If you want to see yourself or your product or brand into the media, it’s not as hard as you think. All you have to do is observe some of the rules that the media operate by, many of which are covered in Part One of this series.
And then, you need to…
Find the right place for your story
Everyone wants to be featured in the big international consumer wine publications. But not only are they hard to get into, they may not be the best place for your story.
Small local newspapers can be your best friend, for two reasons. First, they need plenty of local content, so the chances are good that they’ll take your story. Second, there are a number of news aggregation services and apps that continually search the web, looking for relevant news stories to feature on their own platform. The wine aggregator services are quite likely to pick your story off a suburban news website and broadcast it far and wide, a process that you can help along by tweeting or posting the story on your own social media.
Trade and business magazines typically have news-hungry websites, and will look carefully at every pitch that comes their way. If they pick up your story, you can find yourself getting noticed internationally.
Also consider that you may be sitting on a story that doesn’t belong in the wine media at all. If your conservation efforts have brought rare animals back into your local area, for example, think about telling your story to a science or nature publication.
It’s always best to look at the website of an outlet first, and see if your story is in line with the kinds of stories they publish. There’s no point sending a media outlet a story that’s got nothing to do with the sort of topics they usually tackle.
Finally, just as there are sure-fire ways to get yourself into the media, there are also mistakes to avoid at all costs. Here are some classic don’ts:
Don’t forget to check the map
We may live in a global world, but geography still matters.
Never send out press releases that are not in the appropriate language. If you’re speaking to the English language media, don’t send them a press release in French or Spanish – and don’t try to get round the problem by sending out a dual language press release. Nobody’s got time to scroll to the bottom to see if their language is represented, so your release will just be deleted. If you’re sending releases to multiple countries, produce material in different languages and segment your email database, so everybody gets the right release.
Also check a writer’s location before inviting them to a tasting or event. Too many wineries outside Europe have no sense of distance. Writers in rural France are invited to pop along to Paris for a tasting, while critics in southern Germany are expected to turn up in Berlin for dinner, with no understanding that there are five hours of travelling in between. This becomes a disaster when the press agency offers travel expenses, thinking they’ve invited a British-based critic to hop on a train to London, when the person they’re inviting lives in Italy and now expects a hotel and air fare. This happens.
If you ever make this mistake, don’t then turn around and revoke the travel invitation. That will make a bad situation worse.
Don’t quote rival critics or publications
Nothing annoys your average wine writer more than receiving a press release saying that some other wine critic has commended a wine. Not only that, but most publications are competitors. Telling Magazine A critic that Magazine B critic thinks a wine is good is a waste of everybody’s time, because they’re not going to write about their competitor’s opinion, except in special and very newsworthy circumstances.
If you then go on to say that Magazine A is the world’s most respected authority on the subject, you’ll insult Magazine B.
Don’t ignore your local press agents
Although news reporting is much the same around the first world, there are still differences to be aware of, from different ways of telling stories, to cultural sensitivities.
When Robert Joseph interviewed Dorli Muhr, who launched her Wine & Partners business in Vienna in 1991, he discovered that cultural differences are a serious issue. “When Robert Mondavi celebrated his 90th birthday, I was responsible for his company’s public relations across Europe, apart from the UK,” she told him. “We had a meeting with representatives for all these countries and the US team showed us all a great picture of Bob Mondavi they wanted to send out to the press. We all gasped when we saw it and said ‘you really can’t use it like that’. The problem was the black frame around the picture which we knew would make Europeans think he had died. The Americans were really surprised. They had no idea people would see it that way.”
Yet all too often, PRs often report that international clients ignore their warnings and suggestions. This is a mistake. If you’re moving into overseas markets, find a local PR partner and follow their advice.
Don’t confuse journalists with PR professionals
While wine writers and associated journalists are typically very positive towards the wine trade, they are not public relations agents. The primary role of a journalist is to inform readers, and it’s readers (and their editors) that they answer to. So never ask for the right to ‘sign off’ copy, to dictate content, or to inspect or rewrite articles before they hit 'publish'. The writer not only has to tell the story their own way, but is a professional whose skills should be respected.
If you disagree with something that’s been written about you, you have the right to ask for right of reply. If what’s been written in factually wrong, you also have the right to ask for a correction. But if you insist on interfering with an article before publication, you’re likely to create ill will where you don’t need to. The best approach is to make it clear you’re available for fact checking and follow-up questions.
Above all, remember that the internet has created a media machine that’s hungry for content. If you follow a few simple rules, you – and your brand – will be a media star in no time.
You'll find Part One in this series here.