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Friday Fishwrap

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Defining winery P.R. in a new era

Winery public relations used to be so simple. You got hired, usually on a retainer basis, to get your client’s name out there in the public sphere, with as spiffy an image as you could. It was a good way to make a living. But winery P.R. is hurting now. The recession has severely impacted it. I was talking the other day to the owner of a small winery P.R. firm who told me they’re worried about their financial future. They’ve lost clients, not because the firm isn’t well-regarded — it is — but because wineries themselves are hurting and many can no longer afford to keep a P.R. firm on retainer. When a winery has to cut costs, P.R. often is one of the first items to be slashed.

Meininger’s Business International reported yesterday on the “domino effect” of the worldwide economic slump on winery P.R. firms, as “activity budgets have been slashed and the incremental project work is simply not there. Vehicles such as the long lunch – led by a winemaker to showcase their range – are long gone.” (Well, the long lunch hasn’t entirely disappeared, but wineries aren’t doing as many as they used to. Or dinners.)

Another problem for standalone P.R. companies is that bigger wineries generally have in-house P.R. departments. I know a small P.R. company that recently lost a client, Bill Foley, because as his winery empire grows by leaps and bounds, he felt the need to bring the public relations in-house rather than continuing to farm it out.

Maybe the emergence of the wine blogosphere means that winery P.R. firms are no longer needed. That’s one theory, but I don’t buy it. I think, with such an explosive increase of in the number of potential platforms, it’s going to be more important than ever for wineries to hire savvy P.R. pros to help them break through all the noise and clutter and be visible.

And as if Parker didn’t have enough troubles,

Now the famous critic “has been ordered to stand trial in France next month for allegedly defaming a former assistant,” the Associated Press is reporting. The case is about a former assistant of his who wrote a book called (translated from the French): “Robert Parker: Anatomy of a Myth.”

And congratulations to…

Bailey Ungewitter, a Sebastopol gal who was just chosen as the Sonoma County Fair’s 2009 Miss Wine County Rodeo. Ride ’em, cowgirl!



  1. Things are being cut out of basis for survival–they are removing the components that are not absolutely necessary to keep moving. Since something has to go it makes sense that PR/Advertising is the first sector for cuts. Is it the best move? Of course not. Ideally someone would have the wealth to maintain PR through the recession, but that’s just not as realistic. Whenever stabilization occurs, I agree that it will be worth returning to the experts for advice on navigating the ever-changing flow of information today.

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