs… If the brands knew you, they’d know that you write about both… Queen of slow cooking that you are ;^)

    (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_10?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lynn+alley&sprefix=lynn+alley)

    If wine publicists had a relationship with you, they’d know that you’re on a dog friendly winery hunt.

    So, would I send you anything about the Texas Rodeo Wine Competition? Why would I?

    As a wine publicist, that’s why those calls and Emails are important… Know your media and serve it well, my friends.

  12. Jo Diaz says:

    As I think about all of your comments, everybody, this is going to make a very persuasive one-pager for Rusty Eddy’s class next year. It’s one thing for me to say this, and quite another for them to trust me. They don’t know me, and I might even come off as being pompous, sounding like a know-it-all in their minds… because I’m not telling them what they want to hear.

    It’s one thing to say what someone wants to hear, and quite another to tell them what they “need” to hear. (Kill the messenger, we need a little anarchy, here!) Oy vey!

  13. Jo,

    You are so right; medals can be a great marketing tool for consumers. They see the shiny medals, read the blurb and a sale can be made.

    Writers value this if they like the wine and agree with the merit of the award. Just my take! Oh, and I am one of those recipe including wine writers. Most foodies love that sort of thing.

    Happy New Year!

  14. Jo Diaz says:

    Lorrie,

    One day, I called someone at one of the major wine publications, and candidly asked, “What does it take for your magazine to pay attention to a new wine company?”

    The answer: “We see if Connoisseur’s Guide California Wine has reviewed it; and, has it won any gold medals?”

    Aha! They don’t want to see the press releases about the gold medals, but they still pay attention, when evaluating its worth… It’s that real.

    And, yes, if the wine writer is also a foodie, bring on the recipes!

  15. Jo,

    Reading the comments here, one thing is becoming more clear: There’s no blanket recommendation we should make for providing uniform packets of info to faceless audiences in our industry. Each writer has their hot topics and categories of content that inspire them to write. And each has hobbies, loves and things they just can’t get enough of. (recipes, dog friendly wineries)

    It takes a lot of time to build the relationships with PEOPLE individually in order to assess what info would be most relevant, but it’s rewarding and helps to establish a strong relationship that the writer will respect and remember you for. Sometimes even with the best advice, clients will go with what’s easiest without thinking big picture.

    I’ve learned a lot from your post and the comments. Love that you’re making it into a one-pager.

  16. Jo Diaz says:

    Melissa,

    More – all true from you, this time.

    There’s a (and “the”) reason I have a “Wine Writers” page on my blog ;^)

  17. Alana Gentry says:

    A fav…”If wine publicists had a relationship with you, they’d know that you’re on a dog friendly winery hunt.”

    Great post Jo, interesting how a point about gold medals & releases morphed into a very thoughtful discussion. Always learning something new. I’m letting wine publicists know that I’m pursuing my interests in global wines/varietals, global markets & the relationship between wine makers, growers & wine buyers across the world. I’m looking forward to seeing how many will exploit that information.

  18. Jo Diaz says:

    You can count me in on that one. Let’s talk about the Alentejo! Samples will be forthcoming. Alana!

  19. Alana Gentry says:

    I’m dying to learn more about Alentejo! Send me everything you have. 😉

  20. Jo Diaz says:

    Great. I’ll get the ball rolling for you.

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