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JD,PR Advice,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

PR gone awry, horribly so

Every now and then, I read PR nightmares on Social Media. Being on both sides of the fence, both writing and experiencing PR, I have very strong opinions, based on experiential learnings. I also see the opportunities for PR 101 lessons. This is one of those teachable moments.

There are three issues in this blog story:

  • R Gone Awry
  • PR Advice
  • Bad Media ~ The other side

PR Gone Awry

A person was asked to try and recruit some wine writers for a press trip. That was done. Transport was arranged, and writers were told they would be reimbursed. There were going to be vineyard visits, which would be followed by a dinner. There would also be tastings and masterclasses on both Sunday and Monday.

Those who accepted the trip were told that there was no room reserved for Monday night, so after a long day tasting, they were told  to make their own way home. For two of the participants, that would be a five hour drive, as well as having to find something to eat along the way. The first evening of the event, they were told at the last minute that there was no dinner, and everyone was free to eat where they wanted, at their own personal expense.

The person asked if this is a growing trend due to economic cutbacks? And, wanted to know if this is acceptable. This person is also anticipating that they will want more invites for more people next year.

In my humble opinion, this was a mess, a terrible PR mess. I’ve been on both sides of this one: both hiring and being educated/entertained. What this marketer did to this group is unconscionable.

As a PR pro, I now have a great PR advice story. No one should get people involved, tell them they’re on their own for ANY part of it, cancel some events and turn you out to pasture, etc. To the marketers, if they can’t do it right, they shouldn’t do it at all.

People are generally under the impression that writers are making tons of money. Today, more than ever, this is NOT the case. Photographers are in the same boat. This past week I saw one editor of a magazine post on Social Media: “help needed ASAP. Need a photo” and said what it had to be. One photographer asked what she was “paying.” Fair question if this is how you make your living, right?  Someone else GAVE her one. Everyone is trying to make a living out here, but editors can now just take advantage of anyone who has access.

Whatever is written about the winery(s) that got this going is going to be karma… even if it’s no story at all.

PR Advice

  • If you don’t want to become a PR nightmare, don’t ever treat any writer like this.
  • Every single aspect of hospitality should be covered, from morning until night. I’ve organized national sales meeting, with brokers and sales people coming in from all over the country.
    • ARRIVAL: Gift baskets were in each room.
    • DINNER: Do it right down to the luxury cigars at the end of the welcome meal.
    • DURING: I hired a bus to haul everyone. I even wore my whistle to herd the cats as we went along.
    • DEPARTURE: A lovely parting gift ties it up with a luxury bow.

This is how it’s done. If you can’t afford to do it this way, just don’t do it.

Bad Media ~ The other side

I’ve only had one embedded writer not write about a very expensive trip we took him on. To this day, I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I got a magazine to approve his story beforehand, for which he would be paid again. We paid him $1,000 in advance (many years ago, it would be more today), to be on a luxury train (cost us $35,000 to hire the train). The trip was from Seattle to Portland, to Los Angeles. (The track went out between Emeryville and LA, so we had to hire a PRIVATE plane to get him to the LA venue.) He didn’t take one note the entire trip, as we stopped at each location for our wine tastings; nor, did he have a note pad for any of the trip. He said to my daughter in Seattle, at the beginning of the trip, “I could easily ruin your mother’s reputation.”

Why he even said this is unknown to me. I can only imagine that had issues with women. Who knows. (I can write about him now, because he’s passed away, and can’t get uppity again.)

At the end of the trip, he wrote nothing. When I asked why, he told me, “There was nothing to write about.” Imagine being on a luxury train, being wined and dined for five straight days. Every detail was taken care of; executive chef on board, porters to shine your shoes each night, winemakers on board with stories to tell (they each paid $6,000 to be on this train to have his attention).

If you’ve accepted an assignment, but really don’t want to go, say so. Let the organizer find someone who would love the trip. For the second part of our trip (Fort Worth to Chicago), we found such a person. He is still talking about it to this day as a highlight of his life’s experiences.

I had to experience the former, just to know that they’re out there…. I’ve heard that sophistication is when you’re not shocked anymore. I hope I don’t ever become more sophisticated than I already am.

Take some pages from this playbook, people; whichever side of the fence you’re on, play nice in the sandbox. Reputations depend on it…

2 Responses to “PR gone awry, horribly so”

  1. Kayla says:

    Thank you for this great post. While you write about so many topics, I tend to gravitate towards the ones filled with career advice. Right away, with your mention “If you can’t afford to do it this way, just don’t do it.” made me think this advice was meant for wineries with marketing/PR budgets. I look to the small family wineries 10,000 cases or less and wonder how I can apply this advice to them. My thought was to ban together as an AVA and bi-annually focus on two key media figures. Where a press trip may or may not be affordable for a group of winery owners, would this be a smart move to say, a tiny AVA with 15 wineries in it? Could something like two sponsored press trips for 2-4 consecutive years help kick an AVA off the ground from almost nothing? I suppose any effort could help so I suppose my question is more simplified in asking, what is the value of a press trip?

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    As I helped Suisun Valley get back (as opposed to “off”) to the ground, we spent 10 years making their story come alive. They – as you suggest) banded together. I’d bring one media person at a time to the valley. This way, a major impression was made. Junkets… I don’t see as much coming from them as the vintners would like to see. I’d like to say that I do, but the jury is still out, Kayla.

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