Harvesting harvest

It’s that time of year. All along the highways and byways and cross roads grapes are ripening. Trucks are rumbling. Crews are assembling. Harvest is starting!

Hats off to the St. Helena Star for tracking the news week by week, appellation by appellation: here’s the first installment.

Image result for napa valley harvest image

We’ve shared some pointers about how to turn harvest into PR “gold” in the past, but here are a few quick reminders.

  • Images. Snapshots. Video glimpses. However you can capture this very exciting and very visual time of year, do so!
  • Tell the world. Everyone’s interested, whether your tasting room guests or club members or distributors in Dubuque or website readers or Facebook friends or Instagram pals.
  • What’s different? Yes, everyone is harvesting, so find out what’s unique about what you and your crew do. What time in the night are you harvesting? Traditional harvest meals or snacks? Sprinkling the first load of grapes with a sparkling wine? What happens to all that pomace?
  • Push away from your desk and spend some time following your winemaker or vineyard manager around. How do you cut off a cluster of grapes the best way? What happens to those berries as they travel to the crush pad? Get familiar with the Brix numbers. Whole berry fermentation? What kind of yeast and why? This is a chance to learn about the science of winemaking.
  • Mother nature. Here’s a chance to put some details around how green you are, how important the birds and the bees are to creating great wine. Maybe there’s a bear in the neighborhood? What kind of birds like your Merlot grapes?
  • People stories. Who’s picking? What are their stories of favorite years, things that have gone right or so wrong? Harvest is a momentous time where the team is working together for long hours. There have to be some Stories.
  • This is your moment to reach out to that writer you’ve been thinking about contacting. Assemble some stats and go for it. Even if the journalist doesn’t bite, he or she will be appreciative that you thought of her, so you’ve built a bit more of a relationship with that writer.

Harvest is probably the most newsworthy time of the year. Make the most of it!

Matthew McConaughey & Wild Turkey: which is the bigger ‘story?’

And today’s non-Presidential election news is….that Wild Turkey has a new Creative Director, Matthew McConaughey.

Image result for photo of matthew mcconaughey and wild turkey

Adweek and The New York Times have shared the news. Mr. McConaughey himself lays it out in a short video.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed his Lincoln commercials (here’s a collection of them). As I saw them unfold, it got me thinking. So self-conscious, so nakedly aspirational: “I’m better than you,” “what fun am I having” or “don’t you wish you were me?”

Wild Turkey has been talking to McConaughey for a while, it turns out, and he didn’t want to just be the pretty face. “The only thing our great story was missing was a great storyteller,” Wild Turkey says. McConaughey is quoted as saying “I want to have my hands in the clay of how we tell the story, and I want to be part of the whole story, not just a character in it.”

Here’s a product launching a lot of new marketing where the storyteller is as much the story as the product. Here he is in Kentucky, looking out over the river whose water is used. Here he is hearing the story of the three generations of the family who make Wild Turkey. He’s the journalist, he’s in front of the camera and in back of it. No frilly or pretentious language. The personality of Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey seem to be merging or converging, right? “If we’re for you, you’ll know,” he says towards the end of the video, his Southern come-hither gentility delivered so elegantly.

Wonder if this will lead to some parodies, along the lines of what Ellen DeGeneres and Saturday Night Live created after the Lincoln commercials?

I imagine that Wild Turkey will be cool with that.

Fun to think how this approach could work in the wine business….!

 

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.