Academy of Wine Communications Revived

PR organization to focus more on Internet and social media, goes national and even global

by Paul Franson
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Lisa Adams Walter, AWC assistant director
Napa, Calif. -- After a two-year hiatus, The Academy of Wine Communications has been revived with a new and broadened charter. The organization of wine public relations and marketing professionals, which was first organized in 1994, will now add emphasis on Internet-based blogging and social media to reflect the changing nature of wine communications. It will also reach beyond its former turf of Napa and Sonoma to include the whole wine industry.

The overall goal of the organization is to help those charged with promoting wine communicate better with customers, including newcomers who are more likely to follow Twitters from friends than read the Wine Advocate.

The Academy of Wine Communications (AWC) was founded in 1994 when wine communications channels were very different. Founders Harvey Posert, Paul Wagner and Sam Folsom created the organization to support wine media through an awards program and grants to writers, and provide education on media relations to its members.

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Paul Wagner, AWC treasurer
"The AWC was founded at a time when many independent wine writers around the country were not widely recognized for their efforts to educate Americans about wine. The organization's goal was to highlight wine writers' invaluable contributions to the understanding of wine and to provide their editors with independent recognition of their work. There are now more voices than ever writing about wine, and it's important that this work be recognized, supported and encouraged," said founder Sam Folsom, now president of Folsom & Associates in San Francisco.

The organization held regular meetings until 2007. "The Academy never died," said founder, Harvey Posert. "Without adequate funding, the volunteers who worked on it just got too busy to keep it up," he said. "So it became more sporadic and that's too bad. But we need it more than ever, as print journalism shrinks and social media grow."

The new officers of the revitalized academy are Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications, Napa, has been named executive director, and Lisa Adams Walter of Adams Walter Communications, also in Napa, is assistant director of the organization. They will be responsible for reviving the association, expanding its scope and growing its membership.

Posert said, "Thank goodness the Balzac agency and Lisa Walter have promised to get it going again."

They intend to use the same tools now favored by many people who write about wine to communicate with members and build an online community. Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications is serving as treasurer.

Wangbickler noted that there are fewer opportunities for authors to write about wine in traditional magazines and newspapers, but there's an explosion of wine communication on the Web and in visual media. "Despite the fall-off of wine coverage in traditional media channels such as major newspapers and magazines, the number of individuals writing about wine has never been greater," he said.

"Blogs and online magazines are quickly becoming an influential source of wine information. In addition, a burgeoning community of individuals use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate about wine. Because of this, the public relations function is evolving. The academy will create a forum for wine PR professionals to discuss these issues, while continuing to lend support to both media and wineries."

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Michael Wangbickler, AWC executive director
The Academy of Wine Communications will continue to provide a forum for wine PR professionals to learn classic and innovative marketing and public relations techniques, exchange ideas, network with colleagues, hone and update their media lists and meet key members of the media;

It will add a new emphasis on leveraging new media such as websites, social networking sites and blogs in addition to traditional media channels, such as newspapers and magazines. "Traditional communication was one-way, but the heart of new social networks and blogs is two-way interact," Wangblicker said. He intends to use that interaction to communicate with academy members, too.

In addition, while the academy has traditionally been focused on Napa and Sonoma, the practical limit for most meetings, it will now actively seek to include wine PR and marketing professionals from regions throughout the country and the world. "It made sense to be more restrictive before, since it was difficult to include people from elsewhere. That's no longer true, and we expect to broadcast our meetings so others can join in," Wangbickler told Wines & Vines.

He added, however, that as the organization grows, it may launch affiliate chapters in major winegrowing areas to support local events.

Those interested in joining the Academy of Wine Communications, or who would like more information, should visit the academy website at academyofwine.org or contact Michael Wangbickler at (707) 255-7667 or mwangbickler@balzac.com.

Membership includes:
  • AWC's quarterly media programs and all other AWC events.
  • Invitations to free members-only events.
  • Discounts on admission prices for special events.
  • Opportunities to meet and talk in an informal setting with reporters and editors who cover the wine industry.
  • Participation in networking opportunities with the industry's top communications experts.
  • Monthly forums that address key issues, changes and challenges, trends and transitions.
  • Inclusion in members-only directory.
  • AWC website presence with a link to your company's website or blog.
  • Quarterly newsletter reporting important information on AWC events, etc. as well as contributions from members on select topics.
  • Access to AWC online community.
  • Special membership badge for use on company websites or blogs.
  • A friendly environment in which to build new professional relationships with industry colleagues, foster invaluable alliances, advance your career, generate business referrals and begin lifelong friendships.

Membership is open to any individual or company involved in the marketing, advertising or public relations of wine and related products or services. Individual membership is $100 per year, with an organization membership of $500 for companies with multiple candidates, and $2,000 for sustaining members like major wine companies. The academy is considering a membership category for industry suppliers, too. The Academy of Wine Communications does not have a non-profit status at present .

The organization is also sure to interest those looking for their next job.
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