Romancing REVIEWER the
Wr i t t e n b y M a r g a r e t t Wa t e r b u r y
ou’ve finally done it. After years of planning, countless hours of work, thousands of dollars invested, you’re ready to release your greatest batch of whiskey and you want to tell the world about it. You send out review samples to your favorite spirits websites, blast out a press release, and then … crickets. Or maybe a review surfaces—months later—and the writer leads off with the dreaded, “I couldn’t find out too much about this one …” It doesn’t have to be this way. There are some specific things you can do to help media outlets of all types, large and small, more effectively and accurately cover your business. As the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, as well as the managing editor of Edible Portland, I’m in contact with drinks brands and their publicists on a regular basis. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to working with the media.
Secure YOUR ASSETS
It’s hard to overstate how dramatically the media landscape has changed in the past 20 years. Unfortunately, the days of most publications having a dedicated photographer on staff are behind us. Many of today’s online and small-outlet stories run accompanied by photos taken by the writer (to varying results), or with images supplied by the subject of the story. This is why it’s so important to have high-quality photographs of your products, distillery, and people. While professional photography can be expensive—expect to pay $100 to $300 per image with full rights across all mediums—the results are worth it. Not only will the images look terrific on your website and give you tons of fodder for future social media posts, they will also let you improve the appearance of media coverage of your business. Editors will be delighted to have attractive, high-quality images to work with, and you’ll be happy that readers will see an image of your distillery looking its best, rather than a blurry iPhone photo taken by a person who’s much more comfortable in the world of text. Most media outlets will contact you for photos, but some online outlets will pull product shots directly from your website to accompany news stories or reviews. If you put product photography on your website, make those photos easy to download and reuse in another context—no text overlays, please. Images also shouldn’t be
too small—portrait orientation shots should be at least 350 pixels wide, and landscape orientation shots should be at least 700 pixels wide. For other kinds of photos, like action shots, pictures of your distillery process, and pictures of your people, editors will contact you to request images that have appropriate rights and to obtain captions and other information. If you have an image library, I suggest keeping it in Dropbox or another file sharing platform. That way it’s simple and easy to share with a journalist or editor, and they’re free to choose the images that best fit their story. Don’t forget to include any relevant captioning and image credit information in the photo filename, or in a separate text document in the file.
Polish YOUR PRESS RELEASES
The much-maligned press release can be a valuable tool when done right. For writers and editors, a good press release is complete, accurate, and helpful, with as much information provided right up front as possible. “You can’t give me too much information,” says Christopher Null, editor in chief at Drinkhacker. Nino Marchetti, editor in chief at The Whiskey Wash, echoes the sentiment. “A good press release makes it so a journalist need not pick up the phone or send an email for more information unless it is absolutely necessary,” he says. Katie Burnett, a spirits publicist and former marketer at Imbibe Magazine, tells her clients to put themselves in the writer’s position. “Leave no questions unturned. Does it answer all the basic questions? Who are you? What are you? What makes your spirit unique? Where does it fit in the category you’re in? Is there a trend happening here?” Making it easy for writers to get in touch is also essential. “All you need to do is put a phone number or email address at the bottom of the press release, and that solves so many problems,” says Null. Remember that writers and editors (at least in theory) are people who pay attention to the nuances of language. Press releases tend to have a somewhat breathless quality about them—everything is “innovative,” “disruptive,” “best-in-class,” “award-winning,” and “outstanding”—and when writers and editors receive dozens of press releases a week, they become inured to that kind of hyperbolic language. Do everything you can to make your press release stand WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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