These are the top 11 things I’ve learned as a wine publicist, as clients strive to be Number One on the hit parade.
They’re worth sharing for anyone who is thinking of hiring a PR firm. These are the things to consider, so that you go into your PR process with a clear understanding of how it works, who should be guiding your storytelling process, what to expect, and your part in the process.
- PR is a process that takes a long time. (Anyone hiring a publicist needs to be ready to take deep breaths.)
- Publicists are patient by nature. (They’ve already learned that “Patience is a virtue” in all aspects of the job.)
- Impatient clients see the process of not having instant gratification as the publicist’s failure. (The reality is that it’s their own inability to take deep breaths.)
- Impatient clients are the ones who want to opt out and jump from one publicist to another. (When their story is eventually told, they don’t realize it was the cumulative effort of a cast of characters that have been cast off along the way, who are now all responsible for making it finally happen.)
- When a publicist is hired, that’s not when a client’s job ends. It’s where it begins. (Clients tell their stories to publicists, who then put it all into interesting sound bites and story lines.)
- PR results aren’t as quantifiable as sales figures are. (If someone measures it this way, there’s no satisfying that person.)
- People may be an expert in some other field, but unless they’ve studied and experienced PR for at least 10 years and have an open mind, there’s really lot to learn. (A big part of the PR process is not just getting publicity; it’s also educating clients about what PR actually is, so they appreciate the spot light when it finally arrives.)
- People who are just starting out think they can jump to the front of the line, just because they were at the head of the line in some other industry and their story is so “cool.” (They can’t, though. There are too many people in the queue ahead of them. They must wait their turns, like everyone else has.)
- Many people who hire a publicist think that publicity is a given. It’s not. Publicity is a gift, not a given. ( If you fall into the “Why doesn’t every writer write about me ASAP?” category, you’ve got to get over it… And the sooner the better.)
- Writers love exclusives. It’s the “kiss of death” for a client, though, because it’s putting all of the client’s eggs into one basket. (This further delays the message getting out to consumers, so it’s difficult to justify an exclusive for the sake of the writer, most especially when one’s just building a brand.)
- The proof is always in the pudding, not in the RFP
Number 11 is a critical one…
I was once told by Lynn Kirimli, formerly of Concannon Vineyard, a year after she had hired me and had my results in front of her: “Jo, you got more publicity for us in one year than we’ve had in the last 120 years all put together.” I felt they were prime for prominence, and I got to it. What Lynn said was music to my ears.
I’ve now had people tell me the same thing about putting Petite Sirah squarely on the map. From Steve Heimoff, whom I’ve whimsically pestered… a lot:
“Let’s put Petite Sirah into context. It’s been around (as a grape and wine) for a long time, but never had any respect. If critics deigned to notice it, it was with a dismissive ‘Well, this is a rustic, tannic wine, native to California,’ and they left it at that. Petite Sirah didn’t fare any better in the critics’ eyes than did Carignan or Alicante Bouschet, and look where they are today. Nobody cares about them.
“But then Jo and Jose came along and decided to change things. Single-handedly (well, double-handedly) they pushed, pulled, cajoled and persuaded Petite Sirah producers to pony up some money (which many of them could ill-afford, Petite Sirah then not bringing in much money). Keep in mind, ten years ago the only reason most wineries even made Petite Sirah was because they believed in it. Not because it made them money. Not because Petite Sirah was a critical darling. No, it was due to that rarest of winemaker motivations: because they loved the wine and wanted to share it.
“Fast forward to today, and Petite Sirah is hot, hot, hot.”
These successes were accomplished by having clients who let me do my job; who didn’t ask for my database lists, but let me work those lists, and gave me plenty of time to get the job done well.
Here’s to great clients!