The wine industry is not new to crisis. Whether it be drought, fires, black frost or unfair media reporting. These and other issues will remain, but to minimise risk or outrage in times of crisis, a new communication protocol for the wine industry has been developed.
This was done to help producers, cellars and other industry role-players with the correct procedure to follow when engaging with media, to assist media to find the correct source of the information they are looking for, to protect the wine industry by providing accurate information to media, to identify who is responsible for speaking to the media on various issues, as well as to support collaboration in order to grow our business.
A key topic coming to the fore was honesty. Being helpful, responding to all queries, developing good relations with journalists and keeping cool when faced with difficult situations and questions are all important when dealing with media during crisis communication. “Don’t be afraid of telling bad stories, but focus on what is being done to change things for the better. Shift the dialogue from being defensive to fostering empathy and seeking solutions,” said Neeran Naidoo, facilitator of a Crisis Communications workshop held by VinPro and Wines of South Africa (Wosa).
Naidoo, who was the group communications manager at Woolworths referred to the brand’s reputational challenges, with “The devil wears Woolworths” being a catch phrase at one stage.
Many queries can be handled by individual producers, cellars and farmers and these will typically deal with specific brands or information about wine products such as cultivars, type of wines or details about farm.
More difficult issues, however, issues that affect the entire industry; issues on minimum wage, exports or details of ethical trade should be handled by VinPro or Wosa depending on the nature of the enquiry, since they are better equipped to handle issues of a national and global nature.
VinPro and Wosa encourage media engagement. Although the industry faces economic and social challenges, significant progress has also been made and these industry bodies truly believe in believe in positive and constructive media engagement even when the story may focus on negative issues. “Knowledge is power. Before engaging with media, find out as much as you can about the story and angle they want to convey. This will enable you to be better prepared, or refer the enquiry to another person, entity or industry body who might be better equipped to handle it,” said Maryna Strachan, communications manager at Wosa.
Two recent documents have been issued to assist the industry in this regard: