I receive three or four press releases on an average day in my inbox. For round numbers, call it twenty a week, eighty a month. Of these, I will post maybe four items--or 5%. I'm a bit harsher than the average blogger; I don't do a lot of event or release posting. But even among those bloggers who do, you have to figure that for every press release that goes out, probably only one or two sites will mention it at all. The issue here is that the people sending press releases and those receiving them have very different experiences.
Breweries and event organizers are really excited about their product. They think: "[Beer/Event X] is the best [beer/event] in the world. It commands all my attention and interest, and I have spent so much time working on this [beer/event] that its genius is self-evident. All I need to do is communicate how transcendent this [beer/even] is and people will want to write about it." And thereafter they compose a press release describing the beer or event as the best beer or event the world has ever seen.
"Let's see what I have in the old inbox this morning. Ah, an invitation to attend a beer release in New Jersey. Delete. An announcement that a brewpub has released a new IPA, their fourth. Delete. Information about a series of beer dinners at Restaurant Y. Hmmm, maybe I'll save this one in case I get really desperate for content later this week. An old email with information about a series of meet-the-brewers dates saved in case I got really desperate. Out of date. Delete."
Yesterday's post about the Apple iPhone "discovery" is an instructive counterpoint. I have no confirmation that commenter Gary McMahon's suspicions are true, but it seems likely: "I keep thinking of all the 'secret photos' of new vehicles in car magazines...given Jobs' history, I'm betting the 'done on purpose' scenario." If so, it was a perfect illustration of how to get good press.
Give the Writer a Hook
If you have a product and you want coverage, you have to give the writer a hook. Literally dozens of beers are released every week and, notwithstanding the opinion of the brewer, most aren't going to be earth-shattering brewing achievements. Events fill the annual beer calendar. Some are good, some aren't.
Personally, I chafe at Dogfish Head. It's a good brewery, but one among a pretty large crowd. Yet it gets at least as much press as all the other 1500 craft breweries combined. How? It doesn't hurt that it's relatively near NYC, but beyond that, Sam Calagione does an amazing job offering the press interesting stories to cover. Continual hopping, that hop-infuser thing, the South American wood casks, chicha beer. The brewery is constantly telling fascinating stories and making sure the press knows about it.
I just got an extremely cool invitation in the mail from Goose Island. They're hosting a tasting for the press next Thursday. The invite came in a black envelope sealed with a sticker reading "MATILDA." Inside is a beautiful invitation and three cards with information about the beers and brewery. No doubt this was spendy. Five bucks an invite, maybe? But the impact is impressive, and it underscores Goose Island's current branding. They want to seize the upscale Belgian market, and this invitation communicates luxury.
Think of ways to stand out from a crowd. When Double Mountain released their kriek last summer, Matt Swihart showed up with the cherries from the orchard he'd used in the beer. When Full Sail released their Berliner Wiesse last year, they made sure to get traditional Woodruff syrup to go along with it. Zwickelmania is such a hit because people get that value-added experience of trying beer straight from the tank. There are a lot of very interesting facets to beer and brewing, and you'd do well to figure out a way to fold those into new releases.
Make Yourself Available
Don't send me a press release. Invite me to your brewery. Even if I don't like the beer you're releasing, if you take the time to sit down, have a pint, and tell me why you love this beer, I am almost certainly going to write about it. It's almost axiomatic that brewers are cool people. (I hold out the possibility that there's a jerk somewhere, but I honestly haven't found him yet.) Put a brewer and a beer writer together, and you will get a story. More importantly, you'll get a better story. The writer will be drawn into the subject and spend more time thinking and writing it. Send a press release and you'll probably get a press releasey post--generic and dull.
Make Good Beer
I suppose it goes without saying, but I'll say it. If you brew good beer, I'll find it and drink it and write about it. I'm starting to get on a few breweries' mailing lists, but the honest truth is that this isn't necessary. I like beer and I want to try new beer. We all have different tastes, and what I think is an A beer, writer X may find so-so and vice versa. But in the main, good beers get good press.
Keep sending the press releases. It's good for me to know when new beers hit the market and which events are around the corner. But don't stop there. If you want press, your work only starts with a press release.
Update. Right on cue, here's the latest news from Dogfish: a beer to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis' Bitches' Brew.