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Working with the media

If securing media coverage is an important part of your PR strategy make sure you have a plan and the right people in your business equipped with the right skills and tools for the job. 

The key requirements for media relations in any business are to:

  • Understand what is newsworthy and what isn’t
  • Understand the context of your business and industry vis a vis societal trends and community sentiment
  • Know how the media work – the publications or programs you want to talk to, their demands and deadlines, and their audience
  • Know when to get professional help.

The following are some general issues to consider when working out how to develop a media presence.

Getting started

Don’t try to go it alone. Talk with your regional association or directly with other local wineries about story ideas and past experiences. This doesn’t stop you directly promoting your winery and your wine, it simply adds a second tier of media appeal

Also work closely with your local tourism network.  These people are in a position to inform their own media contacts of any new developments and should be more than happy to do so.

Nominate one person to deal media relations – and learn how the game works. Fundamentally important is this person’s ability to appear affable, confident and knowledgeable about all aspects of the business.  The best person for the job may not necessarily be the business owner(s); perhaps your cellar door manager or head winemaker could be a better choice.

Spend the time to investigate the shelves of a large newsagency.  Look at all the magazines that could potentially publish stories about your business.  Think outside the square… environmental, retirement, tourism, photography, 4WD and business magazines could all potentially feature stories on your operation providing you can find a suitable angle.  Keep a list of these magazines and their contacts (found inside the magazine’s cover) in your media contacts.

What’s news?

Newsworthiness can be assessed in many different ways – what is a good local story doesn’t necessarily become a major metro or national story.  The “angle” of a story is all important.  Many editors and producers may shy away from blatant promotional stories but can be persuaded by a good angle.

  • Are you running an event or exhibit, inventing or offering a new product or service, or implementing the use of state-of-the-art technology?
  • Has your business or staff received a prestigious award?  The relevance of awards to local and national audiences is vastly different.
  • Keep an eye on newspapers and industry magazines; can you announce a new development or have you procured the services of a specialist staff member? 
  • Does your story bear any relevance to a topical news item? 
  • Are you observing an unusual trend or activity within the wine industry?Would you like to refute a recently voiced opinion?   

Who’s interested?

The wine industry has an enormous amount of what is called “trade press”; publications specifically about the industry and its products, whether for consumers (eg Gourmet Traveller Wine) or the industry itself (eg Grapegrower & Winemaker or Wine Business Monthly). There are also an ever increasing number of electronic (email) publications, some of which are affiliated with print publications.

The industry publications are hungry for news, but the downside is that they are largely talking to your peers so you aren’t going to make a lot of sales. The consumer publications are talking to the right people but it’s competitive because all your peers want to be there too. But like all media outlets they are looking for an angle – something that makes a story of interest to their readers and sets you apart from the others. And like all journalists, their writers need contacts (see below about being media friendly).

The mainstream media similarly is divided into two distinct sections. The wine and lifestyle pages are much like specialist wine magazines and the same rules apply; simply sending them a sample and telling them how good your wine is won’t guarantee you a run, but an interesting tale or an innovation might. The news pages are a much tougher ask because they really are about news and you are competing with a lot of other industries. That said, wine does has enormous appeal and as an industry probably generates more “front of the paper” coverage or TV clips than many others.

Be media friendly

Why does it always seem that the same people are continually approached by the media for comment?  Quite often these people are no better qualified as experts than many others in their field, yet they are always the ones who seem to receive publicity.  The answer is quite simple – they have contacts and have a built a profile as a “go to” person on certain subjects.

It’s far easier to complete a story quickly if the journalist can simply ring a familiar face or, in the case of television, get the necessary shots at a winery which welcomes cameras.  The people quoted in magazines and appearing on television have made themselves approachable and reliable to the media.  They know that editorial content is always perceived as being far more credible than a paid advertisement.

Cultivate contacts This is vitally important.  Ensure that your list includes full name and title (check spelling!), email, phone number and a brief description of their role within the media.   Include everyone you come into contact with who work within the media. Your list should also include industry magazines, their editors and writers, tourism publications and any internet websites with wine industry news content.  Keep this list continually updated but don’t delete the details of your contacts if they resign or move on, keep in touch because there’s every chance their next job could be in a related field. 

Develop an image library

An essential tool for any marketing exercise is an image library.  Spend the time and effort to secure the services of a professional or accomplished amateur photographer and it will pay dividends.   Images should be high quality (6 megapixels +) and shot using the best possible light conditions. You will find once you have these images that they will be invaluable for your website, brochures and customer inquiries.  You instantly make a magazine editor’s job much easier when you provide quality images.

A basic library should include a variety of interior and exterior shots, signage, product shots and what are called “colour” shots – images that convey the spirit and nature of your business, such as rustic walls and climbing vines for an older winery, modern shelving and product for a more contemporary one.

Have an up-to-date web site This is a given for all manner of reasons, and increasingly important for the media maintain a web presence at all times.  These days many journalists will dismiss places that don’t have a website as amateur.  If a journalist needs information, they’ll need it immediately and the internet will often be their first port of call.  Ensure your website includes contact information, a history of your business operation and product details.   

When to call in the experts

If, despite your best efforts, you’re still staring at a blank sheet instead of a long list of points which will gain you media exposure, it’s time to call in the experts.  A professional public relations/marketing person will be able to recognise which facets of your business have news potential and have an up-to-date media contact list with specialty fields such as wine, tourism and business media.  A consultation will cost money, but can be cost-effective when weighed against long-term results.  Consultants may choose to work by the hour, day, week, or per project.  Always negotiate a time frame and rate which suits your budget and ensure that you formalise the contract in writing.

If you think you might be doing a lot of media work, and potentially dealing with tricky issues, consider getting some professional media training. It can even be worthwhile just to hone your brand messaging and its delivery to media in powerful, useful sound bites.  There are lots of media training organisations and individuals out there; make sure you choose the one that’s right for you. 


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