I get the best questions. Having been in the wine business for nearly 20 years and on this wine blog for the last five and a half of those years, I’ve become recognized as having a few creds. (That’s really cool and humbling, seriously.)
So, this “Dear Jo” read the following way:
I am doing market research for a start-up winery out of Mendoza Argentina. Part of that entails identifying several PR firms in each of around 16 key markets that excel in the food and wine industry. I am struggling with how to identify who these firms might be.
Can you offer any suggestions?
I told my partner in Diaz Communications about this one. With a wink Jose said, “Yeah, hire me.” Three little words that sound so simple for the complex answers to follow; and when it’s all said and done, I would hope that I would be considered in his decision making process… But, one never knows; so, if it happens, I’ll get back to you all. Meanwhile, here’s my answer to Mr. Opportunity. Remember Mr. Opportunity that I just wrote about? This one is going to get my full attention… Even after a third day of printing for an event that I’m pulling off in Oregon in just two more days. (The day you read this, I’ll be in Oregon and in the middle of the Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium, presented by Oak Knoll Winery, produced by yours truly.)
So… here goes…
Dear Charles (not a real name):
First of all, are you talking about 16 markets within the United States, or 16 markets around the world? What I’m about to write would take care of each global PR firm you’d choose. If you’re interested in hiring 16 firms for the US, I’d like to state the following (because some people think that they must be present and represented locally. As my Jose likes to say, “That’s like hitting a mosquito with a bazooka.” In the US, one really good firm that pays attention would do, and my recommendations follow:
If someone is a wine industry PR pro, that person already knows exactly how many press releases should go out in a year’s time, so as to not overwhelm a media person. (You’d be surprised, it’s not that many, unless it’s earth shattering.) When there are too frequent press releases from any company, that company then becomes quickly known as “the boy who cried wolf.”
That person also knows what’s news and what’s not… It’s that cut and dry… And we’ll tell that to our clients, even if it means that a client becomes hot under the collar. (It’s cost me a client for being so honest.) What are we being paid for, if not advice? Certainly not winemaking, and we wouldn’t tell a winemaker what to do…unless the alcohol levels are through the roof. (That also cost me a client…)
Make sure that the firm you hire has the following:
The PR person with whom you’ll be working has long-standing relationships with media from Maine to California, Seattle to Miami, and everyone in between; identified as the “A List,” “B List,” etc. The PR pro should be devoted to you, and love the culture, history, writing, traveling, and has great writing skills.
Traditional Media is still king
The person has also cultivated social media relationships, but not alienated or left behind our traditional lists. These long standing relationships get things done.
You’ll want to know if your person is connected. Just because social media has its new foot in the door, doesn’t mean that most of these people engaged in it can call someone on that all important “A List;” and then have a “Hey, how’ve you been” conversation.
Example: Edward Deitch, Vint-ed.com… Formerly of MSNBC, and still writes for Brian Williams at NBC. I only have this personal example from which to pull. Forgive me for such a blatant example. There’s no better example known to me at this time.
In wine, as in other areas of journalism, we sometimes get our ideas – or germs of ideas — from savvy PR and marketing folks who know when they have an interesting story to tell on behalf of their clients and have a good sense when writers might be interested. One of the more diligent and delightful of them is Jo Diaz, who runs her own communications company in Windsor, California in Sonoma County.
When Jo asked recently if I cared to meet a new client, a principle in a relatively new Portuguese wine company, I quickly took her up on her offer even though I don’t usually meet individually with winemakers or executives because I tend to shy away from being a captive audience of one. What happens if I don’t like the wines? In any event, I had a hunch that Jo was on to something unusual. And so we sat down for dinner last week at The Modern, one of my favorite New York restaurants, with her client (who picked up the bill, I will disclose right off the bat).
The person you’ll hire knows who needs what, regardless of the list placement (A list, B List, etc.), and has very friendly relationships with those who are willing to be approachable. When they’re not approachable, they have the gate keepers on our sides. Now having a dual career (PR and writing), those from inside of the business in a wine region know intuitively what I want and need. Those from a metropolitan area hit the mark only about five percent of the time. Mostly, they write about newly released wines, and if they’re smart will offer samples. Most don’t. Why would I write about a wine that I’ve not tasted? Why do I care that their wine got a gold medal?
Check out the track record of any firm that you’re thinking about. I’ve personally made it simple, by putting everything important to me on my wine blog.
Media Are Saying
Other company Websites should also offer successes. (We’re working on a new site behind the scenes. We’ve been busy doing for others, but understand the importance of also doing for ourselves.)
Make sure that the firm you hire is located in a wine region. While this might seem self-serving, because my firm is located in a wine region and not a metro location, I know that I have first hand, day-to-day interfacing with the following:
- Grape Growers
- The lifestyle
- The heartbeat of it all from within, not from afar… we live it, and therefore know it…
My wine blog is not only my journal, it’s also where I share stories about my clients, past or present. It’s clear that I write about that which I know. Enoforum for example, a former client, has 126 mentions, most of which are stories written about the company and/or Portugal. A simple search on any client shows that my journal is top-of-mind work load on a daily basis. Does the PR firm that you want and need have a good mechanism in place to really get the word out in cost effective ways? If yes, that’s a plus.