Amazing trips to breathtaking wine country, unforgettably lavish meals and a lot of complimentary drinking sound like the makings of a dream job, right? They are! But the title of this piece holds an important question. While most of us who work in the marketing of wine came into this business partly (OK, mostly) because of our love for eating and drinking, this is also a downright rigorous industry where the thick-skinned tend to excel. It may often sound like glamorous and exciting work, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging to succeed in this business. For those that do, the rewards are well worth it — ask us, we love our job!
Lots of universal skills that apply to other careers apply to succeeding as a wine marketer. But after 10 years in the industry (and an informal survey of two very talented colleagues yesterday), I share with you some essential skills you need before considering a job in promoting wine.
Your personality matters! There aren’t many industries where being fun, having a sense of humor and the ability to get people in a good mood matter. But those things can make or break you when it comes to dealing with chefs, journalists, magazine editors, importers and retailers. You have to be able to graciously go for drinks with a writer after a long day at the office and genuinely enjoy yourself or drum up smiles and excitement at an event you’re producing for a client, even if nothing is working out and you didn’t sleep the night before. It’s your job to do so and those who are naturally exuberant without overdoing it tend to do best.
Adaptable and unflappable are two qualities people in this business have in common. Priorities can change by the hour and while Type-A attention to detail is non-negotiable, you must be just as comfortable with knowing that nothing might work out the way you planned or THE most important task for the day can change 5 times in a row. Be equally as able to roll with the punches as you are detailed, accept that late night or weekend work is a frequent part of the business and understand that things change swiftly, even a media outlet or sommelier’s relevance to your client. The best wine marketers embrace the pace.
Nothing is personal… while I’m a firm believer in bringing, expressing and enjoying the whole self at work, maintaining a sturdy frame of mind is key. Things are going to happen in the wine business that would make most people want to cringe under their desk while cry-drinking (sometimes we do!). Rejection is a constant, be it from pitches to media, sales activation for clients, meetings and prospecting in the B2B tier, you name it. Sometimes it might take six, 12 or 18 months to get a yes from a writer you’ve been after or a meeting you’ve been chasing, and you’ve got to be someone who doesn’t get discouraged by this. Over time, the best wine marketers learn to be gratified by the journey just as much as the outcome.
Get rid of the ego, because it’s useless in this career. Challenging fields tend to attract lifetime overachievers and this one is no exception. With wine however, the more you learn the more you realize there is so much that you don’t know. Most of us are big time nerds, and we’ve had to learn to be OK with being wrong, often. Your ability to get over yourself will be a major advantage in this industry.
Wine PR and marketing is a great field for a lot of reasons. All the free gourmet cheese you could ever want, minutely detailed knowledge on restaurants all over the place, meeting fascinating people, visiting beautiful places. It’s a job that makes you more worldly, and hey, it’s great fodder for breaking moments of silence on awkward Bumble dates, or so I hear. There aren’t many industries where critical thinking and coming up with great business strategies are just as important as creativity. We get to work on all facets of interesting campaigns, from providing vital insights to developing posters for supermarkets or writing newsletters or Instagram posts. No day is the same and it’s never boring. It only looks easy from the outside!