One interesting event occurred was a criticism leveled at “whoever keeps flooding my office with unsolicited samples of wines.”  That was a quote from David Honig of Palate Press.  It was a comment during a session on “generic promotion”  (new title to me for country trade associations) featuring panelists Willi Klinger, MD of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and Michael Cox who heads of up Wines of Chile UK. The subject being discussed was the role and resources that these groups provide to bloggers and other online authors.  David’s point was that for bloggers in general and particularly sites like his, what the authors want are “stories”.   They don’t want to be fed a company line with a prepackaged release and unexpected samples that are being sent to a lot of writers at the same time.
“Generic” or Country Wine Trade Promotion Group Panel at EWBC.  Willi Klinger of Austria on the left, Michael Cox of Wines of Chile/UK 2nd from right.
     What they do want …and value and respect…is for a PR agent to understand the content and “voice” of each site and author, and to present them with story concepts that the writer can then decide to work with.  So for example David pointed out, don’t send out a banal self-promotional press release and unsolicited wine samples.  But if your agency is so clueless as to still be using this archaic strategy, for god’s sake don’t send them the same thing to more than one writer.
    Do read the author, understand their interests, engage with them through comments on their blog and conversations elsewhere on the web where they’re active…twitter, Facebook e.g.  That earns you the credibility and receptivity to reach out with story ideas that would be relevant to their conversations and most importantly, of value to their readers. 
     This is a definitive change in the dynamics of online wine PR.  As more and more wineries, generics and other entities discover blogs and wine websites, the ones that don’t get it and do it badly are doing more damage to their clients than whatever good they hope to accomplish for them.
     Certainly there are still writers out there to whom free samples are a primary motivator, as most bloggers have accepted the fact that they’re not going to making money from their blogs.  But what’s most important is that PR folks recognize they need read and listen before they start talking.  It’s a lesson I have to relearn on a regular basis too.