Follow Up: Why Breweries Should Have a PR Agency

Earlier this week I published a piece discussing the recent saga facing Trillium Brewing. That post focused on crisis communications and how a PR agency could help a brewery in the midst of a significant issue.

Others in the industry have expressed similar feelings. Beervana published a post saying breweries should invest in public relations:

“If you are a high-profile brewery like Trillium or Toppling Goliath, and you are charging what the market will bear, you should have a budget for someone who will go on the front line and battle the worst of the trolls on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter...If you are a new brewery with limited cash flow, this might actually be more important. One foul PR move could put you under, where as a company with a large rabid following can rebound from a few blunders.”

While I obviously agree, I also think this recent situation is diluting the overall value a PR agency can bring to a brewery (or any business, for that matter).

Yes, PR is helpful when facing serious business issues, but the insinuation that PR is similar to insurance (better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it) bothers me. A good PR agency provides value even during prosperous times.

A PR agency should be managing your brand reputation. Many often think PR is just media relations – talking to reporters and garnering media coverage. It’s much larger than that though. A PR agency holds some responsibility for maintaining your brand’s reputation with all publics –  media, customers, and the local community around you. They keep your brand consistently on message and help you build and strengthen relationships with media, influencers, and customers.

In the craft beer scene, beer bloggers, Instagrammers, and Tweeters, can be just as influential –  sometimes more so – than writers employed by mainstream local and national media. PR agencies understand this and help brewery clients implement specialized programs that develop relationships with these influencers. Good relationships with these people are just as important as good relationships with writers from Good Beer Hunting, Hop Culture, or the Boston Globe.

PR agencies help you tell your story through media, influencers, and customers. They’re all a vital part of your marketing, because they extend and amplify the stories you’re telling. If you release a new beer and promote it through an Instagram post, it only reaches all the people currently following you. You’re reliant on those followers sharing and engaging with the post to increase your reach. If a popular beer-focused Instagrammer publishes a post for the new beer, you reach that many more people. Same goes for when a reporter mentions the new beer in a story he or she writes.

But that amplification doesn’t just happen. You can hope and pray that people talk about your brewery and your beer, or you can hire a PR agency that knows how to drive this activity.

Media coverage, influencer programs, ambassador programs, customer programs.

Through those activities, PR agencies help you build your brand and build strong relationships. Additionally, those activities can also help you avoid issues like those now facing Trillium.

Ryan Brawn, the author of beer blog Hoppy Boston, makes this point perfectly in his post on Trillium’s predicament when discussing an accusation thrown out on Twitter that local beer bloggers are avoiding the topic:

“To be honest, I would be surprised if any local beer writers are actively trying to protect the brewery, my experience (and I am not alone in this) is that Trillium has been arrogantly dismissive of beer writers and bloggers, ignoring most requests for comment on pieces.”

I’ve heard similar feelings from a number of other influencers – and many have published those feelings publicly on forums, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Would that be happening if they felt like Trillium had paid attention to them prior to its crisis?

PR is a very broad field. It shouldn’t be limited to times of crisis. A good PR agency can provide value year round, during the good times and the bad. The value may become most visible during a crisis, but don’t underestimate how good PR can help you grow your business on an ongoing basis – and also how it can help you avoid potential crises.