It’s a very rare occasion when a positive story about wine hits the airwaves, the broadcast, print and online media not only in the UK but around the world. But although Champagne Taittinger’s decision to become the first Grande Marque Champagne house to invest in an English vineyard did exactly that it was only through a carefully masterminded PR campaign. Here R&R Teamwork’s co-founder Rosamund Barton explains how it all came together and also praises Hazel Murphy for her groundbreaking Australian UK trade trip as the campaign she wished she’d done.
R&R Teamwork’s Rosamund Barton is rightly proud of helping put Champagne Taittinger’s Domaine Evremond on the global PR map, and explains why when it comes to putting on a trade trips we all have a lot to thank Hazel Murphy for.
Mmmm, it’s not easy to choose one campaign as we have had oodles of fun gently cooking journalists in a sauna (to explain Madeira’s estufa system), treating them to British barley massages to show off the wonderful properties of Maris Otter barley and launching Mr Trotters Sausalami with a bit of sausage bondage.
Our stand out campaign for us was: The launch of a “Secret..”
What was the idea behind it?
The project for Champagne Taittinger to create a ‘Domaine Evremond’ vineyard had been three years in the making; but it was only in the autumn of 2015 that it became reality. Taittinger and their UK agents, Hatch Mansfield, believed the time had come to make Franco/British top quality sparkling wine on UK soil.
It was to be an independent ‘family’ venture between friends, with strong brand values. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger started his career in the UK which is their number one export market; and his father had twinned Canterbury with Reims when he was mayor of the latter in the 1960’s.
In September 2015, they found farmland in Chilham, Kent, which matched their criteria, identified the ideal terroir to plant Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
But secrecy was still vital, to maximise the eventual media coverage. No words in French could pass between Pierre Emmanuel and Taittinger’s vineyard team when they visited the local Chilham pub; and dreams of Boeuf Bourguignon or Crêpe Suzette were eschewed for orders of gelatinous pork pies and packets of Mr Trotter’s finest Pork Cracklings.
How did you go about pulling it all together?
That was a more a case of breaking the project down in to series of key events and moments. Starting with…
Pierre Emmanuel’s uncle, Claude Taittinger, had published a book in 1990 about Charles de Saint Evremond (1614-1703), the first true Champagne ambassador in England. Exiled in 1661 following his attacks on French policy, he was a writer – in the mold of Private Eye – and an epicurean at the court of Charles II. A darling of London society his grave is in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey. Domaine Evremond was the obvious name for the estate; so the decision was made to approach Westminster Abbey to host the event in their rooms.
The invitation to media stated: “PRESS BRIEFING – to unveil an important secret, at the tomb of Charles de St Evremond in Poets’ Corner.” No hint of the content of the briefing was given. But 25 media attended, to learn the ‘secret’. Following a discourse on Charles de St Evremond and on Poets Corner by the Abbey’s Archivist, Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger let the “chat out of the sac”. Gasps of astonishment were audible at the news that a leading Grande Marque Champagne House was to invest in British soil and in English sparkling wines and at that moment it trended on Twitter.
Pre event photography
I am a great believer in good and colourful photography, which sells a message. And a month before the launch, the ‘Evremond team’ could be found lurking surreptitiously in the vineyard in a range of groups and poses. Crucially, we provided both Pierre Emmanuel and Patrick McGrath MW with their respective national flags. Draped over their shoulders, these shots were used in over 50% of articles covering the event, leading the readers’ eye towards the breaking news. And hands up, we didn’t notice the Union Jack was the wrong way up – The Daily Telegraph needed to tell us that..
Not Quite the Usual Media Targets
Simultaneously to the launch announcement in Westminster Abbey, the pre-taken photography and press release were fired out to news desks, consumer and trade press, TV and radio stations, farming and property media, local Kent press, French press in London and beyond. And the Domaine Evremond website went live.
What impact did the campaign have?
The reaction was scintillating and uplifting, like Taittinger itself of, course. The Franco/British love-in, at a time of anxieties with our EU brothers and sisters, captured the imagination of all sectors of the media, with the prettily branded story appearing online across practically all UK newspapers that afternoon. Pierre-Emanuel Taittinger appeared in live TV and radio interviews. With the tricolor and Union Jack on their shoulders, Pierre-Emmanuel and Patrick McGrath MW, his friend and UK agent, were shuttled from one TV and radio studio to another.
Foreign press took up the story and coverage bubbled into areas well beyond that of wine, to the climate pages of The Times, property sections, the Radio 4 Today programme, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and thanks to social media the story also went worldwide.
The sought-for values of a Franco/British partnership of friends, determined to make a top quality English sparkling wine, oozed through nearly all media coverage. Apart from one article in France which suggested that the English would be incapable of making any wines not tasting like cleaning fluid, everything else was positive. The massive media coverage boosted brand awareness and sales for both Taittinger and UK partners Hatch Mansfield, with whom we worked closely on the project.
With just shy of £1.5m media coverage achieved in 2015, the Domaine Evremond launch paved the way for yet more coverage in 2017 with the planting of the first vines in May.
Even now, over two years later, Taittinger still gets referenced in nearly every article on the rise of English sparkling wine. Result!
It was the most far-reaching media event I have ever been part of since the UK launch of Haagen Dazs with its sexy ‘licking’ photography – you can see where my love of photography stems from.
What lessons have you learnt from doing this campaign for other work?
Campaigns must be holistic. Work with organised people who have tight lips, but open minds. Take photography well in advance, and it must be colourful, carry the message, and inspire. Be different. Be unexpected. Have fun.
The campaign I wish I had done…
Explain the campaign and who it was for?
Australia – Wine Flight of a Lifetime’ 1992
Hazel Murphy was the queen of the Australian Wine Bureau. She wanted to make the UK wine trade understand Australia, but realised that it was hard to do in a cold and wet UK. So, to create ambassadors for Australian wines, and to let the UK wine trade understand the breadth of the wine offer from its many regions, Hazel convinced the wineries, the importers and the press to create ‘Wine Flight of a Life Time’.
She bravely took 110 diverse members of the UK press and trade on a two-week working holiday to visit many wine growing areas in Australia including the Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula.
What is it about this campaign that you particularly liked:
Before ‘Wine Flight of a Lifetime’, trade and media had been kept apart; and the animal togetherness which the trip fostered had never happened. This trip changed that forever.
Why do you think it was successful?
This was a first and cleverly Hazel got the trade to pay towards their flights so any buyer on the trip was hugely committed. Press were made to work hard. Bus A was headed up by Tim Atkin MW, Bus B by Oz Clarke and Bus C by Robert Joseph. It was also successful because those who had not been part of it felt jealous; and because it was such an excitingly disparate group of trippers, tasting Australia’s wines in Australia surrounded by Australians.
What lessons could other businesses/take from this idea?
This campaign included hard work, loads of travelling and an overview of the Australian wine industry that had never been seen before. Those on the trip became firm friends, though two buyers could not take the pace and dropped out briefly. Excitingly, they had one elopement from it!
Think big. Combine different interest groups. Have a theme. Have fun.
Tim Johnston, of Juveniles in Paris, fondly recalls a flight from Sydney to Perth. The captain came on at the beginning of the flight and said: “We are happy to welcome aboard all the Poms who have come to look at our wine industry. We’ve heard about your reputation and have put two passengers off the plane – so that we can get more grog on…”
Hazel carried on taking big trips and still to this day takes small trade trips to Australia, so this was so much more than one big splash. As she says herself: “I did a trip this year and one in 2015 for very small groups just to specific regions–so they are still going on a mini-scale and have a real impact on them buying!!”
- R&R Teamwork describes themselves as “a deeply alcoholic London based PR company working with wine, beer and spirits. The R’s, Rosamund and Rupert, love to educate and have fun…”
- If you would like to share your best campaign or idea you have had in business and then also reveal the initiative you wish you had done then send Richard Siddle an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.