Wine Writers have needs too…

I attended Lettie Teague’s session at the Oregon Wine Symposium this past week. Lettie of course is the staff writer and columnist for the largest newspaper in the world, and her presence and interest in Oregon wines was significant. Rollin Stoles, long-time and former winemaker at Argyle Winery in Willamette Valley led the session. This was a particularly good pairing in my opinion. Rollin is funny, down to earth and a bit irreverent. Lettie was prepared for this and more than held her own. It made for a jocular, candid and insightful dialogue.

What was certainly on everyone’s mind (I hope) was how to get Lettie to publish something in her Wall Street Journal column. If it only was just as easy as attending a PR session. This is why public relations is an arcane and important art form, and why wineries of all sizes should seek assistance with media outreach.

Her advice seemed obvious to me, but obvious can be obscure if media relations is not your primary focus. Here are a few of her insights for starters:

  • “Read what I’ve written”
  • “Send me a note”
  • “Comment and share your opinion”.

If this is so obvious, then why doesn’t everyone seeking publicity do it? The reason is of course, it’s a lot of work. But folks, I’m here to tell you it has to be done.

Don’t submit wine to writers that they won’t like or can’t review. Do your homework. What are their palate preferences? What are their story interests? Who are their constituents and readers? Remember these writers need story ideas that are unique, educational and resonate with their audience, and these ideas need to be actionable and approved by their editors. They work as hard as anyone in the wine industry and there are precious few qualified wine writers still standing in print media (qualified applies to both online writers and bloggers).

After the Q & A discussion, I waited in line (it was worth it) and asked Lettie how she vetts all the solicitations she must receive. Surely, she must have an administrative staff, research analysts, tasting panels… what with all the resources of the WSJ at her disposal, correct? “No”, was her answer. “I do everything myself, including responding to all my own e-mails” (I tested this later and actually got a prompt response). This is one of the most powerful people in the wine industry, and not even an assistant? So know, if she doesn’t respond lickety-split to your inquiry, that that she’s probably got a lot on her plate and hopes you’ll understand.

And yes, please do your homework, learn the media engagement rules, treat journalists with kid gloves, and remember wine writers have needs too.

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3 thoughts on “Wine Writers have needs too…

  1. Carl, I think you hit the nail on the head with this review of the Lettie Teague session at the recent Oregon Wine Industry Symposium. Getting someone of her caliber to Oregon to talk about how she covers the industry in one of the world’s most prestigious business publications is a coup and she left a lot of excellent food for thought. Not to mention it brought her closer to Oregon wine and hopefully will result in additional attention for our industry — the kind of attention that’s impossible to buy.

  2. Carl: as someone who has been on both sides of this, I can’t agree with you more. Being approached by wineries that haven’t done any research as to the kind of writing or work I do is always a tell-tale sign of lazy marketing. While I wasn’t able to attend the Symposium, I was very excited to hear that Ms. Teague was in attendance … hopefully this will serve as a starting point for both well known and even smaller producers to start an important relationship and reach her diverse audience.

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