Hearing voices

I get it. Really I do. You are using a marketing/pr consultant because you are time poor. You don’t  understand the game or how it is played. The marketing people have experience, they have done it all before. For people/brands/labels/whatever.

But do they have a voice?

One would presume that you like the wine you produce. That by having the pride to put your label on it, you want the world to love it too. So?

So, bugger the marketing gaff. No-one knows this bottle better than you. With the possible exception of your long-suffering vintage widow. Maybe words are not your strength, but there is no-one who can replicate your love for the bottle in your hands. And that in and of itself is a far greater tool than a handy manner with language.  This is your voice.

The voice is how we sell. It is the story, the passion, the silly anecdotes and the vintage anguish. It is not knowing which side of the slope might find the chardonnay  vines; rather, it is knowing how icy the wind gets at the first rows at three thirty in August. Or where to sit to catch the last rays just before vintage starts. Or where the bloody snakes seem to best prefer… It is understanding our land and our vines, and how to turn those somewhat prosaic agricultural assets into the bottle in our hands, the romance and beauty of the wine.

PR  experts are an asset in terms of their contacts. They know everyone, because it is their job to know everyone. They are a great channel, but would you prefer to have your voice tell your story, or another, retelling your story?

Because they can only repeat the story you are telling them. In which case, why not tell the world yourself?

But. Do take care with that voice. It will always be associated with that bottle. The two go hand in hand, so pick your voice with care.

Price is undeniable and infectious. But pride so very easily trips into arrogance. And arrogance is poisonous to a brand, and is often circulated quicker than the infectious pride amongst the wine community. Pride with a dose of self-deprecating humour. A joy in wine. An inquisitive nature. The sheer enjoyment and enthusiasm for another’s wine. An evident love and respect for the various levels of the industry, from remembering the name of the kid at the bottleshop to respecting their opinions and their understanding of their customer base.

Don’t fib. Don’t fluff the details when you aren’t sure. Learn the details so you don’t get caught out. Don’t presume they will be more responsive to you because you are an owner, or a viticulturalist, or a winemaker, rather than one of their reps. At the end of the day, you are selling a product, which makes you a rep, too, and no more or less important than the others queued outside.

And if you don’t understand the chess match that is wine sales, well, have you not being paying attention? Ask someone who knows.

Spend a day with a rep. Pour wine at a trade show and watch how the good ones can sell the story with a minimum of fuss and with the effervescent joy of the wine industry.

And be very sure about the voice you choose. Whether it is your own voice, that of an agent, a distributor, a PR guru, or your winemaker, it must truly represent your passion for the bottle in your hands, and your utter faith that this is good enough to bear your label.

Most of us do have people who sell for us. Might I suggest that we cease thinking of them as reps, and start seeing them for what they are: advocates for our story. And as with legal advice, you must trust your advocate with you voice, your story. Otherwise, why should we bother? Why should anyone out there bother buying our wines?

Find a voice. Own it. Who knows you and your story better than you yourself?


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