All PR is Good PR . . . Right?
The beauty shot used for Letti Teague's "On Wine" column in the Wall Street Journal
“We don’t pay for marketing; we rely on free PR.”... A typical response our agency receives from companies we approach with paid marketing opportunities and solutions.
While on its face using free PR mentions to drive a marketing strategy may seem smart, especially for smaller companies, it is a risky and an ineffective plan. Don’t get us wrong, PR is and should be a strong component to any media plan, however the free publicity comes with a few strings attached: no control over timing, messaging, and brand image. But I mean it is free, right, what could go wrong?
Well, take for example the article “A Wine Professional’s Gift Strategy: Keep it Classic” published in the Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty Section on December 15th. In her weekly column, “On Wine”, Letti Teague gives readers her wine related gifting ideas for the holiday season. One of her recommendation is the Ouverture Magnum wine glass gift pack produced and sold by Riedel. Ms. Teague writes:
“I like to give sets of everyday wine glasses, often by the box. I’m talking about glasses that are perfectly decent for perfectly decent wine, like the Riedel Ouverture Magnum glass, my own daily choice. (Handblown Zalto glasses, which retail for several times more per stem, are my choice for special occasions and special wine.)”
Why oh why may Riedel be slightly upset with Ms. Teague? Surely the piece drove traffic to their website from those looking to buy or find out where they can buy this featured product. All good right?
No, not all good. The problem here is that Riedel is a luxury wine glass company and offers their own handblown crystal wine glasses and decanters just as Zalto, a competitor of theirs, does. But based on this piece the 1.2 million subscribers now consider Riedel a basic, entry level wine glass brand and if they want higher end options, they should be looking for Zalto, not Riedel. I am sure that isn’t really the message or brand image Riedel appreciates.
The article continues and after speaking to the Ouverture glass and company it ends on this note:
“They’re also reasonably priced – and worth keeping an eye out for, as pricing can vary depending on the retailer. I have paid as little as $60 dollars for them.”
Again, what’s the big deal here? Ms. Teague is just trying to save her loyal readers a buck or two? Well by doing so she has (unconsciously I can guarantee) showcased that Riedel has no control over its pricing in the retail marketplace. Riedel is a luxury brand and don’t want to see their product discounted in the market, no luxury brands across any product type wants to see this occur. Also, What message does this send to store owners who read this article who either offer Riedel or are considered adding it to their store? Do you think they want to deal with a company who has no pricing control over their products and a chance that they will be stuck with slow moving inventory because they are being undercut on the price by others? I think not.
So, yes, is it nice for Riedel their most basic, entry-level product was featured in the Wall Street Journal? Sure, it is. Will it boost website traffic and sales potentially? I hope so. And hey no need to pay for an ad when exposure such as this comes without a price tag, right?
Wrong. It wasn’t free it came at a tremendous cost to the Riedel brand image could potentially make business partners question pricing. Free media mentions, while, nice should be part of a marketing plan not the whole thing. Paid marketing allows companies full control over audience targeted, message, and timing, something PR cannot promise.
To the folks that tell us they rely on free PR, it is time to stop crossing your fingers and hoping an editor will mention your product or brand and do so in a positive light; it is time take the bull by the horns, invest in your business and control your marketing narrative through the many different and cost effective paid media outlets.