The reemergence of a cocktail culture in the US and the introduction of a number of premium and super premium spirit brands have combined over the past decade to dramatically broaden the number the outlets now interested in covering tequila, scotch, rum, and other spirits.
"Cocktails are a lot more interesting today because now you've got people who are professional 'mixologists,' creating cocktails that rival the recipes that Martha Stewart can put together," notes David Karraker, director of PR and events for Skyy Spirits. "So more lifestyle titles now cover it, including home and garden magazines, and urban publications like King and even People."
Hunter Heres works with Richards Partners as brand PR representative for The Patron Spirits Company, whose tequila is a common presence in clubs, bars and restaurants. He says high-end spirits are now being positioned more as lifestyle accessories.
"That means that, in addition to food and wine journalists who have added spirits to their coverage," Heres explains, "we're dealing with a lot of style writers who may not be that interested in taste, but who do want to be kept up-to-date on what's hot."
Along with lifestyle, there's also a growing celebrity angle to spirits coverage that began in recent years with hip-hop artists and high-end cognac and brandy, and is now expanding to include stars who appeal to a much broader demographic.
"The celebrity hook gives you access to outlets that you typically wouldn't normally get, such as InTouch and Life & Style," says Karraker. "If you have a celebrity spokesperson, you can crate a signature cocktail around them, and use that to generate additional interest."
Much of spirits coverage tends to be print-driven.
While the spirits industry's voluntary 1948 decision not to advertise on network television is slowly crumbling, Heres points out that generating TV and radio coverage continues to be a major challenge.
"We're very careful when pitching TV and radio," he says. "The coverage we can get tends to be around the holidays, with some of the morning shows talking about spirits in connection with holiday entertaining."
In many ways, spirits would seem to be an ideal subject for PR programs centered on sampling. But David Fleming, executive editor of the leading trade magazines Market Watch and Impact, suggests that may not be enough these days.
"We're seeing a lot of event-driven PR, with big parties that end up driving the image of the brand," he says. "I'd also advise media people to visit journalists where they work, so that top executives can meet with reporters for one-on-one interviews."
Pitching... the spirits industry
Don't neglect women's outlets. Tailor these with pitches linked to new cocktails or the right spirits for entertaining
Premium spirits are great for the business lifestyle press during the holidays, when there's an increased focus on gift-giving stories
Look beyond the food and wine pages for coverage by positioning premium spirits as lifestyle accessories and then pitching them to style writers