The number 1 rule of a PR pro is to be a writer’s writer… It’s really imperative that you write to inspire, not tire, your audience.

PR Pro Joe Gargiulo, of JAG Public Relations, contacted me last week about my story called, “Top 10 Faux Pas of Wine PR People.” He was expecting something entirely different and commented on Facebook.

…your piece certainly hits on key issues re submitting PROFESSIONAL WINE SAMPLES, but I was expecting the bigger picture such as: (1) not knowing the difference between a ‘variety’ and ‘varietal;’ (2-5) press releases that aren’t newsworthy, have unimaginative leads, contain too much hype, or are simply boring; (6) not know the rules re the capitalization of personal titles; (7) using ‘terroir’ as a synonym for ‘growing conditions;’ (8) always capitalizing varietal names; (9) beginning 75% or more of sentences in a story w/ prepositional phrases/adverbial clauses; and (10) using trite imagery such as ‘nestled in the hills of … blah, blah, blah.'” THE END

Great Points, I Thought

What Joe didn’t know, though, and so I explained it to him, the story was written after becoming involved in a Facebook post about PR reps. It was mostly about how some PR people dog writers after they’ve sent samples. This group of writers would much rather get the free samples and then be left alone, rather than have any further communication with the PR person who sent the wine. Many times we have to follow-up, per the boss’s orders. And, since that’s the person paying our salaries, it’s necessary whether or not the writer approves of the intrusion. (Who wants to get fired or lose a client.) I reiterated tot he group that nothing is for free in life. (That went over like a lead balloon.)

Post phone calls are seen as “harassment.” My simple solution to them was to just stop accepting free samples, and purchase their own. Certainly that would stop all of the harassment. (The second lead balloon.)

I did, on Facebook, get a lot of appreciation from fellow PR pros, however, regarding the list of how to think about samples. What I wrote was helpful for them, they told me. Most especially for PR people just starting out, they deserve to know the rules of engagement, any may have fallen into their jobs accidentally, in an under staffed smaller wine companies. Or just hired by a big agency, and not given a play book. (It happens all of the time.) The newbies were the ones with the biggest targets on their backs. I remember when I just started out.  I had no clue what the rules were, so many I learned the hard way.  This 10 Top list was just begged to be written, so I did as a public service.

Then, I considered Joe’s Top 10, and saw faux pas of a different nature. His Top 10 are really important, because wine PR professionals are educating writers with your press releases. Making then inspirational is your real task.

Inspired by PR Pro Joe Gargiulo’s

Top 10 Faux Pas of Wine PR Pros

  1. (1) not knowing the difference between a ‘variety’ and ‘varietal;’
  2. (2-5) press releases
    1. that aren’t newsworthy
    2. have unimaginative leads
    3. contain too much hype
    4. or are simply boring;
  3. (6) not know the rules re the capitalization of personal titles;
  4. (7) using ‘terroir’ as a synonym for ‘growing conditions;’
  5. (8) always capitalizing varietal names;
  6. (9) beginning 75% or more of sentences in a story w/ prepositional phrases/adverbial clauses;
  7. 10) and using trite imagery such as ‘nestled in the hills of …

One at a Time

1) Let’s start with Number 1: Variety is a noun, varietal is an adjective; e.g., I love the varietal characteristics of this variety.

There are many new writers who don’t care about this one. Take a course at U.C. Davis, and your 4.0 just took a hit. (I also wonder how many Master Sommeliers know the difference?) Enology and viticulture  majors who were present during this discussion know the difference. Many wine pros find the incorrect usage a decomposition of the English language; academics do care.

2 – 5) Press releases. These have to do with “Business writing 101”

  1. A press release is about “news.”
    1. Writers don’t care about your gold medal, seriously. They have their own palates and some are even insulted with your news. They would rather judge for themselves.
    2. This news is better shared with your consumer social media audience. That’s the target for this news, not wine media.
  2. Have unimaginative leads?
    1. Become a writer’s writer.
    2. You’ll then inspire others to action.
  3. Contains too much hype?
    1. Less is more.
  4. If you’re boring, writers will be bored.

6) If you don’t know the rules regarding the capitalization of personal titles, here they are:

  1.  Capitalize people’s titles, when it’s about their credentials
    1. Our President John Doe is working on his allocation plans tomorrow morning, for what each broker will be receiving of his highly prized wine.
  2. Don’t capitalize people’s titles when the title is being used in a sentence, but not connected to the actual person.
    1. The president of the company is John Doe. He will be working tomorrow morning on his allocation plans, for what each broker will be receiving of his highly prized wine.

7) … using ‘terroir’ as a synonym for ‘growing conditions;

  1. Stop that… Terroir is so much more.
  2. All aspects of terroir include the people who work the land, the geology of soil types, geography of location, the atmosphere and climate of each location, and the sense of place.

8) Always capitalize varietal names.

  1. I would never write your name as susan or tom.
  2. The actual writing of Vitis vinifera names is to capitalize the grape variety, like Merlot
  3. But if a second name follows and it’s referring to a color of the grape, like Pinot gris and Pinot noir, the second word is not a name but a color and therefore is NOT capitalized.
  4. Honestly, it’s very hard for me now to writer Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir without all caps. (Forgive me Father, for I have sinned, miserably.)

9) Beginning 75 percent or more of sentences in a story w/prepositional phrases/adverbial clauses;

  1. Prepositional phrases are great for prose, not for press releases; e.g., “Into the vineyard went our winemaker to test for brix, and our sugar levels have hit 22 degrees.”
  2. Adverbial clauses contains no subject or predicate; e.g., “He checked the brix the day before.”

10) … trite imagery such as ‘nestled in the hills of …

  1. You’re not writing the story, you’re writing the press releases.
  2. Writers might want to make it “nestled,” so give them the logistical data and let them ‘nestle” it for your client.


Find a way to inspire, not tire, your audience, PR Pros.