Does Media Coverage Help Me Sell Wine?

Does Media Coverage Help Me Sell Wine?

The Ultimate Question. The Ultimate Answer?

The only question more difficult than this one for a publicist is “Show me exactly how much wine I sold as a result of the media coverage you obtained for us”.

I was on the phone with a longtime client recently, and received a question I didn’t expect – Does media coverage help us sell wine? – It’s a difficult and broad discussion, and there are so many ways to respond, so instead I deferred and asked “Maybe you can be more specific”?

Let me give this a shot. Generally speaking I would say yes, although it’s difficult to quantify. But I think the question could more appropriately be – Does media coverage encourage consumers to buy wine from us eventually? – as I don’t think there is an instant and direct correlation (with the possible exception of 94+ point scores in Spectator and a few other high end publications) between media hits and selling wine. The reason for this is that people buy from brands they trust and have experienced. Short of that, consumers rely on 3rd party expert opinions to justify their purchases and loyalty. Readers respect writer’s opinions, much as they trust selected wine shop’s palates to guide their purchases.

Media coverage is one aspect of a comprehensive marketing program, and if you aren’t getting media endorsements – articles, reviews, scores – about your winery and wines, it creates an additional barrier to entry for consumers as they have too much choice and information to sort through these days. So yes, media coverage helps new customers discover your brand and wines, which should eventually lead to sales. The point is staying top of mind, and when the time is right and someone is ready to buy you should reap the harvest (couldn’t resist that analogy).

Andy Perdue of Great Northwest Wine says “ I ask wineries featured in my Seattle Times column what kind of consumer feedback they got, and it ranges from a few calls and sales to the phone ringing off the hook, and a ton of sales and wine club signups. I also get feedback from wine shop owners mentioning upticks in sales when the column comes out. And if I review a wine that is difficult to find or happens to be sold out, I hear about it from the consumer.” Andy’s partner Eric Degerman adds that “Wineries can do themselves a favor by quoting and linking back to reviews of wines. Sharing on social media is important. And promoting a post for $20 will often get a lot of good reactions from consumers.”

Tracking the impact of an article via website analytics is worth the effort but tricky. You can correlate spikes of traffic within 7-10 days of an article or magazine review, but it is anecdotal at best. How many readers signed up for your email list after reading an article or review? What about Social Media follows and engagement? You can track these pre-sales actions, but you can’t track sales as easily. However, you now can market directly to those new subscribers, resultant from the media coverage, and hopefully eventually sell them wine. It is an ongoing process and requires vision and patience.

Online articles about your brand are directly track-able when linked back to the winery’s site. If you place a related ad, you can use promo codes for readers of those publications. You know exactly how many visitors came from that coverage because of the unique link or code, and if they purchased.

There are other potential results of media coverage to consider – What about retail store purchases? The wine shop or restaurant customer sees your winery on the list, and recognizes the brand, somehow. Maybe they don’t know from where or why but feel comfortable making a purchase because of some previous media impression. So no, media coverage doesn’t typically directly sell wine, but it greases the skids and removes barriers to enable new customer to find you and purchase your products.

That’s all fine and good and understood, but here is an even tougher question from said client – How do we get the writer’s audience to take action, i.e. to buy our wines? Should the writer be promoting wines that they like to their readers?

This brings us into the cutting edge realm of “Influencer Marketing” which is a hybrid of earned media and advertising, and includes both “they” (the writers) and “we” (the winery) promoting action. Where we want to be extremely careful is not to be perceived as collaborating with writers on advertorials like certain wine travel magazines offer, because people are savvy to that, and professional writers and reviewers lose credibility. There are writers for hire that are more focused on billings than investigative journalism that you can approach to promote your brand.

So how do we get THEIR readers to take action? – It is not the writers’ job to sell your wine as this is conflict of interest for any objective journalist. It is your job to leverage their content in your marketing.  See my article on using media coverage in your content marketing.

One way to leverage articles and reviews is to advertise on their site, place a banner ad or pay for a review. Take a look at Catherine Fallis’ Planet Grape website as an example – upper right hand corner are banner ads. Consumers will hopefully click, which could lead to sales. There are many other ways to pay-to-play with wine reviewers such as The Sommelier Company who will review your wines for a fee. I don’t believe the paid nature influences the actual score, although this always depends on the integrity of the reviewer or publication.

Another example are video reviewers who are paid to review wines, and will say nice and positive things, and post the video on YouTube and their social sites exposing your brand to their followers. I am also actively talking to other influencers in the wine, food and travel industries, and other outlets about doing the same. I think this is a better, superior option to simply running static print ads, and should be part of an overall advertising budget. Vetting the source, type of consumers and marketing program is a must before dedicating advertising dollars to any project.

In the end, no winery can afford not to do all the things that generate sales – either directly or indirectly – including marketing, PR and paid advertising (including Influencer marketing). It’s just too competitive out there and consumers have too much choice.

I think most of you inherently know this, so hopefully this article offers some points of clarification on the topic. Bottom line – Wineries will get more out of media coverage when they put more into it after it’s published. Please comment or email and let me know your thoughts.

Kudos to one of my long time client for continuing to ask the tough questions. You know who you are!

CARL GIAVANTI is Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 8th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant.  Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge.  (


0 Responses

  1. Good Carl. When I have time I’ll get back to you.

    Racking Barrel Select for bottling next week.


  2. Carl – I absolutely agree with your analysis. It is very difficult to track these things in the specific, so while there’s hardly any doubt that media coverage helps sell wine – how much wine it sells, or the value of the coverage is much harder to assess, also because immediate sales are not the only possible advantage.

    A consumer facing the baffling wall of wine two, three weeks later might see your label, recall the story, and use that to decide in favor of your wine. Furthermore, the first purchase from a new consumer may be more valuable than the its dollar amount if it leads to repeat purchases, making the media value even harder to track.

  3. This is an excellent overview of the options that wineries face when marketing their work. Our firm, The Sommelier Company, is mentioned in this piece and I am happy to discuss and disclose any information on our evaluation process that helps wineries get comfortable with exploration of the wine scoring route we offer. Many dozens of wineries have worked with us with good success for them, acknowleding that there’s a cost for a serious and unbiased tasting panel. When you think “we will not pay to get a wine reviewed”, think twice and check out why it can make sense.

  4. Greetings, Carl.
    Thanks for sharing your insight. I will be presenting a seminar called ‘Media Relations 102’ for attendees of Idaho Wine Commission’s annual meeting this winter, and you’ve reinforced a number of my talking points. I’ll make sure to reference Carl Giavanti Consulting during my talk in Boise.
    Eric Degerman
    Great Northwest Wine
    Kennewick, Wash.

  5. Great explanatory article Carl, that is a question we asked ourselves since we started our winery. Hope to see you one day in our tasting room.

    Bruno Corneaux
    Domaine Divio

  6. Excellent article Carl

    The most salient point you make is that wineries cannot depend on wine writers to sell their wine. It is a matter of integrity that writers cannot promote, advertise, charge, etc for a feature article or wine review. Wineries must learn to leverage the media’s content and use it extensively in every bit of marketing material over and over and over. A favorable wine review will often lead to a burst of interest and wine purchases, but this will not last unless the brand continues to be reviewed and featured by a wine writer. It takes several years. Wineries need to pursue writer’s interest and send wines for review over and over again. That’s where you come into play as a real benefit to wineries because you can teach leverage. Small wineries do not have a lot of marketing budget, and most are very poor at marketing (most believe posting some scores or results of a wine competition on their website will bring in hoards of customers, or worse yet, offering absolutely no media content), but they must allocate some of the money in their business plan to leveraging media content in order to be successful in the very competitive current marketplace. It is a lot easier to make great wine than to sell it!

    1. Well Rusty, I’m glad you for articulated this from a journalist and reviewers point of view. It does take vision, patience and discipline but I don’t see how any small-medium size winery can afford not to do media outreach. Now if we could only get all the wonderful small producers in Oregon and elsewhere to sing along! In fact, it would be nice if wineries weighed in from their perspective. Is PR and your Media program working for you? Why or why not?
      Cheers Prince!

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