Stay On Message (Talking Wine And PR At Boozehoundz)

Earlier this week, I was quoted by author, veteran wine competition judge, and personal friend Michael Cervin on his big, Boozehoundz. In that article, Michael included my now-exceedingly-repetitive advice on wine PR, along with much more helpful words from others far more versed in the wine PR field, regarding the value of public relations in helping wine brands to get their message out to their perspective customers/fans/consumers/etc.

Michael’s article has immensely insightful information on the how and why of communicating wine brands messages; what that article¬†doesn’t discuss is how few wine brands have actually crafted a viable message in the first place, and therefore aren’t even in a position to use the helpful information therein.

I have become more acutely aware of this issue during 2016 and 2017, specifically and most vicerally during my travels to regional wine events and subsequent tours of those wine areas. It’s astounding how few of those regions have crafted anything close to resembling a message tailored to the markets that they wish to penetrate. In most cases, they don’t seem to have actually identified the specific markets to which they’d deliver a message if they even had one.

In more than one instance this year, I’ve attended regional panel discussions targeted to the press in which representatives from across the silos of those wine regions – farming, production, oversight, marketing – not only do not have a message about their region to pass on to the press, but use the platform to either engage in internecine arguments, or to ask people like me “what do YOU think our message should be?…”

My answer: “I think that your message should’ve been worked out before I got here, and that since I’ve only been in your region for a day or two, I’ve got no f*cking idea what your message should be. And if I did, that’s what I call ‘consulting,’ and I need to get paid for that.”

Incredibly – almost impossibly so – is that most of this insanity has transpired in wine regions that literally have centuries of viticultural history under their belts.

In my experience, one of the most significant issues plaguing the wine biz is that wine brands – be they specific labels, regions, etc. – lack defined goals for how they are going to handle what has become the most competitive marketplace in the many centuries worth of history of wine as a commercial product. That lack of specificity in turn leads to ambiguous ideas of where they sit in terms of their target markets (visibility, penetration, perception, whatever). Lacking an idea of what to measure, they end up not being able to improve, with scattershot marketing approaches sucking up their valuable PR budget dollars. They then have no real or concise message to give to the press, consumers, or customers.

To grow in today’s ultra-competitive fine wine market (there are about 8,000 wine brands in the USA alone, folks), brands and regions must a) have a very clear and very genuine idea about what makes them unique, and b) be able to summarize that idea in a message that takes five seconds or so to articulate.

Is true, as Michael quotes in his article, that the wine brands with the most friends is likely to win. It’s also true that it is a hell of a lot easier to make those friends when they can actually understand what you’re saying, and are easily reminded about why they want to be friends with you in the first place.


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