August 20 2008
Many readers of this blog may have noticed that there is an experiment underway in which Rodney Strong’s new allocated wine offering from their “winery within a winery” concept, Rockaway, is being introduced to market with some participation from select wine bloggers.
It is a bold move, coming from Robert Larsen, Public Relations Director at Rodney Strong.
One thing is certain; Robert is getting a lesson on this crazy transparency thing in blogging. Before I review the wine on Thursday, I first wanted to tell how this mini-program came to be and what the guidelines are—in typical PR the journalist almost never talks about how the “sausage was made.” Transparency is a fun quirk to blogging when done right.
In June, I got in contact with Carole Loomis, former colleague and friend at Inertia Beverage Group (RS is their client) and she mentioned that Rodney Strong had an allocated wine coming out and they might want to do some outreach to bloggers, could I get in contact with Robert Larsen to discuss?
In talking to Robert we talked about a number of different things—the first being just simply sending off sample bottles to bloggers if I could give some insight into bloggers who were doing good work. I think most wine bloggers that have been at it a while forget or do not realize that this jet stream that we’re in is somewhat forbidding and not a little bit mystifying to others not in the loop.
I am, however, diametrically opposed to just sending samples off and cannot advocate that for a winery. If the wine is a hand sell, then so is the work with writers. Sending samples willy-nilly is not a model that really works for wineries and traditional media and it is not a model you really want to try to replicate with bloggers.
In my mind, and what I proposed to Robert is to get a small group of bloggers together, I would do the coordination, and solicit their interest in receiving a sample. If interested, I would then do programmatic coordination.
Now, mind you, getting a $75 dollar bottle of allocated Cabernet is not a tough sell, though some did decline to participate, but the proviso with each of the bloggers participating in receiving the sample is you have to write about it. However, the bloggers have full and free editorial control. Nobody is going to ask you to write anything specific. You do not have to like the wine, you do not have to say anything good, but in the give to get for the program, you have to write a post in length from 300 – 500 words and the timing would be coordinated to a set week on the calendar, this week, the week of August 18th.
Why do it this way? Well, because blogs are not limited by space constraints so it is not like you can fall on the canard of their not being enough ink and space. So, if you’re agreeing to accept a sample, it’s a small matter to write about the wine, particularly when you are free to say the wine tastes like twice filtered swamp water, if that’s if your opinion.
I think Robert and Rodney Strong were betting that the wine would deliver, and so was I.
I have been enamored by the way Cameron Hughes has handled sampling, and while they do not request posting, it is clear that their success rate in sampling to post content is stupendous. And the deliverable as a result is very nice. Check it out here. So, that is kind of what I was thinking in terms of execution with Rodney Strong, albeit on a smaller basis.
Is this the correct model? Bloggers have to write about a sample they received? Take the specific winery out of the equation. Is this a scalable model? I am not sure, but I do know that experimentation has to occur and this is as fine of an idea as any. Likewise with the experimentation, you have to have a winery willing to give it a try, and on that count regardless of what anybody writes about the Rockaway wine, good or bad, Rodney Strong has won for taking a risk.
Oh, and yeah, I will write about the actual wine tomorrow, somewhere in between 300 – 500 words.