Here’s a topic we haven’t yet addressed on SWIG: The Media Event.
There are lots of pros and cons about whether gathering a table full of journalists is still meaningful. Here’s an overview of this topic. It’s very fresh in my mind because I just orchestrated one.
Here are good reasons to put on media events:
- Writers who can’t attend are receiving an invitation and outreach from the winery, so they’ll be getting a glimpse of the winery’s personality and of course being reminded that the winery exists! This may prompt them to schedule a visit or at the very least, stay in closer touch with the winery.
- Coverage! Articles! Blog posts! Tweets! An Instagram image or two! Whatever writers do attend will get to know the winery and its principals. If the event is done well, the writers will leave with a story.
- Live media training for your principals! Good or bad, it’s your own stage, a moment for the winemakers and owners to stand up and deliver the winery’s message, whether in short sound bites or longer ones.
- What IS your winery in terms of style and entertaining? Just executing the event will be helpful in defining the winery’s unique personality in these areas. Casual? Formal? Seated food service or buffet? What type of glassware? A walk through the vineyards or cellar or caves before the tasting or meal? This will require that the team plans all of the crucial details which seem small at the time but aren’t—-how tall are the flower arrangements? Do media guests leave with a gift? Is there assigned seating? What kind of printed materials are provided?
- Each journalist has a different following, different eyeballs who follow his or her work. Good to know and also a factor in selecting whom you invite.
Here’s an often-cited reason for NOT putting on media events: it’s the idea that journalists sitting together will be busy spying on each other and feel that they’re not getting the winery’s undivided attention and an exclusive. Wrong, in my opinion. At the very least, a media event builds camaraderie amongst the winery team and its guests. An event underscores that there is a greater wine community and we can all learn from each other.
Now for a few helpful hints:
Plan way ahead. Be sure to invite your guests at least a month ahead. Follow up, but diplomatically.
Artful. Concise. Elegant. Informative. Newsworthy. Those are the keys to a compelling invitation, whether you email it or it’s sent in the mail.
Follow up a day or so before, including precise directions as well as a day-of phone number in case they need to contact you at the last minute.
The event: keep it lively and interesting; move around at the winery; consider having a station with wine and a nibble as your guests take a walk or tour before sitting down to a tasting or meal. In other words, don’t stay in the same room or place for the entire event.
The food: minimal is really fine. No need to try to dazzle; the wines should be the focus, with ample water and bread and spit cups flanking the glasses. That said, less is more but the ‘less’ needs to be MORE. Anything you serve or present should be superb quality.
The people: put together the event so that your winery’s personality is expressed through as many principals as are appropriate: the proprietor welcomes, the winemaker presents the wines, the vineyard manager sets the scene. Don’t forget to recognize the chef and ask him or her to comment on how the menu was constructed.
A caveat: be ready for rudeness. Your guests unexpectedly bringing companions. Standing up in the middle of the meal to promote a side business they have. Inappropriate clothing. Too much perfume or cologne! I’ve seen lots more in my time…..
Then there’s the relative rudeness of today’s world: guests may ask to hop on the winery’s wi fi. They may text, tweet and talk on their cellphones throughout the event. Is this social media support or not? Only you & your team can judge that. If a Baked Alaska explodes, you might be glad someone captured it on their iPhone.
Follow-up: be minimal. Don’t hound your guests. If they indeed got a story, you’ll know soon enough.
Manage expectations: even if everything is a smashing success…20 guests inevitably will not mean 20 stories.