For richer or poorer…

So. Australian politics.  Certainly getting a lot of people to be vocal. For each side. Personally,  I’m not a fan of this asylum seeker (sorry,  “illegal”) policy, and I have serious concerns about the path of addressing – or not – climate change and marriage equality. Let alone this new ‘freedom of speech vs bigotry’ debate.  I am worried about the fact that the Opposition appears to have gone into hiding, and that there are very few voices with political clout actually standing up and speaking for their electorates.

But this country did democratically select the Liberal party.  So on our own heads be it.

Ranting abuse at the protagonists helps no-one,  and serves instead to denigrate the cause espoused. In plain language – the words you choose reflect on you, not your audience or targets. Less anger, more debate, perhaps.

And it looks like – yet again – the same could be said for the wine industry.  I’m all for passion.  Anyone who had heard me after a glass or two can attest to that. And I do like a rant. But we who build our personalities into our brands must take care with the voices we use in our vigorous debates. Be mindful of who might be listening. Consider the effect your words may have on your peers.

And maybe look for the opportunity rather than simply the perceived problem.

For the second year running, a renowned Clare producer laments an ‘oversupply’. And how difficult it will be too sell riesling in this oversupplied environment.  Whilst other producers are still bringing fruit in,  and seeing massive drops in yield. Said lament published in the media.

Oversupply? Really? Ok. Further on the article states that grower contracts might be cut in coming years and extra wine/fruit would be available. So,  not now, right? So,  if this is an issue, as a region,  maybe it would be time to start looking at options and how to head this off at the pass. Another quoted winemaker says there is no oversupply, but instead a lack of understanding that Clare makes red wine too…. Um. Ok. Media and marketing?  Not a production issue.  Get out there and talk about it.  Conduct regional red blending/tasting sessions.  Tweet about it. Facebook it. Talk about it. Ruing a customer’s lack of comprehension is a problem you can fix. Stop complaining and get out there.

Media soundbites.  It is easy to end up with an entirely different message than was intended.  I have no doubt that these were merely a part of a bigger conversation, but for two years in a row,  the same producer complaining about a glut or oversupply reads like a bigger regional issue.  Which it is not for many who are tarred with the same brush. Is it too much to ask for a positive spin, or at least a moderated response? Speak with the interviewer.  Ensure the message projected is the message you mean to convey. Because seriously? A winemaker moaning does not make for the consumer or gatekeeper feeling warm and fuzzy toward you.

And I am certainly not advocating a clap-happy approach to media,  but remember that behind any media lies your story. Make sure that your brand story dictates the tone of your interview, because the two will be aligned. And I am not sure of many producers wanting to be known for complaining in the staff of being known for their quality offerings.

A Victorian producer says because yields are down this year,  growers and producers should look at changing varieties. In a region which has a great reputation for the existing varieties for a reason.  And has survived on these for such a long time. Is one vintage really enough of a reason to advocate an immediate change? In the media? Where the reader may interpret that as a reason to not purchase said varieties from said region?

I would understand a soundbite about environmental impact of climate change on vineyards.  But that doesn’t sound sexy. Or challenging. And I am fully aware that the conversation with said media outlet was probably much broader. But we must really be aware that talking about current vintage mid-said vintage has…. Yeah.  Right.  See above.

Noted Orange producer goes on the attack over the recent interest in “orange” (natural) wines. Ok. I almost get this.  But I’m not sure an attack is the right approach.  I see the opportunity here. Start debates. Inform and engage the consumer. Have some fun with it. This could be a brilliant way to tap into an entirely different audience. Accept that this term is already out there and simply demanding people stop using it is going to result in one thing: the voice looking a little petty. It took sunset clauses and many years for people to move away from using ‘burgundy’. And I still hear people ordering sparkling burgundy.  Face it: once a term has hit the cultural zeitgeist,  no amount of telling people they are wrong will change that.

Maybe instead we could engage. Tell people why the region and the style differ,  where they interact and if you really want to draw a line in the sand,  make the Orange (region) voice the preeminent voice. Be the voice of Orange reason and the font of Orange knowledge: for both teams.  Know enough to refer orange enquiries to the most relevant people, be the go-to for Orange. Engage and draw in.  Surely this is a better tack than telling people they are using the wrong word?

Surely we are more about convincing people that what we create is worthy of spending their hard-earned upon it, rather than openly inciting doubt and confusion into the decision-making process?

These short snippets are what people remember when they are in front of a shelf full of bottles with a decision to make. Clare Riesling? Or Great Southern? Vic Pinot, or Adelaide Hills? What they remember is the negative sense of an article, and makea choice influenced by this.

Our brand stories are positive. Engaging. All about character. And this is what we aim to present at cellar door, at tasting events, out and about. So why present something so wildly opposite to the media?

A wine personality told me the other day that words have impact. Well, obviously. But we all need to remember that a good part of that impact comes from the mind of the reader/audience. They do not think to second guess the interpretation they are placing on what they have just read or heard. We need to take *that*  into account when we consider our words.

Everything we say needs to be in line with our story. For better or worse.

Side note: this is in the post below, but just in case, kindly understand that this here is not a commercial blog. I work for other people and brands. Approaching me to discuss any issue you may have with something I have written here whilst I am working in my employed capacity is inappropriate. Email me. Comment here. I will give you my phone number of you wish to talk with me. But approaching me in a commercial situation is not an option.

And recent examples of this have damaged my employment. So play nice. I’m always open to discussion. Just choose your situation, please.


Just a quick note: should anyone have any queries, or wish to address anything said here, kindly do so via the comments, or if need be, at the email address below. If requested, I will not publish comments, but will reply to any and all.

I work for a couple of people, and represent brands out in the marketplace, and at events. I would like to draw a line between that work – which is my commercial business – and this blog/my twitter/my facebook. These are not a part of that business, and I would expect any issues, or comments to be made here or via email.

When I am working for a business to build their brands and identity, that is my professional space. This is me asking nicely that you respect that, and leave it that way.

And yes. This is me asking because my professional reputation, and my income has been affected in the last week.

Many thanks.