Good publicists and media relations specialists make a point following and identifying the trends that will inform and impact their industry and their work. They spend time making note of topics likely to impact how they do their work. It generally means thinking in broad, global ways.
Below are the five trends and topics I will keep foremost in my mind as a result of what I wanted transpire and develop in the wine industry in 2014. It’s a diverse list. But each topic and trend listed below will be very closely watched and carefully taken to heart as I serve clients in 2015:
1. The Expansion of the Wine Interwebs
In 2014 ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) announced it would approve and release for use the “.Wine” and “.Vin” top-level domain names. In other words, coming down the pike soon will be the likes of winery.wine, chateau.vin, Robertmondavi.wine and millions of other new web addresses related to wine and the wine industry that today are primarily housed under .com, .org and other familiar top-level domains. Publicists and marketers ought to be aware of all the implications.
In the first place, publicists and marketers will need to be prepared to protect their trademarks from others who attempt to register them. On the other hand, you might want to consider the possibility of registering that website with a .wine suffix that you’ve always wanted but couldn’t get via the .com suffix. At the very least, it will be fascinating to observe how all this new digital real estate impacts how you promote products.
2. From Media Type to Marketer
Media relations specialists have always had a keen interest in watching how top media outlets organize their talent and how that talent responds to other possibilities. Take Steve Heimoff, for example. Steve in 2014 jumped from key wine media personality to key wine marketer when he took a communications/education position at KJ. I would be very surprised if others now considered top wine media talent did not do the same thing in 2015. Of course this kind of development isn’t novel. The revolving door between media and PR has always been well oiled. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see who jumps next.
3. Disaster Survival
When the Napa earthquake hit in August there was a definite possibility that potential visitors…the lifeblood of this Valley’s economy…would choose to stay home out of either fear or the belief that the Valley was in shambles. There was a lesson ln the way the wine industry and its tourism promotional arms stepped up and told the world that Napa Valley was open for business…despite all the news vans shuffling for space around one semi collapsed building. The point here is that every wine region, every wine industry and every wine-related company needs to be prepared to communicate, and to communicate well, in the event of a disaster.
4. The Diversity Issue and Wine Writing
There was a fascinating discussion that took place around the question of “old school vs new school” media as well as around gender following the Wine Bloggers Conference that I don’t believe is played out. At the 2014 conference of panel of three “older” media gentlemen were put on a panel to talk to wine bloggers about how to write well and how to be good reporters. A number of attendees took offense. Some suggested these dinosaurs couldn’t tell bloggers anything. Others noted that it was hard to believe that there was no room for a woman on the panel. The questions of generational differences and gender equality eventually gain the attention of every industry. It should be no surprise that these issues took hold of the wine media for a moment. While a variety of cogent arguments concerning these issue were made by people who encircled the issue from various perspectives, I don’t believe the conversation is played out. Marketers and publicists would do quite well to be aware of these issues, these conversations and any changes that they may push.
5. Whether to Ignore Millennials
Silicon Valley Bank’s recent 2014 Wine Conditions Survey of vintners pointed out that Millennials represent a very small part of most wineries’ customers. Further, it showed that the higher the average price of wine at a winery, the less likely a millennial was their customer. Further to this point, at the 2014 ShipCompliant DIRECT Conference, a marketing panel demonstrated that while Millennials make up 23% of the U.S. drinking population, they only buy 5.5% of the direct shipped wine. It begs the question, to what extent should wineries be giving any thought to attracting younger imbibers. This is an important question for winery marketing departments and for publicists, who in everything they do cater their communications to specific audiences. Just as important, marketers and publicists need to come to grips with the question of whether Millennials understand and buy wine differently than boomers not because they are simply younger and don’t have the disposable income to buy like boomers or because they are fundamentally different kinds of consumers than the boomers.