Rethinking Holiday-Timed Alcohol PR

Getting media to pay attention to alcohol brands during the ultra-critical, make-or-break holiday run-up – it’s a jungle out there.  Start with two parts brand proliferation (just think for a moment about how many new brands launch every day). Add one part media shrinkage: US newsroom employment has fallen 26% since 2008. Stir in the fact that 75% of marketers are ramping up holiday campaigns earlier than ever, and you’ve got yourself one helluva cocktail. Serve chilled and call it The Media Roadblock.

What’s a head of comms, a CMO, a brand manager to do? How to get your in-house and agency teams to get more juice from every media squeeze? Here are a few things we’ve gotten behind and our clients have benefited from. (And yes, some of these may be late for this season, so keep them in the hopper for next year.)

  • For earned media, think beyond the bottle: think trend, think story. Coverage of key SKUs and expressions by gift guides is table stakes. Results are equal parts media relationships and luck of the draw, if deadlines (which seem to creep earlier every year) are met. For more in-depth and incremental coverage, get creative with data-backed trend stories that cast a brand and its key products on the leading edge of change, whether driven by shape-shifting lifestyles, evolving drinking behaviors or perhaps a combo. Don’t be afraid to name other brands (to be sure, duh, steering clear of direct competitors), because one brand, or even category, can’t substantiate a trend on its own, and good reporters appreciate and will reward the legwork.
  • Change your mindset around events. Events came roaring back last year after their two-year, pandemic-necessitated slumber, and since taste and vibe are both coin of the realm for alcohol, giving media, influencers and perhaps consumers direct experiences with brands is as important as ever. But with multiple events competing for the same guests on the same evenings, especially this time of year, how to win? Consider not going all in on one night, but rather, hosting a series of more intimate cocktail hours or other experiences that provide flexibility and can still buzz without a crowd. We chose this path last year for The Glenrothes, an ultra-premium single malt Scotch, whereby a one-and-done launch event that required a long lease on a townhouse turned into a series of themed evenings over the course of weeks.
  • One and done won’t cut it with influencers. ‘Tis the season for…influencer campaigns, not one-off posts. Sustained, substantial campaigns are the present and future of influencer marketing because they foster and maintain a more authentic connection to consumers. Start working months in advance with your highest-performing influencers and co-create holiday content with them, which often inspires bonus content that goes beyond contracted scopes. Extra credit for getting close to the sale. Case in point: a six-month campaign for our client Sagamore Spirit Rye that culminated last fall in a single-barrel release chosen by our team of four influencers who collaborated on everything – including social content.

Wishing you many happy returns…and not in the retail sense of the term!