It's Friday, two days before Taste Washington, and I can't wait. For Washington State wine geeks like me, TasteWA is our Nirvana. (Oh snap! I meant this Nirvana.) It's an afternoon awash with great wine – 200 wineries pouring more than 600 wines, plus more than 75 Seattle-area restaurants serving everything from limitless raw oysters to elaborate tapas plates.
But TasteWA will be different this year. The show floor will be full of wine critics. Nope, not Bob Parker and that crowd. Critics like @SeattleWineGal, @KSyrah, and dozens more, all swirling, sniffing, and then quickly tweeting out reviews, comments, and criticism that ultimately will impact consumer behavior. It's not unique to TasteWA. Check out Twitter feeds from CTIA, SXSW, or NADA – suddenly, everyone's an influencer.
What does this mean for PR pros? Eighteen months ago, I counseled wine / hospitality clients on blogger relations over media relations. Today, blogs are slipping in relevance – wine blogging recently was labeled “the attention-seeking barking of lonely poodles” – and Twitter relations are moving center stage. (Twitter relations … can't believe I just wrote that.)
With this shift come new strategies. For example, how do you counsel winery clients on last night's virtual tasting of Washington merlots (#WAMerlot), which attracted wine enthusiasts – and maybe even some poodles – nationwide. Common sense prevails in the end. At TasteWA, we'll shepherd our clients into the fray, rather than helping them contribute from the sidelines. Tweeting for some, with full disclosure. For others, we'll bring the show's most active tweeters to our clients' booths for a taste and a chat.
It comes back to this: wine isn't just a beverage, it's a conversation. In the age of social media, sharing a bottle (or two) is a social experience that lends itself perfectly to the times.
Bob Silver is SVP at MWW.