Guest Post by Marilyn Hawkins, Hawkins & Company PR
Marilyn has been a PR consultant her entire career and has helped hundreds of corporate clients secure beneficial media exposure. Here is her meat-and-potatoes advice for your organization on how to “earn more ink.” Her article reminded me yet again of the value of positive publicity in a winery’s marketing communications mix.
They call it news, not olds. Writers and reporters are usually most interested in what’s happening right now or, better yet, what’s about to happen. In many cases, there’s no greater leverage than timeliness.
Be available. Help writers do their work quickly and thoroughly. Return their calls, emails and texts promptly. Answer their queries, accept appropriate interview opportunities, provide background materials – and refer them to other good information sources. Yes, you’re busy, but so are they.
No storyteller, no story. Your buildings, vineyards, and equipment can’t talk. So, make sure you identify and prepare the best possible spokesperson for the topic at hand. And it’s not always the owner or winemaker; subject-matter experts come in many different forms.
Pitch good ideas. Never wait for writers to find you. Evaluate which editors, reporters, columnists, critics, bloggers, freelancers, and influencers might be intrigued by what you’re up to and contact them directly. Provide a short summary of the idea, tailored as closely as possible to the writer’s and media outlet’s interests.
Good images really help. Maintain and constantly update a library of high-res, rights-free photos – plus illustrations, logos, and other visual assets. And if you don’t have the appropriate thing to illustrate a potential story, arrange to acquire it before deadline.
Be a story snooper and trend spotter. Not everyone can see all the cool stuff going on in their business at any given time. Regularly ask employees, wine club members, tasting room guests, vineyard workers and others for story ideas about what sets you apart.
Optimism sells. Avoid being a Pollyanna, while concentrating on the genuinely innovative and positive things you’re doing in the business. Side note: relentlessly self-flattering remarks or, worse yet, attacks on competitors can have unpleasant consequences.
First, just chill. Don’t over-react if something is slightly askew in a story. It’s not worth possibly risking a good relationship if you flame-text a writer over what was probably a simple misunderstanding or innocent mistake. But if it’s a major error, follow up immediately so writers can fix it.
Compliment good writing. Pay attention to key scribes and give them a brief “atta’ boy/atta’ girl” when they do especially strong work – and not just for stories in which you’re featured.
Be proud and share. When you get good coverage, use all your platforms to spread the love. And, rest assured, it’s not tacky to frame print stories and hang them in the tasting room. If you mess up, ‘fess up. If something goes wrong and the media are interested, be very clear on what happened, how you addressed the situation, and what will be different and better going forward.
Remember, friends cover friends. In the same way people buy wine from people they like, writers accept story ideas from those they like and trust. You don’t need to extend dinner invitations, but always treat ‘em like respected colleagues.
MARILYN HAWKINS resides in Ashland, Oregon, and while she swears she is not looking for more work, she stays involved in the wine business and assists winery friends in the area. She can be reached at
CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s celebrating his 12th 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, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.