Does Media Coverage Help Me Sell Wine

I was on the phone with a longtime client the other day and received a question I didn’t expect -Does media coverage help us sell wine? I didn’t answer it well, as it’s a difficult and broad topic to discuss, with so many ways to respond.

But, now that I’ve had some time to consider it, I’d like to take a shot at providing a comprehensive answer. Generally speaking, I would say, “Yes”, although it’s difficult to quantify. The question could be more appropriately worded – Does media coverage encourage consumers to buy wine from us eventually?

There is rarely an instant and direct correlation between media hits and selling wine, with the possible exception of 94+ point scores in Wine Spectator. The reason is that people buy from brands they trust and have experienced. Short of that, consumers rely on third party expert opinions to justify their purchases and loyalty. Readers respect writer’s opinions, much as they trust the palates of select wine shops to guide their purchases.

Media coverage is just one aspect of a comprehensive marketing program. Media endorsements for your winery, including articles, reviews, and scores, can help you rise above the crowd in an age where consumers have more choices than ever before and too much information. Media impressions can increase brand recognition at the retail store level as well, causing potential new retailers to consider carrying your product after being exposed to favorable reviews or publicity. So, yes, media coverage helps new customers discover your brand and wines, which should eventually lead to sales. The objective is to stay top of mind, so that when your prospect is ready to buy, you will reap the harvest.

Andy Perdue, of GreatNorthwestWine.com, and wine columnist for the Seattle Times shared, “I ask wineries featured in my Seattle Times column what kind of consumer feedback they got, and it ranges from a few calls and sales to the phone ringing off the hook, and a ton of sales and wine club signups.

I also get feedback from wine shop owners mentioning upticks in sales when the column comes out. And if I review a wine that is difficult to find or happens to be sold out, I hear about it from the consumer.” Andy’s partner at Great Northwest Wines, Eric Degerman, adds that, “Wineries can do themselves a favor by quoting and linking back to reviews of wines. Sharing on social media is important. And promoting a post for $20 will often get a lot of good reactions from consumers.”

At the same time, tracking the impact of an offline article or other media coverage via website analytics is a tricky thing, and you can only guess that spikes of traffic within 7-10 days are directly attributable to those exposures. Even if your guesses are accurate, you are still only tracking behavior – e-mail list sign-ups, social media follows and engagement- and not actual sales. However, these resulting behaviors now offer you the opportunity to market directly these new subscribers and, hopefully, sell them wine in the future.

Online coverage through blogs and articles offer much more direct tracking, allowing you to provide a link to the winery’s site or to use special discount codes for readers of the online publication. The technology is capable of reporting exactly how many visitors came from that exposure as long as you plan ahead and use a unique link, offer or code, and your web site analytics can also tell you how many visitors generated by this tactic made a purchase on their visit.

This same longtime client then asked an even tougher question. Should the writer be promoting wines that they like to their readers?

This brings us to the concept of “Influencer Marketing”, a hybrid of earned media and advertising, which includes both “they” (the writers) and “we” (the winery) promoting a call to action by the reader. The principles of good journalism dictate a separation of advertisers from editorial. Cases of intentional “advertorials” exist, including certain wine travel magazines, but the public is savvy to this approach, so the desired effect can be diminished. For professional investigative writers or reviewers, collaborating in this manner threatens their credibility. There are advertising copywriters that can be hired to promote your brand in environments where advertorials and other hybrids of editorial and advertising are appropriate.

The inevitable follow-up question was asked by my client – How do we get the writer’s audience to take action, i.e. to buy our wines? Since it is not the investigative writer’s job to sell your wine, nor do the principles of good journalism permit them to do so, the responsibility falls on you to leverage the editorial content in your marketing strategies. One way to leverage online articles and reviews is to advertise on that website. Most offer a variety of ad placement, frequency and timing options, , and you may have the option of paying “per click” as well as the number of impressions. The hope is that consumers will click the ad and either purchase immediately, or at least their contact information viea a newsletter sign-up or other offer.

There are many other ways to pay-to-play with wine reviewers. For example, The Sommelier Company will review your wines for a fee. I don’t believe the paid nature influences the actual score, although this ultimately depends on the integrity of the reviewer or publication.

Another example is to hire video reviewers who are paid to review wines. They will say nice and positive things, and then post the review on YouTube and their social sites, exposing your brand to their followers and, potentially, beyond. I am also actively talking to other influencers in both the wine and food areas, and other outlets about doing the same. I think this is a better, superior option to simply running static print ads, and should be part of an overall advertising budget. Of course, thoroughly vetting the source, the type of consumers they reach, and the specifics of their marketing program, is a must before dedicating advertising dollars to any project.

In the end, no winery can afford not to do all the things that generate immediate or long-term sales. Marketing, publicity and paid advertising, including Influencer marketing, must all be addressed. The marketplace is too competitive and consumers have too many choices – ignore any of them at your own peril.

I think most of you know this inherently, but hopefully my articulation offers some points of clarification on the topic. Bottom line: Wineries will get more out of media coverage when they put more into it after it’s published. Please comment or email and let me know your thoughts, and see the article on my web site for more on using media coverage as marketing content.

And kudos to one of my long-time clients for continuing to ask the tough questions. You know who you are!

CARL GIAVANTI is Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 8th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25-years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).