Top 5 Wine PR Trends and Ideas Worth Watching in 2015

trend2015Good 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,, 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.

How To Turn Harvest Into PR “Gold”

Harvest. It may well be the biggest, sexiest and most emblematic time of the year for a winery. And that means enormous opportunities for smart PR programs.

Wineries are farmers, right? Your product has spent a year growing and maturing and now at its peak is being brought to the winery to be transformed. These are enticing thoughts. The magic of ripe grapes in all their different colors and shapes and smells. When were the grapes picked? At night? Into small lug bins or bigger gondolas? The appeal of funky old trucks or the gleam of new huge shiny trucks….

Harvesting Grapes

Then of course, there the many ways grapes are sorted and crushed—whether with state-of-the-art optical scanners or by hand, by people. There’s the smell of the must in the air; what happens to that must at your winery? Does it go back into the vineyard?  Is juice being separated by vineyard block? Yeast? Leaving juice on the skins? And so unfurl all of the nuances of winemaking!

Using the harvest season as content for PR is almost Rule #1 in our world. You need to figure out to take advantage of what you’re already doing in a way which will attract attention from new eyeballs and build on your relationships with media and customers who already know about you. Maybe you have new varietals you’re crushing this year? Maybe you have new equipment on the crushpad? Maybe you’re sticking with what you’ve done for 20 years—and you know why it works!

So what can you DO? Here are some ideas:

  • Bring fresh grapes into the tasting room for guests to try
  • Bring fresh juice into the tasting room
  • Have a grape stomping party or offer grape stomping as a part of the winery visit
  • Post lots of details and photos on your social media outlets
  • Use harvest as a theme for a sales eblast
  • Offer a morning of grape picking as a raffle prize for club members
  • Offer to include guests or customers in harvest crew lunches or dinners
  • Shine a light on any traditions at your winery—-maybe it’s what’s served at pre-harvest or post-harvest celebration dinner (in the Champagne region there’s a specific stew)
  • Does your winery make tshirts each year for the harvest crew?
  • In general, take lots of photos and video if you can; this will be great material to pull from throughout the year. Even better—put those photos into a weekly harvest album or journal which you can send to your mailing list customers and keep on your website
  • Also very important: keep very precise statistics so you are a credible source about this year’s harvest versus last
  • Most important of all: identify what is unique to your winery at harvest time and make sure to share that message in all of your materials and outreach.

Happy crush!
Image credit, Karen Arnold

Putting Click Bait, 100 Points and Wine Critics to Good Use

PR copyI can’t give a good rendering of the history of public relations in the wine industry. All I know is that for the past 30 years at least, there have been people and agencies largely dedicated to providing public and media relations services specifically for the wine industry. The fact that there were and are people and agencies dedicated to the task of telling wineries’ stories to the media and others doesn’t make wine different from other industries where PR is concerned. However, there is a body of knowledge which guides all publicists, regardless of industry, as well as there being a body of knowledge that guides wine publicists specifically. The intersection of these two bodies is what Julie Ann and I had in mind to explore here at SWIG.

Whether or not our posts and articles gain attention among that relatively small audience at which we are aiming will depend on a variety of things. Are we offering the kind of unique, interesting and actionable information you will want to here at SWIG? Will we discuss ratings and the 100 Point rating scale frequently enough? Will we investigate things like wine critics, Natural Wine, wine bloggers, counterfeiters, Robert Parker, gender issues, Top-10 lists, Napa Valley’s more pretentious oddities or other examples of rich, hearty click-bait?

At the very least, we can assure you that SWIG will be the place to go if you are interested in the those ideas, practices, tricks and knowledge base that are unique to wine public and media relations. We’ll take advantage of those unique “teaching moments” that seem to arrive in abundance from within and from outside the wine industry, particularly in the realm of appropriate and successful communications. If all goes well, we’ll be providing useful, well-read information that goes well beyond, “The Top Ten Napa Valley Wine Critics who read Robert Parker, but don’t read Wine Bloggers who write at length about gender Issues in the Wine Industry and how they impact the perception of natural wine.”

So with that explanation, I want to start off by offering for your contemplation The Number One Golden Truth of Wine Public and Media Relations: IF YOU ARE GOING TO COMMUNICATE TO THE PUBLIC, THE MEDIA, TO CUSTOMERS OR ANYONE ELSE YOU MUST ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

There’s more to the practice of wine PR and media relations than that. But this is where it begins.