Sunday, July 03, 2022

How to Optimize Your Wine Brand ~ A Press Junket Punch List

As promised, a constructive follow-up from an earlier post, Keep On Trucklin’ – Press Junkets in the Age of Disruption.

If you are a winery owner or a winemaker, here are some simple suggestions for you when pondering over sponsoring a wine junket for journalists/bloggers/micro bloggers, whether it be to Italy, South Africa or California’s Central Coast, etc.

First thing that I’d suggest is to consider why you are inviting strangers into your home. Are you trying to grow your brand? Increase your brand awareness? Throw some marketing money at the wine in the hopes it will differentiate you from your neighbor? You want it to stick, yes?

Maybe you want some good old-fashioned boilerplate press? You’ve heard the cliché about there’s no such thing as bad press? That might be a little short-sighted at this point. There’s a lot of noise in the system, and a lot of questionable “press” masquerading as journalism.

If you invite a journalist/blogger/micro blogger to come to your place, all expenses paid (specifically, blogger/micro blogger, as most professional journalists are not ethically allowed to accept free promotional trips), you should check out their blog/micro blog habits and habitats – the practices and places they tell the world about your unique product. Study their skill level with words and image-making.

Wine names, no matter how many vowels are in them, must be spelled correctly. The “forget about spelling, everyone knows what we are talking about” dictum doesn’t fly. We have spell check. We have Translate. We have Italian Wine Misspelled words are a dead giveaway that a person really doesn’t hone their craft maybe as well as you do yours. Do your homework. Don’t waste your time on this chicanery.

You can often check on their travel schedule on their social media feeds. If they’re doing multiple junkets, such as back-to-back, or going back and forth, say, to Italy, numerous times in several months, you might want to analyze if they are giving the other wineries, events, consortiums some good ink. And I don’t mean posting something on their Facebook or TikTok platforms. Or contributing to a site that is a portal for slapdash writing, ones which do not edit the work and get folks to submit their “stories,” often in copious amounts, for free. And let’s also throw in Instagram Stories. That is not enough. Not sloppy. Just lazy. Don’t encourage and foster individuals to take advantage of you.

Look for folks who appear to be methodical and organized.

Qualify them. Make sure their passports are up to date, as well as their vaccinations/boosters (for Covid).

I told this (true) story in my last post about this. Once upon a time, a little-known wine blogger’s star was ascending. And they were invited on a press trip. This person had never been to this region, it was new to them. But they informed the trip organizer that the only way they were going to get them there was to supply a business or first-class airline ticket.

Anyone who expects enhanced treatment (upgraded airfare, 5-star hotels, Uber/limo pickups from the airport 40 miles away, etc.) for work not yet done might be sending a giant signal that this might not be a road to go down. Again, vet the person to make sure you are getting what you will be paying (through the nose) for. Winery and PR people have told me that they seldom get a fair return on the money shelled out for a dilettante who cannot travel in the back of the plane with the rest of us. If they want to get bumped forward, they can use their money or their miles to do so. You are not obligated to pay ransom for a person, who in all likelihood, can never get you enough press to make that expense justifiable. Eliminate them from consideration. They are users. They are dabblers.

Look for good players.

Example: If you invite someone like, let’s say, Charles Scicolone, you will get your wines, your luncheon, your whatever, written up on his blog. And he will methodically review the wines, the food, the everything. Because he has scruples. And he is crazy passionate about all things Italian, and he and his wife spend a good amount of time in Italy on their own dime. He doesn’t necessarily need another free trip. But not everyone is a Charles Scicolone. And that’s why inviting someone like him is a good move, because your will get his time and attention.

As well, if you invite someone like an Alder Yarrow, who has a bit more wide-ranging influence emanating from the enoblogosphere, you will also get a good representation of your winery/project/brand. He is methodical and organized. He also has one foot in the wine blog arena and one in the wine journalist camp. So, someone like him is also a good bet.

But if a blogger/micro blogger is more interested in taking selfies of themselves and their fellow influencers, chances are they really are more into their brand than yours. Eliminate such persons from your invite list.

I’d say, take a long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if these invitees will be able to do something you already aren’t doing or can’t do? If you aren’t a traveler, then you might need to bring people to you, especially if you make an underrepresented wine from a relatively unknown area. But even if you travel a lot (Roberto Bava comes to mind) and are already reaching folks in places/markets where these micro blogger/bloggers live and radiate outwards from, you might ask yourself who is the greater influence: You or them? And not from an ego perspective. From an influential and representational one. Are you your own best ambassador? If so, and if you still like the travel, then maybe a junket isn’t something for your marketing toolbox. You have to be the one to answer that.

A reputable PR company can help you narrow that down and pinpoint it, and then goal it forward, aiming high. One person that comes to mind is Jane Kettlewell of Creative Palate Communications. Jane is an exemplary representative of that which is good about the PR business. Here’s a nugget that Jane shared with me:

"Given that such trips cost a fortune and entail a massive amount of time and planning, Kate (co-founder) and I and our clients try to set parameters. These include figuring out specific media outlets we wish to reach, securing representation from a cross-section of publications (lifestyle, travel, wine, and food, primarily), and trying to establish the chances of coverage. A writer or publication’s circulation and numbers are also part of the criteria."

Sidebar: Years ago, I was having a glass of wine with a then rising author who was focusing on natural wine, which in those days was a bit of a Quixotean proposition. We were talking about an importing company that had just popped its head up in the Northeast. I asked them what they thought about the import company and its principal. The author took about two seconds and then blurted out, “Oh, he’s a song and dance man.” Needless to say, that import company is long gone, while natural wine is bigger than ever, as is the author. The moral of the story is to network and ask people on the ground. Dig. And then dig a little deeper.

When you are looking at prospective attendees and something about them strikes you in any way as funny or odd, ask yourself this:

Whatever it is, is it

·      True?

·      False?


·      I don’t know.

If you don’t know, avoid making up a rationale or letting your emotions decide for you. You’d best not waste your time with anyone who gives you the old song and dance routine. Aim for true.

You may be a farmer, or a winemaker, or a count or a baron with a vineyard. And you may be good at what you do, or who you are. Use your skills to better determine who can really help move your products through the system and to the end user. Yes, you can bring on marketing masters that focus on building wine brands. It might be the best fit for you. But you are the best person to make that decision. Tap into your intention, the why of your being. This is time to be a leader, not a follower. It’s your life, your wine, your brand, and your money being spent. Think well on this one.

As anyone who works in carpentry will tell you, measure twice and cut once.

I hope this helps.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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