Why wine PR doesn’t have to leave you with a headache

Influencing people to buy and drink wine doesn’t sound like a tough job – but as one of the most “saturated” categories in FMCG, wine brands face a difficult challenge in standing out on the shelf. Rachel Watt, account manager at W Communications, shares five ways PRs can gain cut through in one of the most crowded markets – including a soon to be popular take on “desk research”.

Rachel Watt

Consumer interest in wine is growing, with a recent Haygarth report having found that millennials, in particular, are looking to be inspired by new varietals and emerging trends. Yet there is still a huge lack of understanding of the drink amongst consumers – meaning that brands have to find a balance between creating inspiring content, but making it relatable to the target audience.

Having worked across a range of wine brands, from supermarket favourites to premium plonks, here’s what I’ve learned about surviving wine PR – without the sore head.

Know your Malbec from your Merlot

It goes without saying that as a PR, you should have a basic knowledge of what you’re selling in; but with the world of wine being so vast, it can seem like an intimidating topic to tackle. However, having a broad understanding will give you more confidence in what you’re selling in, and avoid any blunders with top wine critics. It’s also hugely important to follow industry news and keep a watch out for new products and trends, as these will provide barrels of inspiration for your own hooks and campaigns. There’s also a lot to be said for drinking the stuff … call it desk research.

Where necessary, speak in layman’s terms

Despite being a nation of avid wine drinkers, most Brits will happily admit to having little or no knowledge of what makes up their favourite bottle of plonk. Lifestyle journalists are not too dissimilar, and there’s nothing appealing about a press release that hails the benefits of ‘malolactic fermentation’ for creating a wine’s buttery flavours. Cut the jargon, and think like your target audience.

Find a point of difference

What makes one £6 Chardonnay better than the next £6 Chardonnay? When it comes to buying a bottle of plonk in-store, the answer is probably just that little yellow discount sticker. Brands face similar competition when it comes to PR, and what with more and more interesting varietals hitting the market (think English fizz, skinny Prosecco, orange wine), it’s harder than ever for classic household wines to market themselves in a way that’s exciting for media and consumers.

It’s therefore crucial to identify a product USP – whether that be inspiring taste credentials, food pairings with a difference, or a unique story around the wine’s origins – in order to generate brand recall in the supermarket aisle.

Don’t be afraid to think ‘outside the box’

Gone are the days of wine being tied up in tradition, and there’s no harm in pushing the boundaries in order to capture consumer interest. There’s a lingering tendency to steer clear of bold or quirky campaigns, for fear that they will undermine a wine’s quality credentials, and of course some high-end labels do need to maintain an element of ‘premiumness’ in their messaging.

However, to make other brands to stand out in the crowd, PRs need to be turning their thoughts to larger experiential activity, brave thought leadership and creative partnerships.

Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘wine gang’

Wine is one area where the industry press has an enormous role to play – not just in trade publications, but also in the most widely read national supplements. Weekly wine columns are the go-to guide for many a bewildered consumer, and the influence of those who write them is not to be ignored.

Build strong relationships with these media and be meticulous when pitching to them. This is, after all, their own area of expertise, and there’s many a wine writer who will lose their figurative grapes over a misspelt ‘Gewurztraminer’…

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