PR Tips | To Communicate Effectively, Care

PR Tips | To Communicate Effectively, Care

As regular readers know, I moonlight as a wine blogger. When not cranking away at Keybridge, I’m running the wine blog Terroirist.com.

Last month, I visited Rioja, Spain to speak at the Digital Wine Communications Conference.

My panel explored the communication challenges faced by global wine brands. I shared the stage with Ben Smith, who heads up communications for Concha y Toro in the United Kingdom, and Pia Mara Finkell, who directs media relations and social media for Rioja Wines. The event was moderated by Robert McIntosh, co-founder of the conference.

You can check out my prepared remarks on Terroirist.com.

To put it briefly, I argued that generic brands — think Rioja, Champagne, or Napa Valley – have an easier job than huge wine companies like Concha y Toro and Kendall Jackson.

This makes sense. Just as the clothing you wear and the politicians you vote for say something about who you are, so does what you drink. Journalists are no different.

San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné enjoys being an ambassador for “new” California wine – the producers who are exploring California’s vast and varied climate to protect old vineyards and produce wine from unusual grapes.

Sure, he’ll mention specific brands – in fact, Bonné just named the Chronicle’s “Top 100 Wines of 2013” – both they’re typically small and family owned. Bonné, like most wine writers, has little interest in being an ambassador for a mass-market brand.

Communicators in other industries are the same.

Few restaurant critics want to tell the world about a new Olive Garden. But a hole-in-the-wall Italian joint with world-class cooking? Absolutely.

The comparisons could easily continue. For technology reporters, it’s more fun to profile a 20-something Silicon Valley entrepreneur than write about HP’s newest product.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to communicate effectively with journalists if you’re representing a huge company; it’s just harder.

But obviously, some companies pull it off. Think about Coca-Cola, Target, and Southwest Airlines. Even though they’re behemoths, they’re (almost) universally loved. Last year, Paula Andruss examined “the tactics used by America’s most trustworthy brands to connect with consumers” in Entrepreneur. The piece is worth reading.

In a nutshell, these companies have realized that connections matter. This means good stories. This means history. This means personality. This means valuing your end user – her time, her money, her intellect. These companies aren’t just shilling products; they’re connecting with their customers.

From a public relations perspective, it’s critical for PR professionals to make their pitch interesting. Satellite security, for example, isn’t a sexy topic at first glance. But Gravity was a hit film, and these days, everyone is dependent on mobile networks, GPS devices, and the like. So even a dry policy issue like satellite security can grab a journalist’s attention.

When reaching out to journalists, public relations firms must build smart, targeted lists. (A requirement that’s more important than ever before.) For instance, a geeky wine blogger might not care about Yellow Tail, but a food columnist for a small-town newspaper might be eager to hear about Yellow Tail’s suggested recipe pairings.

Whether you’re a mom-and-pop record shop or a Fortune-100 company (or a PR pro working for either), just remember that the overwhelming majority of journalists are looking for an interesting story. So long as you can figure out how to make that connection, you can communicate effectively.

David White