How do I go about selecting partners for In the mood for wine
Getting paid to write about a wine presents a pretty obvious conflicts of interest.
After 13 years at the Wine Advocate, Lisa Perrotti-Brown has launched The Wine Independent, proclaiming it as “fiercely independent”. She goes on saying:
“I don’t want to point fingers at anyone else’s business in particular, but people don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes of so many wine criticism publications, unless you’re in the business, and then you are like, ‘oh my God’. A consumer reading a publication that tells you what you should and shouldn’t buy has no idea there are other agendas behind the scenes, so we are saying we are independent in the name, there is never going to be any wiggle room on that, there is never going to be any compromise on integrity, and that comes with us being majority shareholders, and the others being very much in agreement with our ethos – no-one is going to get greedy; we want to remain completely unbiased.”
I completely support the sentiment (and I am a paying member of The Wine Independent). At the same time, I want to keep this publication free for all to read, at least for now.
And, it would be easy to write about whoever is willing to write me the biggest check but I feel so incredibly fortunate that I get to do this, and that you trust me enough to read what I write once or twice a week, that the most important thing to me is continuing to earn your trust and your time.
To that end, I want to be fully transparent about how I select which companies to write sponsored content for, and how I go about writing about them. When done right, these sponsored posts can be richer and more interesting than a typical essay, because they give me direct access — I get the information from the source.
But doing it right and keeping your trust requires a process, which I’ll lay out here.
This process will certainly evolve over time as I learn what works and what doesn’t. It starts with screening. I only write sponsored posts on companies that meet two criteria:
They’re companies I believe in, which I measure by asking myself two questions:
“Would I drink their wine / invest in their company, if given the chance?”
“Would I write about them even if they weren’t paying me?”
I talk to the company’s owners, founders or execs before agreeing to write about a company.
The company has lessons that are applicable beyond the company itself, and potential benefits to all of you or; the company’s story is interesting to write about and fits with the trends we’re all most interested in. I spend 20-40 hours on these deep dives and there’s no shortage of things to write about. I don’t want to waste time writing about things that I find boring.
I’ve turned down companies for both reasons, and have agreed to write up less than a third of the sponsored content requests I’ve received. Most don’t pass Step 1, and a couple have passed Step 1 and 2, but not Step 3.
Once I’ve decided to write about a company, I stick to a few rules:
This one is obvious and table stakes, but I never write anything I don’t actually believe.
I work with the company’s winemakers or representatives to make sure I understand the facts about the business, their wines, and what the company is trying to achieve, and then I do my own research on the company and the space. For every 20 hours I spend on a deep dive, someone from the company is probably involved in two.
Write about more than just the company. I don’t want these to be ads.
Ultimately, sponsored content help me pick from among the many things I am interested in potentially writing about — they’re wines I would buy if given the chance, and companies I would write about even if they weren’t paying me. (Don’t tell them that.)
Now, my process is out in the open, and if you don’t think I’m sticking to it, let me know! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reply directly in the comments.
Thanks for reading In the mood for wine (and caring enough to read this)!
It means a lot.