One of the perks of writing about wine, is that we tend to get a number of samples for review. Of course with that goes the whole BS disclosure business that the Federal Trade Commission imposed upon bloggers, but not paid wine writers. Because if we’re getting wine for free, says this ridiculous logic, we are more apt to sing the praises of a wine than the guy who gets paid to take a free junket to Chile to taste with the wine maker. Somehow those who write about wine for the love of it are thought to be less ethical than the guys who get paid to do it — go figure.
As we’ve said before here and elsewhere, it’s not as easy as it sounds — sampling and reviewing wine. While many post both negative and positive reviews, we just post the ones we like. And when we get requests to review a wine, we have only a few guidelines. One, let us know you’re sending it to us, and e-mail a tracking number if you can. Two, send us some literature or a link that either tells us about the wines, the winery or both. Most folks follow these two simple requests. Some don’t. And then there are others who go the extra mile.
Make it Personal
My early career was in marketing and public relations. The first step in getting you to write about my product or service was to get your attention. And it works the same way with bloggers. Most marketing folks start by sending us a query letter or press release. The blanket press release not tailored to a specific audience is the weakest link. Especially when you address it to “Steve” like one poor overworked rep did to AWB a few months back. We didn’t write about his product, but calling me “Steve” is now a running joke among some of my other blogger friends. Make it personal. Direct the e-mail to the right person, and create some sort of reason for the writer to reply.
Sometimes we get e-mails that say “I really love your blog…” followed by a few sentences that would indicate the person has never really read it at all. So when we get something that shows us someone is really paying attention, then we’re more apt to reply. Here’s an idea that doesn’t just apply to wine and blogs: Think of an e-mail like a knock on the door. The person on the other side may open the door just to see who it is, but she’s more apt to talk with you, and let you give your pitch if you at least appear to be interested in her, the person.
The Extra Mile
About a month ago or so, we got an e-mail asking us if we were interested in sampling a particular wine. And reading it on my tiny Blackberry screen, I didn’t really take the time to read the whole thing. I only glanced at the content and determined I was familiar with the brand. A week or so ago I was cleaning out the “in” box and looked at the e-mail again. The sender also identified herself as one of our twitter followers and mentioned she’d read our blog. I looked at the winery’s website and discovered there were some lines within the brand we hadn’t tasted. So I apologized for my delayed reply, and agreed to accept some samples.
Last Friday, an email let us know a package arrived. And I was surprised at the size of the box and its light weight. And the fact is said it was from a guy named “Steve.” Another package we should have received the previous Friday never arrived, so I thought this might be it. But when I opened the box, I found a sample wrapped as a Valentine complete with heart-shaped confetti, a nice red bag and a heart-shaped tag! Also in the box was product literature and a hand-written note on the back of an old-fashioned handmade valentine heart. And if that wasn’t enough — in addition to the product literature, there was a list of restaurants in Houston that allow patrons to bring in their own wine! And finally, deep down inside the packing peanuts was a corkscrew with the name of the winery. Now it may have just been a coincidence, but since we’ve written about Joe’s collection of corkscrews it certainly appears that she had done her homework.
Word to the Wise
Wineries, find yourself a PR person that goes the extra mile like Constance Chamberlain of The Brand Action Team. And PR folks take heed. The first step is to getting a blogger to write about your client’s wine is to get his or her attention. Read the blog, contact the blogger via twitter. Make the blogger want to write about your wine.