Home Wine Business Editorial Wine PR: Doing Due Diligence Thru the Blogosphere Miasma

Wine PR: Doing Due Diligence Thru the Blogosphere Miasma


by Alan Goldfarb


What is a flack to do? When winewriters are dropping off the face of the Earth faster than icebergs, to whom does a winery publicist turn to get PR/accolades/reviews when the writer pool is evaporating?

Why, just last week, Bill St. John – one of the country’s most important wine columnists – in an email, announced that the Chicago Tribune – one of the country’s last remaining important papers – has cut his longtime column?

Or take the tale of woe of Gail Appleson, the wine writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – when I asked her last week to meet with one of my clients, who was making a market trip to her hometown – who told me her paper cut her column down to 250 words; and has limited her to write about wines under $15 “although on rare occasions, I can go up to $25.”

“Now, the section is edited by someone who handles a bunch of other areas and isn’t particularly interested in wine.”

Well, perhaps Ms. Appleson’s new editor is more interested in beer and/or cocktails. Either way, 250 words is tantamount to saying hello and goodbye in the same breathe; and effectively turns wine to water.

So, while the “A-List” wine writers – read: major newspaper and magazine contributors – shrinks like a guy in cold water, the blogosphere increases and spreads like an amoeba on PED’s.

We media liaison-types are well aware of the debate that’s raging every day that calls into question the efficacy of online writers. See: The Hosemaster and my friend and colleague Tom Wark if you haven’t already weighed in on the action.

Which means, my fellow and fellettes, if you haven’t already gotten hip to protocol and whats and wherefores of how are you’re gonna get your clients’ wines in front of the right press, you gotta due your due diligence. Meaning: You must wade into and through the miasma of bloggers in order to get the ones who will commit journalism, and tell the world about your winery’s brand.

Not all Internet scribes are created equal. When I started in this crazy business of flacking for wineries, instead of writing about them as I had for more than two decades, my database of media members counted about 800 – comprised of mostly “traditional” newspaper/magazine writers. A half-dozen years later, that number has increased by more than 50 percent and now weighs 80 percent/20 toward “new” media or bloggers, radio streamers, videographers.

Of those 750 or so – and here’s the take-away – there are about 20 (20!) who are worth yours and your client’s time; and who will weigh in with original and critical thought. It’s amazing and disheartening to me (although it’s perversely gratifying) that a preponderance of Internet writers regurgitate – almost word-for-word – the media kit (your media kit). For them, they got the wine – for free! – and cut-and-pasted the tech sheets and/or the back label. Job done. Perks obtained. Who’s the next sucker?

So, who should you or your publicist be looking at – which writers (in addition to the A-Listers) should you earmark – in hopes of getting your wines and story in front of?

It’s tough obtaining accurate analytics re: a bloggers’ unique visitor stats or more importantly, she or he’s page views (it’s the latter that gives one a clue as to to how long a visitor lingers on the site. There are several services, and none have the exact numbers (it’s too early in the game for that). You can ask the writer, but who knows if you’re being given accurate info).

But if you’re lucky enough to pique the interest of say, Fredric Koeppel of the whimsically named Bigger Than Your Head (www.biggerthanyourheadblog.net), you’ll be rewarded (assuming he likes your wines) because Fredric knows his stuff, is original, and is fairly critical.

Or try Elaine Chukan Brown at Hawk Waka Waka (www.wakawakawinereviews.com). I was on to Elaine years ago – just before she really hit, but now she’s one of the rare bloggers that has ascended to stardom. Deservedly so. The site is beautiful, characterful, and she writes like she means it.

Or give Linda Rez and William Pollard a try on their well-researched streaming radio show Wine Blog Radio (www.minstrelandmuse.com). Online wine radio is happening, and shows such as this one, I believe garners a lot of listeners nationwide.

I suspect – and fervently hope – that in time (who can wait?) – that all this will shake out, and we’ll see emerging additional increases in worthy and creative wine writers. Until then, proceed at your own peril.

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  1. Alan: thanks for writing a great piece that expresses what all of us PR hacks are thinking. Can I use it in my annual UCD PR class?

  2. Hi Alan,

    I could hear David Bowie’s “Ch-ch-ch-changes” playing in the background as I read your piece, which was very well-written, thank you.

    Indeed our work as publicists has become harder and less obvious over the years, but if you like getting creative and have a great product and good story, there are always “thirsty” people wanting to know about it. To your point, there’s a big opportunity for serious wine reporters wanting to break through via new media, and you have some great examples here.

    I don’t think Bill St. John’s column was cut, by the way, I think it was his decision to stop writing it. He told us that they are looking for a replacement (big shoes to fill, we all know!)

    Katherine Jarvis

  3. Alan,
    Excellent article. I agree. There are at least 20 of the hundreds of bloggers that understand and are passionate about wine and can communicate that clearly and concisely to the end user. But the hundreds of others, well, you know what they say. Wine writers use a spittoon.

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  4. Typo-free excerpt from a comment I left in response to this wine blog:

    “How to Get Publicity for Your Winery. Or Not.”

    Link: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2015/06/03/how-to-get-publicity-for-your-winery-or-not/

    “Today, newspapers are in decline. Dedicated food and wine editorial is in decline. The sagacity of wine writers is being silenced for lack of a platform to disseminate — widely — their views.

    “As I cited in an earlier comment, a Media Management Center study projected that come 2010, ‘only 9% of those in their 20s will read a newspaper every day.’

    “Link: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2005/oct/10/business/fi-newspapers10

    “Blogs can’t replace that general consumer market media ‘reach.’

    “The ‘Golden Age of Wine Writing’ is behind us.

    “Bona fides (such as enrolling in journalism schools, toiling through apprenticeships at media companies, and the Malcolm Gladwell-publicized 10 years/10,000 hours of deliberate practice leading to expertise rule) have been dispatched to the sidelines.

    “Replaced by the ‘Age of Diversity in Wine Writing,’ in which any ‘citizen journalist’ (a term that should be an affront to real journalists) with an Internet connection can sound off about any mundane issue — and do.”


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