Press Dinner, Lunches and Tastings – Yay or Nay?

“Should I go to New York and host a dinner for press?” is a question we get all the time. The answer is, predictably, it depends. There is no one-size fits all solution. The type of event will depend on your story, wine and company. Ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do I have news to share?
  • Can I teach writers about a specific topic?
  • Does my story fit into a larger trend? (Relevance)
  • Am I ready to show my best? (Is my distribution in place, the wine shows my vision)

Ok, so you’ve answered ‘yes’ to most of those. Now, the format it takes will depend on your brand story and goals. We’ve employed all of these. Chances are you’ll know right away which one is right for you. But don’t be afraid to experiment with the format.

  • Vertical tasting followed by lunch or dinner
  • Competitive tasting, pouring wines alongside direct competitors
  • After work ‘Happy Hour’
  • Mid-day ‘walk around’ portfolio tasting
  • Tasting and bar bites hosted throughout the day

Now that you’ve decided to host a press event, here are some must dos (and a few don’ts) to make the most out of it. Good writers will not spend their free time taking a free dinner; it needs to help them get their job done.

Think Way Ahead: This recommendation is two-fold. 1) Invite press further out than you think. 6-8 weeks is an ideal timeframe. 2) Writers are thinking about holiday gifts in spring and summer, and white wines in December. Allow this to inform what you present.


Focus: Chances are you have a thousand stories to tell. Your invitation should focus on one. One message has a better chance of being heard than three, four, or more.

Location, Location, Location: The restaurant where you’re hosting your event makes a statement, so pick a new hot spot, where the food pairs well with your wines. Given the choice between a mainstay that has your wines on the list and a new trendy account that does not, pick the new hot spot and use it as an excuse to speak to the wine buyer.

Think Like a Reporter: This may seem obvious, but put yourself in the writer’s shoes. What will her editor think is interesting? What aspect will his editor think is newsy? What would make for a ‘sexy’ column? Is there is a controversial issue (alcohol, replanting, hangtime) that you can take head on? Is there a story behind your first harvest or difficult challenge at the winery?

Become a Resource: Whether you’re planning on a tasting for 100, a dinner for 8, or a 1-on-1 press meeting, be an educator. Writers will make time for a meeting or a dinner if they feel they will learn something or they can pitch their editors. And a story is rarely about one wine, so the syllabus needn’t stop with your brand or vineyard. It should include your region, varietal or category you’re playing in.

Be Bold: Don’t be afraid to pour competitors or other wines in the category. Don’t be afraid to show how your winery’s style has evolved over years. Don’t be afraid to show who you are. Bottom line, don’t be afraid.

Be Yourself: Nothing annoys a writer more than a trained pony. If they feel you’re reading from a script, they won’t be able to connect with you. Wine writers love to tell authentic stories behind the story. How did you get to be where you are? What mistakes did you make? Who are the people behind the bottle and what makes them who they are?

Be Realistic: Not every writer who attends your event will be able to write a story about it, but you’ve created a connection with that person that you can nurture over time. Not every writer will actually show up! It’s true; writers have deadlines and sometimes have to cancel. We often recommend overbooking the table since cancellations are inevitable. Your job during an event is to get to know these writers and for them to get to know you.

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When to get snap happy with Instagram

The newly popular social media platform Instagram is a free photo-sharing mobile application for iPhone, iPad and Android that allows users to apply filters to alter the look of their photos. Instagram has quickly become one of the top three social networking platforms with Mashable reporting that it now has more daily users on mobile than Twitter (7.3 million daily users reported in August compared to 6.9 million daily Twitter users). The success of Instagram can be attributed to its simplicity. It merges photo sharing and mobile,Instagram Samples two of the hottest trends in social media, and it lacks the ability for brands to clutter user’s feeds with advertising or even clickable links to buy products.


  1. Visual Storytelling – This is really what Instagram is all about. Telling your brand story through the use of images. The quote “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings so true for this platform because memorable images can offer a deeper insight into the brand than copy.
  2. Gain Insight into User Experience – The same could be said for Facebook and Twitter but the searchability and image-only content allow marketers to actually see how people are engaging with the brand offline. Like Twitter, you can search different hash tags to find images users are sharing about your winery. The best images can also serve as valuable content for your other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Give an Insider Look – Consumers love feeling like they are getting an exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes. Take images that show a day in the life of the winemaker or “of the moment” updates on how harvest is coming along. Make your followers feel like they won’t get this information anywhere else.
  4. Show Products in Action – Use images to show your followers different ways to enjoy your wines. Take photos of people enjoying your wines on a hike or at the beach, show how your wine can be used for hot mulled wine during the holidays or share photos of your wines paired with different dishes created by your chef or restaurant partners. You can also share consumer-generated photos to show the creative ways others are using your products.
  5. Teach – Share a series of images to teach consumers how the wine is made. Take photos at different points in the winemaking process to show the step by step process. Consumers who buy your wines will feel like they are “experts” in how it was created.

Without advertising or the ability to share clickable links, Instagram serves merely as tool to help build awareness and tell the brand’s story. Users appreciate the absence of heavy sales messaging and embrace the brands that offer something unique. As with any other social media platform, develop a strategy for your Instagram channel, ensure you’ll have a steady stream of images to share and use your established social media communities to cross-promote to help build a following.

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Turn your Media Buy into a Media Plan!

CTRs and CTAs Leave an Impression:
A “Media Buy” is a term that describes any sort of purchase of paid media for advertising purposes. Marry this up with a strategy and you have a “Media Plan,” a list of purchased advertising space for your ads. A diverse Media Buy can contain print, online, Social Media, out-of-home (billboards, subway ads etc), partnerships and unique items like sponsorships or “street teams” (which may be handing out product in the subway, for example).

Ten years ago, a “Media Plan” in the wine industry would probably only mean a print ad in a few publications like Food & Wine Magazine or Wine Spectator. Today, opportunities abound; the shift toward online advertising is creating interesting opportunities for small digital buys (like Facebook ads).

But how do you define a successful Media Plan? First, this depends on your goal and your message. If your goal is to get people to know about you, then you want high impressions and don’t really need a high Click-Through Rate (CTR), the amount of times your ad is clicked on. You just want them to see your ad over and over (think billboard on the side of the highway). Conversely, if you have a something you are trying to lead someone to, like an online store or a list of places pouring your wine, you want a high CTR. Much of the success of these ads depends on your Call to Action (CTA), such as “click to read more” or “click to purchase”. While Media Buys, CTRs and CTAs are easily understood on their own, putting them together strategically is what can make a great Media Plan.

Sample Click-Through Rate
Your mileage may vary, but here are some ranges we have experienced in campaigns:

Facebook .03 to .15% ads .29 to .34%
Tasting Table ads .07 to .35%
Apartment Therapy ads .09 to .10%
Apartment Therapy sponsored email .42 to .81%

Think Outside the 728×90 40k Animated GIF
Oddly, while all this jargon and the thought of contacting 30 publications doesn’t sound like fun, it can be. The key is to push publications into ideas they wouldn’t normally come up with, so that your ad delivers better metrics. Ask them to create a new ad space for you. Ask them to include Social Media posts in their proposal. We asked one online publication to change all their website background colors to our client’s brand colors to match our ad campaign. While they didn’t go for that, they did create a new ad location just for us and we secured a 6-month exclusive on the space for our client.

Example of Media Plan for Chicago.
The last word
Go into a Media Buy with a plan. Know what you want the results to be – high impressions or high CTR. Gear your Call to Action accordingly. Then get creative while approaching publications. Think of your Media Plan as you would a stock portfolio: get some hard working average returns in there, but dedicate a small amount of budget to get creative and try a new publication or a new platform. You may hit a winner that is the perfect formula to drive the results you want.

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Mangia! The State of New Food Media

It's no secret digital food magazines have gained popularity and greater importance over the last decade. Ever since Condé Nast's launched in 1995, the internet has been a trusted source of food editorial and recipes. Today, the space is increasingly fragmented with more and more new players creating unique editorial content for a younger and interactive user. These outlets combine community with online and email editorial content together with a distinctive tone and voice to connect with the coveted younger foodie demographic.

And, as everyone knows, where there is food…there are wines and spirits, so it's no wonder why they should be on your radar. Here's a short list of who you should know and how it should impact your press outreach.

The Players: A short list of sites

What to Know

SeriousEats: 1.6 million unique users per month visit this multi-channel website. "Serious" doesn't mean stuffy; this page is seriously passionate about all things liquid.

Food Republic: Founded to reach a male audience, the site generates 500,000+ readers with a combination of food tips, history, recipes and drinks.

Tasting Table: Every year since 2008, Tasting Table has doubled their readership. Today, 1.5 million readers reached daily through five National and six regional editions with things to eat, read, drink and do.

Chow: Part message board, part food community, part editorial blog, part food TV station, leverages owner CBS to generate 1.8 million monthly users.

Food52: Another part food community/part editorial blog, Food52 created the first user-generated cookbook in 52 weeks. Today, the site includes wine and spirits as regular features. 161,000 unique visitors per month.

DailyMeal: Combination of unique and syndicated digital content, Daily Meal prides itself on being "All Things Food & Drink" with a specifically 'pop culture' sensibility. 800,000 unique monthly visitors.

ZesterDaily: One to Watch, Zester Daily was founded by former Los Angeles Times reporter Corie Brown. So it's no wonder that Zester combines smart, researched food reporting. On the rise, the site has 63,000 email subscribers.

Traditional Media Goes Digital, Too: Even traditional food media, such as Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Saveur, have unique content developed just for the web and consumer emails.

The last word:
The last word is actually not the last at all! We just haven't seen the finale of the evolution of food journalism. Continue to watch, read and share the content that resonates with you and your brand.

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Should you be Pinterested?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share interesting web content. Popular with consumers, Pinterest was recently cited as the fourth largest website traffic driver worldwide, and the fastest-growing social media site (23 million users as of July 2012). The emphasis on images and ease of use are two reasons for its rapid growth. Some of the most popular image categories on Pinterest have a lifestyle focus: home décor, arts & crafts, and fashion. Many marketers are wondering if, and how, to get involved. The answer? It depends. Here is a quick check list to determine if Pinterest is right for your winery.

The Checklist:

  1. Are you popular with the ladies? Almost 80% of Pinterest users are females between the ages of 25 and 44; it is the only major U.S. social network to skew so disproportionately female. Before jumping in to Pinterest, make sure your brand makes sense for this audience.
  2. Start with your website. Can the images from your website and products in your online store be easily “pinned” or posted to the Pinterest site? Test this by entering URL links from your website to the “Add a Pin” page. If your site is optimized for sharing, you will be able to select your best images to share on Pinterest. Pinned images that link directly to your website ultimately drive traffic. Websites built with Flash are not optimized for sharing.
  3. Audit your winery’s visual assets. High quality images are the most engaging posts on Pinterest. Your photos should catch people’s eye and invite them to explore further and ultimately share (“re-pin”) your content. Do you have an iconic photo from the tasting room that links to information on the winery experiences, photos and recipes of gourmet meals prepared by your chef, or educational tips with photos on how to taste wine? In this case, casual social media-quality photos won’t work; you want to share your highest-quality images.
  4. Can you keep it up? In order to be successful on Pinterest you need a steady stream of quality images and text. You will want to stay active and pin daily. Do you already run a blog that is updated regularly? This is a great source of content that can be easily pinned and drive traffic to your blog. Also, interact with other Pinterest users by searching and repinning photos they share of your winery.

If you can commit time and effort to engage your followers, your brand has the potential to reach a new, very social audience. While it may seem overwhelming to take on yet another social network, if armed with the right strategy, Pinterest can be well worth the effort.

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Check-in Deals

In our most recent unscientific survey of 30 Napa Valley wineries, we found that about 40% offer some sort of check-in deal, be it on Facebook, Yelp or FourSquare. Two wineries, HALL Wines & St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery, had deals on all 3 platforms mentioned. Do you have a check-in deal? –Mission Control team


  • 12 of the 30 reviewed have some sort of check-in deal (be it Facebook, Yelp or FourSquare)
  • 6 of the 30 have Facebook check-in deals – 7 of the 30 have Yelp check-in deals – 7 of the 30 have FourSquare check-in deals
  • Only two (Hall & St. Supery) have check-in deals on all 3 of the platforms. Hall’s is the same across all 3 and St. Supery’s varies
  • Of the total number of deals (20), 1/2 include some sort of free tasting (be it just for checking in or for purchasing something including: tour, tasting or wine)
  • Of the total number of deals (20), the other 1/2 are discounts off of purchases, tours or tastings
  • The most interesting check-in deal is St. Supery’s FourSquare deal: The mayor of the location on FourSquare will receive 10% off the entire purchase

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Buying Facebook Fans: A Dirty Word?

Is paying for Facebook fans robbing your page of authenticity?


There are a lot of strongly held opinions about building your Facebook fan base using “organic” strategies versus “paid” advertising on Facebook. By “organic,” we mean fans that find and “like” your Facebook page based on their interest in your content, rather than by targeted ads on the right side their Facebook newsfeed.

One of the arguments for organic growth is “quality over quantity.” Facebook pages with good organic growth are reaching the core audience of your brand, and that audience is deeply engaged in your brand. Quality engagements from brand ambassadors drive recommendations, which help to raise awareness and create more ambassadors.

But this strategy does not necessarily reach far outside of that core audience. Also, there are plenty of examples in the direct marketing world of the benefits of building a sizable database; wineries with successful direct programs want more email addresses, not less.

On the other hand, Facebook pages with too many “purchased” fans often suffer from low engagement metrics, fans dropping out of newsfeeds, etc.

The best solution is a blend. Mixing compelling posts, creative promotions (such as giveaways, where legal), and Facebook advertising extends your brand’s message to like-minded audiences. Now you are reaching out to a people more likely to be interested and involved with your brand

Additional Recommendations:
Modest Ad Buys Work. We have had great success spending as little as $500 in Facebook ads that support larger campaigns, such as a sales push. Tying the ad into page content helps spread the word. And these ads can be highly targeted to reach the audience for your campaign.

Ripple Effect of Ads. You want to leverage the network effect to reach people with similar interests. For example, let’s say you love soccer. Chances are, many of your friends on Facebook also like soccer. When a friend “likes” a new Adidas soccer cleat, you see that cleat in your Facebook feed, and you are more likely to check out the Adidas page. Advertising on Facebook can have a similar effect.

OK, But Does it Last? Yes and no. You will see “engaged users” go down after finishing a Facebook campaign. But that is because clicking on the ad is considered an engagement. Don’t be scared of the post-ad drop. It will level out and be higher than where it was before your ad buy.

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International Social Media Strategy

Should You Develop an International Strategy for Social Media?


Thanks to the low cost and ubiquity of digital media, our view is that wine brands are global regardless of their export strategies. But no one can be Facebooking in every country. Let’s say a California winery exports to Germany and Japan; should it have a social media strategy customized to each market, a single “global” approach managed from California, or a combination? With offices in the US and France, and an international client roster, this seems to be the question du jour.

First, should you have a multi-country social media presence? Note that this does not necessarily imply that you need a multi-language strategy. Wineries meeting some of these criteria are more likely to benefit:

  • Sales goals in specific countries will require greater consumer brand awareness;
  • DTC assets, especially a tasting room, already provide the launching pad for increased consumer engagement and marketing;
  • Cross-marketing opportunities existing within a portfolio of winery brands.

Second, let’s assume you want a multi-country social media program. Here are three options:

Option 1

One global strategy, managed from one location (e.g., one Facebook page for all countries)


– Time savings: only one strategy to manage
– Efficiency: communicate with all fans at once


– Potential miscommunication given language barriers, cultural differences
– Diminished opportunity to develop relationships with fans in each market

Option 2

Local Page Strategy (e.g., a Facebook page for Japan, a separate Facebook Page for Ger- many). These can be run from one location or each run on the local level.


– Content more relevant to local audience and wine culture
– Easier campaign targeting for local areas
– Less likely to encounter cultural misunderstandings (especially if run from local level)


– Once launched it is difficult to change to Option 1
– Time commitment
– Possible overlap in outreach to individuals

Option 3


We recommend combining local and global strategies. Wineries can start this journey by creating a written plan that provides local agencies with broad, directional guidance — e.g., “our brand messaging is focused on innovation.” Then let your local teams creatively interpret and adapt your branding for the local culture. That keeps branding consistent across borders, allows for better in-market campaigns, and adapts to local audiences and wine culture.

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