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.


From Wine Communicator to Wine GM

Opus OneBack in the day it was titled “Public Relations.” Then, somewhere along the line, folks started to call the position “Marketing Communications.” Today, it merely boils down to communicating and the iconic Napa Valley winery Opus One has termed the position, simply, “Communications Manager.”

Opus One is looking to file the position of “Communications Manager” and by the look of the job description it’s a position that, if filled correctly, then executed upon with gusto and commitment, could easily produce a person who might readily be on the GM track.

Consider the responsibilities built into this position:

• In collaboration with the Vice President of Communications, develop and execute a global Social Media Communications plan.
• Generate and manage all content (images, video, music and written copy). Working with designers, marketing and sales, external influencers and industry experts, produce relevant content that is consistent with the Opus One story and vision, and reflects our core values in social media spaces.
• Collaborate with sales and marketing to ensure consistency of message, and visual harmony across all social media.
• Monitor, listen and respond to users on all social platforms with passion, enthusiasm and decorum.
• Establish effective benchmarks (best practices) for measuring the impact of our social media strategy. Report monthly on effectiveness of campaigns and provide insights for refinement.
• Monitor and stay abreast of trends in global Social Media platforms, SEO, tools, applications, channels, design and strategy.
• Serve as a digital educator and champion for the social community.
• Understand complex CRM systems/data and effectively translate this knowledge into solutions that automate processes and increase our ability to dynamically personalize customer communications and on-site reception.
• Champion the expanded use of CRM. Continually build and maintain the relationship with all partners and stakeholders in the CRM functional area to ensure CRM is at the forefront of everyone’s agenda and solidly defined/interwoven into their planning and daily work routines.
• Identify opportunities and build relationships with prominent influencers and thought leaders in the luxury wine space (trade, distributors and collectors) and with other luxury product producers.
• Work with guest relations and direct marketing to maintain a customer-focused attitude with a focus on activities that create lifetime customers.
• Actively monitor daily newsfeeds for critical trends or breaking news regarding the wine industry or Opus One. Share, comment, or reply as appropriate either directly or through social media channels as appropriate.
• Working with the Vice President of Communications, draft and release press announcements.
• Effectively manage charitable donation requests based on established goals and criteria.
• Develop, coordinate and execute major auction donations as needed.
• Maintain, update, and expand knowledge of viticulture, enology and the Winery by participating in educational trainings offered by Opus One and outside sources.
• Speak knowledgeably about Opus One vintages, representatives, distributors, and retailers to better assist customers in the social community.
• Conduct tours of the winery as necessary and appropriate.

The things that are really missing from this position that a future GM would need to master is finance and personnel management. You also might want someone versed in industry compliance and legal matters, but, frankly, that’s easy enough to learn.

Finally, take note of the fact that this “communications” position does not include media outreach in its description. No doubt Opus One does in fact engage in serious media communications, perhaps even outsourcing it. However, it’s ironic that today, “communications” does not explicitly include media relations. Does this mean that social media outreach and media outreach are two entirely different things. You bet it does. The latter scares most people, while the former is often seen as an entirely different skill.

The beauty of this type of “communications” position is that it puts you in touch with and forces collaboration with members of an organization’s team located in all departments. The reason for this is that industry and consumer expectations are such that each level of a company must in some way be accessible. Additionally, the expertise lodged within each department of a company like Opus One has to be understood and viewed as a public asset; as a potential and likely spokesperson that can help the company communicate with and reach out to various sectors of the industry and public.

The Opus One Communications Manager job is an absolutely plum position for anyone thinking they want a long-term career in the wine industry. And the reach of Opus One into the three-tier channel, the DTC channel and into the web of the Napa Valley wine industry community gives the successful candidate remarkable exposures throughout the industry.

If I were 5-10 years into a career in marketing in the industry and wanted more of the same, I’d throw everything I had at obtaining this position.

Ten 2016 Trends the Wine World Needs to Watch

It’s traditional to look back at the end of the year and assess what’s been. However, it’s much more fun, and profitable, to take what you’ve seen and look forward with an attempt to anticipate what’s to come and what trends will emerge. Since we are all about fun and profit, we choose the latter.

Below is a list of the trends we believe deserve watching. Some listed below we see as being solidified in the coming year. Others we think might emerge as important trends that wine marketers and publicists will benefit from keeping a very close eye on. They are listed in no particular order

1. “Natural Wine” Is Solidified As A Bonafide “Category” in the Wine World
Despite our skepticism that “natural wine” has any meaning whatsoever, we have seen this moniker applied to wines by very reputable publications and many wine professionals. It has been embraced enough that it will be solidified as a category to be watched. However, that also means that the term “natural wine” will be used by marketers who will take advantage of the fact that the term means nothing. Think “Reserve.”

2. Continuing Backlash Against the Wine Industry in Well Developed Wine Regions
Napa and Sonoma in particular will continue to see very vocal minorities demanding that the wine industry be penalized or burdened with new regulations in order to address problems this minority believes is caused by the wine industry. Traffic problems, new wine developments where vineyards have previously not been tended and winery-based marketing events will all continue to be assailed by the vocal minority. That said, there is every reason to believe the industry and the majority in these regions who support it will push back against calls to punish and curtail wine production and marketing.

3. Distributor Consolidation
Consolidation almost always breeds additional consolidation as those not involved in the consolidation seek to keep pace. In 2014 we saw huge, multi-state distributors become even bigger via consolidation. There remain a few large distributors that are ripe for the picking and in need of merging to keep up with the behemoths. We expect more consolidation in the wholesale tier in the coming year.

4. The Emergence of Younger Wine Writers
We believe 2016 will be an important year in the emergence of a new, younger crop of wine writers. As the older, experienced crew begins to think about retirement, the new crew will be selected from successful bloggers and young writers who have been toiling at second tier wine publications and websites. In other words, we expect to see promotions to the big leagues of younger wine writers.

5. Increase in Use of Media (not Social) Relations in the Wine Industry
We have seen a distinct increase in wineries and wine companies inquiring about help reaching the media with their brand message. This increase in interest in traditional media relations might be due to numerous developments. We see it as a response to the continued increase in brand choices and a need to sing louder and more clearly among a growing chorus of voices seeking an audience.

6. Opportunity in Diversity
Americans are more promiscuous in their drinking, whether migrating to different types of wines from the traditional varietals or migrating across categories to try new beers, ciders and spirits instead of sticking with their tried and true wines. Expect to see more wineries experimenting in different categories whether it’s distilling or cider-making or more.

7. More Groups and More Categories To Choose From
You’ve got varietal groups (ZAP), style groups (IPOB), regional groupings from new AVAs to their promoters. Expect even more groups to emerge in all these categories primarily as means for collective marketing efforts. It’s getting tougher and tougher out there to get share of mind and group marketing is an effective and affordable way to spread the word.

8. More Virtual Wineries as Cost of Entry Continues to Increase
You can expect to see more “virtual wineries” (no winery, no vineyards, no ‘bricks and mortar’ tasting rooms) emerge as the cost of entry into the California and Oregon and Washington wine industries continue to increase in cost and regulatory hurdles. Born only as brands, these “virtual wineries” will be run by (or should be run) by good marketers since, well, that’s primarily what their business is all about. Additionally, such brands can be created to appeal directly to specific groups, demographics and cohorts since there is no obligation to spend much of any time speaking about place and heritage.

9.  The Call For Expertise
The bubble in which wine consumers, trade, and media shout their thoughts is getting more crowded and louder and that cacophonous buzz is becoming deafening. We expect many consumers to more actively seek out vetted expertise in their pursuit of wine advice, recommendations and education. This is in contrast to the rise of the Everyman Wine Critic and the Crowd as the source of knowledge in our digital world. And CellarTracker and Delectable aren’t going anywhere. We realize this. But we see something else also. The continued success of Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, World of Fine Wine and other sources of vetted wine information along with the rise of the Somm and repeated calls to “find a local wine shop” is evidence that consumers are looking for real expertise to help guide them.

10. Purposeful Authenticity Will Be More Important Than Ever
Next year is a presidential election year and this means that despair and cynicism will reach its four-year high. The constant barrage of “talking points,” scandals, meanness and more will have people looking for content with real purpose and true authenticity as those they are willing to give time to. Those wine companies that can provide their community or constituents with real, heart to heart, meaningful, authentic content will capture hearts, minds and possibly wallets.

Have you spotted any trends the wine industry needs to be aware of going into 2016? Please leave them in the comments section of this post below. We want to hear what you see.

Tequila Shots and the Rules of Wine Public Relations

TshotsI find myself in a relatively unique position. For many years, like my blogging partner Julie Ann Kodmur, I’ve made a living working in wine public and media relations. Part of that job is reaching out to journalists and “pitching” stories that represent the interests and backgrounds of the clients that pay me. We both are pretty good at this.

However, for over a decade now I’ve also been blogging, usually at Fermentation, and I’ve been pretty successful at that too. As a result I get stories pitched to me by other PR professionals who want me to write about their clients. A turning of the tables if you will.

So, here is the pitch I got from one PR company today. This is real:

“Question: are you ready for the end of the summer? Probably not. Do you have a plan? Maybe. Would you accept suggestions? Definitely! Labor Day weekend is around the corner and what better way to say good bye to the hot summer days than with tequila shots!

So I stared at that awhile. Re-read it a couple of times. Then I tried to imagine the story I might be writing if in fact downing tequila shots was a central element in that story. I tried to figure out how I could write a story that centered around the virtue of doing tequila shots. Of course, I know what the virtues are of doing tequila shots. I’m just having a hard time figuring out the virtue of writing about those particular virtues.

While I’m thinking about what those virtues might be, I do have some solid recommendations for wine PR and marketing folks that relate to this particular story pitch I received:

• Try to pitch stories to writers who have at least a slight interest in what you are pitching.

• Try to pitch stories that go beyond the somewhat comical, “Wanna tell your readers how to get shit faced”?
• Never, ever, hit the send button after writing the first thing that popped into your head and not leaving time to edit what is likely a very bad idea.


Understanding the Paradigm Shift in Wine Writing

Paradigm shiftIt seems like the traditional, legacy media is dropping its coverage of wine at a pretty swift pace whether it be a pull back from wine coverage in Chicago, St. Louis or San Francisco. It points to a circumstance that every wine publicist and every wine marketer must accept and embrace: YOU ARE THE DISTRIBUTOR OF WINE JOURNALISM, WHILE THE JOURNALISTS ARE THE CONTENT CREATORS.

This, of course, never used to be the case. All the major media had good wine coverage and good circulation and distribution, assuring that if you or your client were covered, word would be spread by the folks who created the content.

Today, with the legacy media reducing their coverage and its circulation being gobbled up and cut up, there does remain a vibrant independent and largely new wine media that is exploring the subject on blogs, podcasts, online media and elsewhere outside what were the normal information distribution channels. However, few have much reach or circulation.

What this means is that the subject of the coverage (the winery, the importer, the distributor, the retailer, etc) must do the distribution.

That subject as information distributor model has a variety of tools at its disposal:

Your Email List
Your list of trade/accounts contacts
Your tasting room or Retail Store

If any of the many wine writers and commentators endorse your project, it must be you who gets that word out to those you hope will see it and take it to heart.

This is such a profound and certain and cemented shift in the way companies and concerns use third-party media endorsements that it qualifies as a paradigm shift.

Yes, there remain various media that, when they give you an endorsement, their distribution of that endorsement will get the job done and get their word out. But that list is shrinking on a daily basis. Perhaps this will change. Perhaps media companies with large circulations will return to serious coverage of the most important and refined and culturally significant beverage the world has ever seen. But don’t count on it. For now, you are on your own. Either be the distributor of the content created by the media or don’t count on good coverage having any impact at all on your brand and product.