By Alan Goldfarb
Before I began working on the other side of the aisle from where I am today as a winery media relations consultant, I was a 25-year wine journalist, writing for national and international publications. Some would call it crossing over to the “dark side”, that is, from scribe to flak. But I believe I took with me a set of skills that have aided me in getting pretty good at this PR stuff. Namely, that I carry in my marrow the DNA that journalists must possess (and the best PR people have): Excellent writing/reporting skills, a good dose of cynicism (in order to cut through the clatter), and the ability to tell stories. And, of course, a good knowledge of wine itself.
Sadly, those skills I see wanting in many publicists today. Oh, they may be superficially good at being a PR person – in possession of a good personality, an attractive countenance, and a certain feel for the gift of schmoozing – but it’s imperative to possess a thorough knowledge of wine and an intuition to know what a writer wants and needs.
In other words, have a good sense of caring and feeding of your target audience – the wine press; and the desire to stoke a wine writer’s requirements. Which in the end, means the necessity of building media relationships. They just won’t come to you (unless of course, you’re fortunate to rep a great wine that has an equally compelling story). Otherwise, let’s face it, many winery stories will have to be cultivated, cajoled, and circulated, by you.
Toward that end, over lunch the other day with a veteran wine writer – who has been a longtime colleague and friend, and who until recently, was considered among the most influential critics in the country, confessed that the outlets for whom he writes, are fast beginning to dry up. Relating to him as I did, I took the opportunity to offer some publications (outlets), both in the traditional media world (read: magazine), and new media, i.e. online wine publications, which are proliferating faster than my friend realizes; and for whom he might have a forum to place his articles.
The point is: by having lunch with this once highly regarded journalist, I was cultivating our personal relationship (in a real sense); and by extension, I was offering him what hopefully would be a lifeline. In turn, perhaps he will continue to be a real friend, and he’ll think of me and my clients whenever he’s working on a article (perhaps even for one of those publications which I recommended). It was at once a genuine moment with a good friend I’ve admired for years, and a sensible business strategy. That afternoon over a salad, a pizza, and of course, some of my client’s wines, I was prepared to put into effect, a skill set that is sometimes overlooked – or not available – to some winery PR folk.
So, if you’re a winery, looking to put a media relations campaign in place, and are looking for the right person(s) to do the job effectively, and who has deep and intimate contacts with the wine media, seek one who knows how to nurture those who will bring recognition to your brand.