Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Want Me to Do WHAT????

    David Honig of Palate Press and my fellow bloggers, I feel your pain. As authors of six blogs, some for the company, some for clients and some just for fun, we see our fair share of outrageous PR pitches.   So I thought I’d post a few excerpts of some of the more egregious examples and share some yuks.  I welcome my fellow bloggers to add their contributions to the PR Pitch Hall of Shame.

1. Sounds like a plot line for a porno film (but at least they said "  Please"

Subject: Please Cover:New Tech Product- Jumpstart Emergency Phone Charger Can Be Hung, Like a Charm, From Cell Phones

Hi Steven,

Please let me know if you are able to cover or feature the following. Digipower is officially announcing today two of their coolest products to hit the tech accessories market called the "Jumpstart" and the "Jumpstart Sport".

2.  We’ve already decided what you are, now we’re just quibbling over the price

Subject: Advertising and PR
Hi, I’m contacting you regarding your site at
Datadial are a digital PR and marketing agency currently representing several clients that would be very interested in gaining some exposure on your site.

I’m writing to ask,
a)      If you accept press releases and what you policy is regarding these
b)      If you accept paid editorial and the costs and terms associated with this
c)      Your advertising rates

3. Anything Else I Can do For a Perfect Stranger?

Subject: Blog Question
Hi there, I am looking to get some information about your blog. I work for a PR agency in Chicago and am building a media list for one of our liquor clients. I am wondering if you might be able to tell me the number of hits your blog receives each month?

NB:  As many of you know, I’m sort of anal about analytics.  Some wag once told me “Hits” stands for How Idiots Track Success.
4. Should I be Flattered or Insulted, You Want Me to Re-publish Your Content!?

Subject: An article on Label Profile: Canadian Club by
Hi, My name is (name withheld to protect the clueless) from – a unit of FOX Interactive Media. As the world's largest  men's web portal, attracts more than 7 million readers each month.

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that recently published an article entitled “Label Profile: Canadian Club” that I think would be of particular interest to your readers.
The article takes a look at everyone’s favorite whiskey label; well at least it’s my favorite label. Canadian Club whiskey has been around since the 1800’s, believe it or not, and they are not showing any signs of slowing down. I’m sure you know everything there is to know about liquor, but check it out anyways. 

5. Aren't You Going to Buy Me Dinner First? 

This one’s my favorite, again, hiding the name to protect the clueless, but what was particularly aggravating is this came from a competitive bev. alc. industry PR agency with which some of our clients currently work.  Makes me wonder who’s minding the store

Hello.  Would you mind telling me how many unique pageviews you get per month.

Unique pageviews?! never heard of that metric. That's sort of like a question I got some years about about this "Mapster" thing....they got the concept, but are a little sketchy on the specifics.

6.  From the “Totally Out of the Blue Department"

Hello.  I’m the webmaster of  I wanted to know if by any chance you would be interested in doing an unbiased review of our site on your blog?
Turns out the site sells a cure for urinary incontinence.

Now that’s relevant content!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Notes from the EWBC, PR folks, Please Get a Clue!

   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.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

European Wine Bloggers Conference

I'm in Vienna this week at the European Wine Bloggers Conference hosted by our client the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Kudos to Robert McIntosh, Gabriella and Ryan Opaz who organized the conference and did a fabulous job.

  The venue was pretty outstanding too…the Orangerie at the Shönbrunn Palace, home to the Hapsburg emperors.

17 Students from the Burgundy School of Business attended the conference under the able leadership of Damien Wilson, MW
Schoenbrunn Palace (this is a pic taken in the summer)

The focus of the conference is not necessarily on blogging per se, but also the revolution that social media is fomenting in the industry.  Keynote speaker Elin McCoy framed the theme of the conference with an overview of some of the issues we’re dealing with…from journalistic standards to revenue generation potential and realities.

Keynote Speaker Elin McCoy
Elin joined Constance and our client Wines from Santorini on a trip last summer last summer, but this was the first chance I had to get to know her myself.  Smart lady, incisive and insightful.

Melanie Stumpf of VDP and Steve Raye of BAT

Damien Wilson, MW, Director of Burgundy School of Business Wine Dept.

Michael Cox and Juan Somavia of Wines of Chile bustin' moves in Vienna
What would a party in Vienna be without a Waltz?
Willi Klinger of Austrian Wine Marketing Board leading a technical tasting
Gabrielle Savage of The Drinks Business (I think she looks like Jodi Foster!)
AWMB Social Media Team at the the middle is Susanne Staggl who honcho'd the crew at the conference.  Danke Susanne!
Steve Raye, Stevie Kim of Veronafiere/Vinitaly and Giampiero Nadali of Aristede

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

US Drinks Conference Distributor Panel

One of the highlights of the U.S. Drinks Conference was the distributor panel moderated by Ted Roman, EVP of William Grant, with panelists Kevin Fennessey, CMO of Southern Wine and Spirits; Efren Puente, VP of Marketing at Charmer Sunbelt; Bob Hendrickson, President of RNDC, and Jeffrey Altschuler, President of Allied Beverages.

Here are the key takeaways:
·        There was general agreement and recognition that entrepreneurs are the ones driving innovation, not the major multinationals, so distributors have to be open to new ideas that may come from people outside the industry.  industry outsiders need to bring in folks with industry experience for credibility and practical advice.
·        For brands trying to pitch a wholesaler to take their products:
o   Primary question you’ll get asked: “Is the proposition unique, does it fill a new niche distributor does not have a current entry in”.  If the answer is yes, then follow ups will be “do you have industry experience or are you working with someone who does?”, “Is the marketing plan complete and comprehensive, not relying on one gimmick?”, “Do you have sales management people with industry experience, and do you also have street sales people (brand ambassadors/market managers) with industry experience, trained, on the ground, and supported with a good budget?”,
o Come to the distributor with the flexibility that allows them to help shape the idea /be willing to listen to and respond to  distributor advice
o   Midcourse corrections need to be anticipated…you will NOT get it right from the beginning, probably won’t even get it close
o   Have we done business with this person or company before…wholesalers will always take a meeting from people we have worked with
o   Ask for one market, not the whole system.  You need to prove your concept, and accept the fact that however well planned and executed, you’ll learn and adjust.  It’s unlikely you’d get more than one or two markets anyway, asking for the whole system is naïve at best and impractical and probably not executable by you at worst.
o   The bigger you go the harder it is to see results and make changes
o   FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS Stay focused on a limited number of accounts, don’t do promo in one and then move on.
o   Do not pipeline volume…it may generate a big number at first, but it will hurt you in the long term…distribution is just the first step; customer and retailer reorders are what the distributor wants to see.
o   The best way to expand in a given wholesaler’s network is to have a testimonial from a state GM.  Prove it works in our system, “works” being defined as repeat orders at retail and on premise.
·        Chocovine is a new product that has surprised everyone…It may have received a smirk in the first presentations to the importer, but the astonishing success it has had reinforces the point that a new idea that connects with consumers, and fills a new niche, has potential.
·        Local market themes and approach will be much more interesting to a distributor than a generic national program. So be prepared to work with distributor to do POS around local events.  Retailers love it because they want to be unique and not have the same thing as everyone else. Most distributors have the internal graphic resources to help you.
·        That said you still need to have sufficient quantity of flow materials, but recognize most won’t get used.
·        It’s imperative to allocate a budget for local or Account Specific POS materials rather than flow.
·        Wine brands should recognize that small wineries will find a home in mall houses first.
·        There’s an inherent paradox that if you go to a small wholesaler and build your brand, they won’t be too pleased if you end up pulling it to go to a major.  By the same token, most majors won’t take one-off small volume brands because there’s little upside potential for the time and attention they take.
·        A wholesaler agreement (contract) is absolutely necessary. Recognize for a new brand or company, the distributor will dictate terms.
·        DEMONSTRATE PASSION don’t just talk it.  Wholesalers are much more likely to work with you if you’ve got skin in the game, or you’ve burned your ships.
·        They also want to see a commitment of as much of your people’s time as possible.  Have people stationed in the market, don’t think you can fly in and out and make an impact.
·        Should you include an incentive program in your plans?  Not early on…distributors don’t want suppliers managing their staffs or taking them out of the market on trips as a regular program.  However there are two circumstances where they are important: When you can define very specific targeted distribution (but not loading), or secondly, where a product is close to the tipping point and incentive program will help it get there.
·        Steve Luttman of Leblon Cachaca…who came out of Moet Hennessey and knows his stuff said it’s taken him three times as long and cost three times as much as he anticipated.)

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

US Drinks Conference

I'll be making a series of posts on the USDC, but thought I'd get some of the early pix up in the meantime. A big shout out of thanks to Denise Menefee for being the unrelenting driving force that made the conference a success. She's pictured here with husband Jeff who managed all the graphics for us.

Me and daughter Lindsay Raye

Carter Reum of VeeV Acai Spirit

Colleen Graham of

Tyler Colman, aka Dr. Vino

Jeff Grindrod, Gary Vaynerchuk, Steve Raye
Conf. Organizers: John Beaudette of MHW, Mike Ginely of Next Level, Denise Menefee of USDC, Steve Raye and Jeff Grindrod of Brand Action Team

Social media panel:  Tyler Colman, Christian McMahon of Heineken USA, Colleen Graham, Carter Reum, me

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The U.S. Drinks Conference 2010 kicks off today.  We're at a bigger venue this year but still will pack the room with an SRO crowd of 200+ from 14 countries.

We're especially pleased that CNBC will be covering the conference this year with a film crew working with business reporter Brian Schactman.

I spoke with Gary Vaynerchuk yesterday and he's pumped for his presentation at 9:30.  It will be a challenge to follow him, but our social media panel has some major street cred with Tyler Colman aka Dr. Vino, Colleen Graham of, Christian McMahon CMO of Heinken USA and Carter Reum, founder of VeeV Acai spirit.

I'll try to post more on Twitter during the day, follow me at stevenraye. Sphere: Related Content