Ste. Michelle Wine Estates picks WE as AOR

The Washington State-based wine company brought on the firm after working with Golin for 16 years.

Image via Columbia Crest's Facebook page, cropped and resized
Image via Columbia Crest's Facebook page, cropped and resized

WOODINVILLE, WA: Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has brought on WE as its PR AOR after a 16-year relationship with Golin.

The RFP process took place in September and October, with three agencies pitching. Incumbent Golin did not pitch to retain the business. The company brought on WE on November 1.

WE is creating and executing integrated communications and social media plans for several of the company’s wine brands, including Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, Intrinsic, Michelle Sparkling, and Motto.

The firm is developing an integrated consumer campaign for next year touting the Columbia Crest brand and its wines, including H3, Grand Estates, and Reserve tiers. It is also developing a news bureau program for Columbia Crest, including media relations efforts.

The agency will communicate Columbia Crest’s brand attributes through social media and media relations and support the launch of the 2015 Crowdsourced Cabernet vintage.

"Being a crowdsourced wine, it lends itself to creativity and bold thinking," said Tiffany Cook, EVP and North America consumer sector leader at WE. "We are looking at some more bold and big ideas that can take [the company] to a bigger, more national level."

WE is also handling social media community management for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and its brands.

"That includes content creation [for] some of their channels," said Matt Haynes, SVP and head of digital for North America at WE. "We are helping develop what their community management calendar looks like and working on a paid social amplification strategy and execution."

Cook added that WE wants to tell the stories behind the company, such as product innovation and the people who work on its brands.

"We are looking at how we tell those stories in a unique way, as well as the art and science story that really comes from winemaking," said Cook. "We are also telling the unique story around Washington wines at a national level."

Cook and Haynes are co-leading the account from WE’s Bellevue, Washington, office, with support from the firm’s team in New York.

Budget information was not disclosed.

Golin’s Los Angeles office worked with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates for more than 16 years. Renae Kochel, the company’s communications manager, called the relationship "long and fruitful," but said the business changed a lot through those years and needed a fresh perspective. The company also wanted to bring on a local agency, and WE has an office in Bellevue, Washington, near its headquarters in Woodinville, as well as wineries throughout eastern Washington.

Kochel said WE’s proximity and experience with traditional PR, social, and digital was a good match with Michelle Wine Estates’ vision and philosophy.

"We wanted an agency that has experience in integrated comms from both a social and digital standpoint and also traditional PR that could partner with us to create integrated comms plans for our brands," she said.

Golin co-CEO Gary Rudnick declined to comment on the account loss.       

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