Resist the urge!

RESIST THE URGE!

Three topics to discuss with you today, dear reader.

I. The correct use of language

II. The advantages of a winery having an outside publicist

III. How to react (or not) to social media.

Read on for the intersection of I, II and III.

I. Publicists pride themselves on their use of language. On spelling. On grammar. On precisely capturing a taste, a moment, a glimpse of landscape or of history, etc. And, in fact, publicists often are called on to proofread, line-edit and react to written material.

II. When a winery has an outside publicist, that publicist is a healthy filter or bridge between a journalist and the winery. What if the writer has inadvertently been insulted? What if a wine sample was flawed? Those are just a couple of examples of situations where the outside publicist can smooth the waters, repair the relationship, re-orient any mistakes.

III. Bingo! The publicist has successfully pitched the winery. The journalist has been, seen, tasted, talked to, been toured through the vineyard and winery. The journalist then shares the experience with an initial social media message.

Great! Slam-dunk! Good work all around! Right? In a recent situation I witnessed, no. What went wrong? The impulse to correct the writer’s use of language.

The writer wrote: Highly recommend a visit to X. Such a unique place, with wines that reflect it.

The winery saw the post and commented: Wines that reflect the beauty of their origins.

Why?! Why not just comment with a “thanks!”

Because of the writer-publicist relationship, the writer contacted the publicist to share his annoyance. It remains to be seen if the writer will devote one more drop of ink to this winery.

A simple 1 + 1 = 2 has turned into a more complicated equation. Can the publicist repair the problem? Not clear.

Here’s the lesson: RESIST THAT URGE!

As I mentioned at the start here, I’m constantly correcting and catching typos, misspellings and incorrect use of language. My family teases me on how often I find these types of mistakes in places where they shouldn’t be—public signage, movie credits and so on. One of the accomplishments of my life was going to Sacramento in the 8th grade to represent San Diego County in the spelling bee….I placed second in the state, goofing on the word ‘chauffeur.’ So you can tell, I live to find typos and correct them. Long live ‘tracking changes’ on Word. But. But.

If you’re a winery…and the journalist has had that very precious one-on-one visit with you, and you’re eagerly haunting the Internet for their coverage….it’s understandable that you’re very eager to read what might appear. But there is an enormous PR lesson here: resist the urge to comment. Think it through. A simple “thank you” is terrific and suffices. If possible, huddle with your publicist. Weigh the pros and cons. A grammatical goof is not worth endangering the winery-journalist relationship. A substantial factual error might be…but if so, then that’s a conversation to have in private, or on the phone, not in one of those oh-so visible social media public forums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking to Kelli White about her new book

One of the most important books to be published recently in the wine world is Kelli White’s Napa Valley Then & Now. We recommend acquiring a copy (you can do so here); it’s truly a ‘magnum opus’ and an enormous and enormously important reference guide for Napa Valley wines. Here’s a way to take a sneak peek into the book….

We sat down with Kelli to talk about the book, how she came to write it and other insights about the process.

Kelli A. White’s work as a sommelier, first at New York City’s Veritas and then at PRESS in St. Helena, has been covered by many of the wine industry’s top publications, including Food & Wine, Vinous, The Wine Advocate, The Wine Spectator, The San Francisco Chronicle, World of Fine Wine, and Forbes. In 2013 she was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s top ten sommeliers in the country. Her writing has appeared in World of Fine Wine, Robb Report, Sommelier Journal, and Le Pan, and she is currently on staff at Antonio Galloni’s Vinous. In 2011, she co-founded a small wine brand, Houndstooth, with her fiancé Scott Brenner. They live in Napa Valley with their hound dog Lefty.

What surprised you the most as a first-time author?

This sounds incredibly foolish, but I was so focused on the making of the book, that I didn’t really think about the selling of it. I imagined that, as soon as it was finished, I would effectively be able to “move on” with my life. But books don’t just sell themselves, especially if you don’t have a household name. So it’s a good thing that I really enjoy talking about and crafting events around the book because that has been very time consuming.

I also didn’t appreciate the huge difference between publishing a book vs. publishing articles, from a public image point of view. I’ve been contributing articles for numerous magazines for years, but this was my first book. You definitely become a more public person, which has both positive and negative implications.

What was the most exciting or gratifying moment as you wrote the book and then see it published?

I dedicated the book to my mother, and she cried quite a bit when she saw that. That was a definite highlight.

Did you receive any negative feedback/reviews? How did you deal with that?

The whole review process has been an interesting psychological experience. The vast majority of the reviews have been positive, but– especially in the beginning– I would completely skim over the positive parts and dwell extensively on anything negative, no matter how slight. As the process wore on, I began to realize that you can’t please everyone. While some people would complain that there were no scores, for example, others would praise that; some would complain that the book was too expensive, while others would say it was a bargain for its size… time evened out all commentary, and eventually I trained myself to take the time to enjoy the praise.

In today’s world which is so online oriented, you’ve produced a 1,000+ page “real” book. Talk about that, why it’s important, meaningful, etc.

Prior to this book, I had written for both online and physical publications. While I love the immediacy and the dynamic nature of the online world, it was important for me to produce something that would still exist if the power went out. Plus, I truly hate googling things. When I want to know something, I enjoy the experience of thumbing through an index and looking up the answer to my question in an actual book. Call me old fashioned.

You describe wines in extremely lyrical detail. Have you had feedback from people who feel intimidated about “wine speak?” Please talk about that.

It was important to me that the writing in general, but the tasting notes in particular, feel warm and inviting. I think that my time as a sommelier has brought that home for me. People are easily discouraged, and I wanted them to feel excited and inspired. It can be a tough thing to balance– feeling excited and wanting to wax on about a wine, but not wanting to overwhelm a reader.

Did your “day job” at Press have an impact on the book, or was it an inspiration?

My day job was a huge inspiration, as a majority percentage of the tasting notes in the book were tasted at Press, and from its cellar. The cover image is of the cellar there, and the owner of the restaurant was the sponsor of the book.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Because I needed it. It was the book I wanted to have when moving to Napa from New York City. I knew relatively little about Napa (relative to other regions) and I wanted to study up prior to my arrival. I was more than a little surprised to discover that a wine region as highly regarded as Napa didn’t yet have a classic tome dedicated to its bounty. I turned that lack into an opportunity.

Talk about the research involved; were there any surprises as you handled that part of the writing?

The research was fascinating and really fun. Getting to know the various vintners of Napa was quite rewarding. In truth, when I arrived, I was expecting them all to be more formal and inaccessible but the reality was that the vast majority of them were incredibly warm and gracious. It was the first of many dispelled false notions…

You’ve literally traveled the world promoting the book, from Scandinavia to Japan to London, etc. Can you share any fun anecdotes about doing this traveling/promoting?

I have been shocked (and pleased!) at the overwhelmingly positive foreign reception, especially in Europe. Interestingly, the modern style of Napa wines has not necessarily connected with certain European drinkers, but the older vintages are very exciting to them. I did a really fantastic tasting of older Napa wines with a group of sommeliers from Stockholm. A couple of them attended reluctantly, but then came up afterwards and told me “I’ll never say I don’t like California wines every again.” That was a very nice feeling.

What advice would you give a prospective wine book author?

Be organized, stay focused, but don’t get lost in the project. Be sure to take days off and treat yourself well. Also– fact-checking is extremely important and so often botched. As someone who has been written about, nothing is more frustrating than a misquote or a bad fact. And once the book is out, learn from the criticism but don’t dwell on it; it’s hard to put yourself out there, so make sure you’re well-supported by those that love you.

Julie Ann’s Wine PR Award—Shhhhh, Don’t Tell Her

vwmcovertitleFor those of you who know my partner in SWIG, Julie Ann Kodmur, you know she’s overly modest. I know, unusual for a PR type. Still, she is a modest one. So modest is she that she was going leave unsaid on this blog that she was JUST AWARDED BEST PUBLIC RELATIONS AGENCY/PROVIDER by Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine.

Shhhhh….Don’t tell her about this post. She’d blush.

In general it is the job of a PR professional NOT to get noticed. Rather, it is the job of the PR professional to get their clients noticed. So, when notice is taken of us in some formal manner, we are at once surprised and truly gratified because it just doesn’t happen much.

Here’s what Vineyard & Winery Management noticed about Julie Ann Kodmur:

“Julie Ann Kodmur founded her marketing and publicity consulting service in 1997. Based in St. Helena, Calif., she’s created multiple successful campaigns for wineries large and small. Clients appreciate her “attention to detail, reasonable pricing and incredible results,” “strong industry knowledge, innovation and excellent, timely service” as well as the fact she’s “connected,” “gets it done,” “knows the realities of our business” and “always has great and fresh ideas and goes above and beyond.”

You can read the entire list of award winners here.

The winners are picked by a vote of Vineyard and Winery Management readers. As you can imagine, although Julie Ann knew she had been nominated, she told no one, lobbied no one for votes, nor even mentioned her nomination to her partner in blogging crime. Shame on her. I would have lobbied for her!

That said, her recognition is one for the little guys in our profession, those little one-person consultancies who toil alone and without a large staff, but rather with a network of colleagues and contacts that keep us sane.

So again…DON’T TELL JULIE ANN ABOUT THIS POST!!! The recognition might embarrass her. However, do raise a glass to one of the best PR practitioners in the biz.

 

Another Wine Writer Symposium….

Here’s a stormy weather welcome to the attendees and speakers of the 12th Annual Symposium For Professional Wine Writers taking place this week!

Image result for napa valley sign

A busy several days of tastings, seminars and networking await the 30 writers and the prestigious presenters, who hail from all points of the compass–Canada, England, Asia, Bordeaux, New Zealand, Florida, Nevada, Texas, New York, Washington D.C., Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Alameda.

Then, of course, the Symposium dovetails into Premiere Napa Valley, on Saturday, which is generating its own momentum with events taking place all over the Valley this week.

Hats off to the diverse number of topics being discussed, wines being tasted, wineries being profiled, vineyards being tromped through and vintners being interviewed. Wouldn’t it benefit all of us who are marketers in the wine business to understand how to improve our communication skills, learn how to ask the most perceptive questions, ferret out the hottest trends, as this lucky group is able to do this week? What a terrific opportunity for this group of attendees this year.

However, it is unfortunate that the Symposium attendees won’t be learning about the most important issue in Napa Valley today: that would be the cloud of anti-winery sentiment hanging over the Valley these days.

Try to go get a new winery permit today in Napa County: it can take years.

Try to plan an expansion or a re-model: it could take years. Want to revisit how many visitors your winery can receive? Good luck: your neighbors are watching…and counting…and will show up at your hearing to protest.

You could even say there’s a de facto moratorium on all winery development right now.

A small group of noisy activists are trying to go viral with their list of complaints about life in the Napa Valley. What’s a winery to do? If an entrepreneur comes here with the hope of starting a winery, that heretofore-successful skill set won’t apply.

What is APAC, a writer from New Zealand might ask?

Here in the heart of prestigious wine country, local officials have wondered about “how much marketing is too much marketing?” And a new term is being used to stir up anti-winery feeling: “binge tourism.” That’s used to denigrate a winery including hospitality events as part of its marketing and sales.

Here’s another new term being used derogatively: “event centers.” Anti-winery folk are trying to persuade the public that wineries aren’t really wineries, but “event centers masquerading as wineries.”

Then there are the articulate long-time vintners who are trying to remind everyone that Napa must compete on a world stage in a hideously competitive marketplace. Here’s just a glimpse of the issues at stake:
“Long-term agricultural sustainability is not possible without economic viability. ….Napa’s agricultural future comes down to only two options. First, to keep Napa Valley in agriculture we must all realize and embrace the fact that our wine industry must be dynamic, innovative and vibrant — it needs to be able to change with the times or it will die. The wine industry of today is not the wine industry of yesterday, nor will it be the wine industry of tomorrow. The second option is to give in to all the naysayers and their continuing fight for a Napa Valley of the past.”

What an enormously complex topic the Napa Valley wine industry is….here’s hoping we may have intrigued a writer or two to look beyond the Symposium schedule. Might be worth mentioning that these issues are starting to appear in other wine regions as well…..

Opining on obituaries

I was one of more than a hundred people who attended the memorial for Jay Corley recently. The family organized a letter-perfect event. Perhaps it’s helpful, here at SWIG, to step back and recognize how important every ‘little’ detail is in something like this.

Image result for obituaries

Where’s the PR here? In honoring someone’s life, you’re telling and re-telling their story. You’re defining their image, how you want them to be remembered, making sure the listeners know of the person’s achievements, accomplishments and above all, get a sense of his or her personality and uniqueness.

The obituary appeared in the local papers, with details of the memorial.

The winery’s website shared the sad news with an elegant photo with a biographical caption.

Speakers were chosen and asked to address different time periods of Jay’s life as well as his wide-ranging interests. Some chose to speak from notes; others not; everything flowed without any missteps.

It made me reflect on my experience some years ago assisting in writing the eulogy for a wine industry figure whose service took place at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The Governor delivered the eulogy, and it required more than the average number of re-writes: I learned a lot about how a eulogy is an extremely unusual speech, needing to be descriptive and personal, yet not showy in terms of language or style.

Back to Jay Corley’s memorial: There was a touch of the spiritual. There were baskets of tissues and understated white flowers wherever you turned. The program, in color, included numerous illustrations and photos, of Jay, of his favorite expressions as displayed on his desk and more. There was a room devoted to photos and favorite memorabilia, with a book to sign. There was food and of course, abundant wine, as well as touches such as a popcorn machine and an ice cream ‘stand.’ The family played it safe with a tent, putting it up the day before in the rain, only to have the day of the memorial be clear and even a touch sunny.

One of the toughest things a publicist can do is to guide a family or a business through a memorial or a funeral. What can you do to get ready or be prepared? The basics of the event are easy: it’s the nuances of what the person was like which are key. That means….pay attention to those around you; soak up their stories and the texture of their lives…in case you need to re-create that life and paint a picture one day in a eulogy or an obituary.