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Wine Institute’s MarCom 2019 Explores the Future of Wine Marketing and Communications

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA — On May 8, Wine Institute hosted MarCom 2019, a marketing communications workshop for its members, as well as regional association staff. Held at the Lodge at Sonoma, the half-day seminar opened with a networking breakfast sponsored by FedEx and presented strategies for effective social media posting, communicating sustainability to consumers, navigating the world of new media, and getting the most out of association memberships.

MarCom 2019
Wine Institute members gathered in Sonoma to hear from wine influencers, journalists and communicators about social media strategies, crafting story pitches and more.

The keynote session, In Conversation with Merry Edwards: Iconic Winemaker, was an interview by Press Democrat wine columnist Peg Melnik. Sharing insights from her 50-plus years as a successful winemaker and founder of Merry Edwards Wines, Edwards noted that, when she was starting out in the 1970s, there were few California women winemakers and this story generated a lot of media attention. Decades later, she has found that the women winemaker story continues to be an asset for marketers to use. In other topics, Edwards said that despite the wealth of social media tools at our disposal, reaching millennials face to face at the tasting room and events is still her preferred way to develop a long lasting connection with these consumers.

5 Questions to askIn the session, Social Media with Intention – How to Make the Most with Every Post, social media practitioners shared tips for effective online engagement. Wine Institute’s social media team, Adrienne Young and K.C. Cornwell of Poppy Social Media, advised wineries to consider what they want to accomplish, who they want to reach and what their resources and budget are before posting anything on social media. When choosing a platform, they noted, it’s wise to consider demographics. For example, 71 percent of Instagram users are under age 35, and 83 percent of Pinterest users are women age 25-54. Pinterest and Instagram are the most important platforms for brands, they said, so it’s important for wineries to have a presence there.

Panelist Erin Alderson, a food influencer and professional photographer, stressed the importance of posting compelling images. Consumers no longer want to see perfectly curated images, they want to get to know the people behind the photos.

Sommelier and YouTube personality Amanda McCrossin said the way she built her social media following was by showcasing the wine lifestyle and excursions around northern California, striving to make it entertaining and inclusive along the way.

The session, Navigating the New Media World for Wine Country Publicists & Marketers, moderated by Jeanne Sullivan Billeci of Sullivan Says PR & Coaching, featured influential freelance writers covering wine, food and travel. Panelists Jill Robinson and Blane Bachelor agreed that including like-minded wineries, in addition to one’s own, in story pitches can give writers extra incentive to reach out to editors who are interested in highlighting trends. They also said that editors often use a story if there are great photos to accompany the article.

Writer Matt Villano noted that he’s always looking for stories that highlight diversity and philanthropy—even better if they include both. Panelists recommended that wineries make it as easy as possible for journalists to contact them with up-to-date information on company websites. Too often, they said, wineries fail to list media contacts or post high-resolution images that writers can instantly download when they are on deadline.

Cline Cellars bottle logosAllison Jordan, Wine Institute’s VP of environmental affairs, led the panel discussion, It’s Not Easy Being Green – Communicating Sustainability to the Consumer. Panelist Christine Lilienthal, Director of Marketing at Cline Cellars & Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, said wineries that wish to stand out should highlight the methods they use and be ready to explain why. Cline uses consumer-friendly icons on their wine labels to help tell the Cline story, such as icons for solar power or sheep to remove weeds.


Hailey Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards shared information about her winery’s practice of getting the entire staff out into the vineyards periodically to learn about sustainable practices and gain hands-on experience to help them in their communications. Reinel Adajar, Senior Brand Manager at Wente Vineyards, showed how their sustainability message engages consumers on their website, social media platforms, packaging, shippers and in-store point of sale.

industry.VisitCalifornia.comIn the session, Associations 101: How to Get the Most From Your Membership, association representatives offered tips for engaging with statewide and regional organizations to take advantage of marketing opportunities. John Godfrey, VP and Editorial Director at Meredith Corp., told attendees how to get involved with Visit California through the organization’s industry website. VCA’s content submission tool allows wineries to submit editorial ideas for the Visit California website—which receives five million page views each month—and the annual visitors’ guide. Timely stories may find a home on California Now, VCA’s news website.

Stacey Dolan Capitani, VP of Marketing at Napa Valley Vintners, recommended that wineries send their newsletters to the associations to help keep them aware of winery activities and potential marketing opportunities. Gladys Horiuchi, Director of Media Relations at Wine Institute, encouraged members to participate in Wine Institute’s California Wine Month and Down to Earth Month publicity campaigns, which garnered widespread news coverage resulting in hundreds of stories, including 38 broadcast segments on TV and radio.

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Wine Institute Communications Department