We get a glimpse into the world of PR and positioning spirits into the right feeds.
There are so many misconceptions about PR, from the fru-fru visions of constant socialising and the soft side of marketing to the other extreme and general cynicism of a brand's spin doctor puppeteering away.
The reality couldn't be further from this and a big reason for why we wanted to speak with Georgie Bentinck, who works across the Campari Group's range of spirits and alongside both agencies and content creators.
If you've ever wanted an overview on what it's like and what it involves to be a PR in the drinks industry - here's your chance.
Let’s begin with your role at Campari Group UK – you are the Head of UK PR & Communications. What does it involve as a day to day?
I have two main focuses – corporate reputation and brand strategy.
When it comes to managing our corporate reputation here in the UK, it’s all about helping the wider world get to know Campari Group – our parent brand – through events, media relations, content, and relationship-building. My day-to-day particularly focuses on reaching the likes of drinks writers at national media, drinks, and lifestyle influencers, as well as the Italian and Caribbean business communities based in this market. Then of course, collaborating with our Commercial Team on engaging communications for our wonderful customers too.
I also get to work with our distinctive and unique portfolio of premium drinks brands, ensuring we are delivering cutting-edge, creative work when it comes to PR and Communications working closely with the Marketing team, bringing to life brand strategy that will cut through all the clutter out there.
PR as an industry has changed over the past 5 years and the role it plays for brands has shifted. What do you feel is the biggest value that PR can bring to brands today?
Undoubtedly one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in the media landscape over the past few years is down to the COVID-19 pandemic – fewer journalists, furloughed staff, significantly more hard news stories, and purpose-driven campaigns dominating the headlines. This means it is even more challenging out there for brands and agencies to bag those earned pieces.
Despite this, if you get it right, PR is arguably the most powerful media channel you can use to reach a target audience.
In Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising study, word-of-mouth was the most trusted channel for consumers – and 88% of global respondents trusted recommendations from people they know more than any other channel. This could be an influencer they follow, a journalist’s column they regularly read, or indeed friends and family.
This is because the beauty of earned editorial is authenticity. In a world where people are increasingly cynical, and fake news, misinformation campaigns and native advertising are rife, consumers increasingly question the validity of content ‘pushed out’ or paid for by an organisation.
An effective PR strategy can deliver more meaningful messages via mediums that an audience trust, whether that be a journalist, TV show, blog, or close friend; it’s the driver of word-of-mouth marketing and is more critical than ever before to build true long-term advocacy.
"Consumers increasingly question the validity of content ‘pushed out’ or paid for by an organisation. The beauty of earned editorial is authenticity."
What part of your role do you find the most rewarding?
Undoubtedly, it’s working with such distinctive, unique brands – which have such powerful stories to tell. It’s rare to get an opportunity to work with a portfolio like ours. Whether that’s our Italian Icons such as Aperol and CAMPARI, through to our incredible Jamaican rums, Wray & Nephew and Appleton Estate – it really does mean no day is the same, and the work is always interesting and challenging in equal measure.
The media landscape is entirely different too. It’s so decentralised now, evaluating what has value and return on investment (ROI) on the time spent isn’t as straight forward as it was. What do you look for when trying to seed messages and campaigns within the media?
Creative bravery must be at the heart of everything to achieve true success in earned media. We look for concepts from our agencies that will challenge our thinking as a team, and that will have meaning for our audience. Without meaningfulness or purpose, a campaign today simply won’t grab attention or drive fame in what is an extremely tricky media landscape to navigate – in the post-COVID era we are all living in.
Briefing for bravery is only half the story though. Then it’s about working with the right partners and channels to get the message out in the most newsworthy, talkable way. A great idea can fall apart because of average execution, so we place a lot of emphasis on a dynamic, omnichannel approach to deliver an idea to its maximum impact.
There’s a lot of talk around influencers and their role in shaping brand perceptions on social media. Is it a passing moment as the media landscape de-centralises and we adjust to more of our lives spent on social - or do you think it’s a critical PR tool for brands in the future?
Influencers have been part of consumers’ lives for years now, so I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say influencer marketing was a fad or gimmick. Whatever platform people use – be it TikTok, Twitter, or Instagram – influencers are a mainstay in some shape or form, so for me what’s most important is engaging the right people in the right way, for the most relevant campaigns and moments.
There are so many influencers out there and each platform has its style, it's hard to judge what's worthwhile. How do you evaluate what to go for and who to work with?
Long-term, authentic advocacy is something we really believe in as a business, and this is what we position at the heart of all our influencer marketing work.
We always want to collaborate with those who have an existing love and affinity for the product, and whose values are aligned to ours, to ensure any content or experiences we bring to life with them don’t feel forced or jarring for the audience.
We’re always humbled by how many people want to work with our brands, even on an organic basis, because they’re already big fans – and that’s when you can really make some magic together, when there’s passion on both sides to make something truly thumb-stopping. Of course, it also goes without saying that it’s important we do our due diligence to ensure we work with partners who adhere to responsible drinking practices – so that we are always leading the charge here in ensuring people enjoy our products responsibly.
When you approach it like this, the pay-off can be extremely beneficial for not only the brand but the influencer too – and relationships are built for the long-term.
Changing up to a broader focus here; Good PR and communications builds awareness, advocacy and ultimately, sales. Do you prioritise one and how do you go about evaluating what is often an intangible sentiment?
PR is one of the more challenging channels when it comes to measurement and evaluation, however it’s a big focus for us at Campari Group UK to ensure earned media is always delivering ROI for the business. That ROI can be different per campaign depending on the objective – advocacy may be the priority for one, whilst another could be awareness.
There’s a move towards qualitative metrics rather than qualitative in PR for sure too. Of course, reach and volume will always be important in ensuring we’re getting in front of enough people with our messages; however, securing a hero feature article in one of the most read titles for your audience could arguably be worth a lot more to you as a brand than lots of smaller, less impactful pieces in publications irrelevant to your target consumer.
So much of old school thinking around PR is communicating from brand to drinker, but with social, there’s a two-way dialogue, 24/7. You have so many high-profile brands – how do you even go about managing that, let alone keep up with it all?
The short answer is – agencies! We’re lucky to have trusted partners who support us on ensuring our brands are involved in all the right conversations regardless of channel. And who work together brilliantly to join the dots for us.
As an internal team too, we’re all super passionate about rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. No task is too big or small when it comes to our brands and ensuring we’re going above and beyond to meet that consumer demand!
Chicken and egg question for you... How much does social media augment trends first instigated by brands (e.g. the growth of the Aperol spritz) and how many genuinely start there and force brands to react (e.g. the increase popularity of the negroni)?
That’s an interesting question. I would say that social media can amplify a brand’s success absolutely, but you need more than that to establish long-term success and authenticity. We are lucky our brands have a lot of this built into their stories and histories intrinsically, like the Aperol Spritz – being more than 100 years old, having unique flavour profile, its instantly recognisable bright orange colour and joyful personality. Together, it’s magic!
What we are seeing more of now too is social media conversation driving earned editorial, what used to be called “The Buzzfeed Economy” – rather than the traditional press release or press office tactics. Journalists now look for their stories and new consumer trends via social media platforms, with TikTok becoming the priority channel for this sort of thing. Global, viral trends are born there and spill into other channels as a result like press, other social media platforms, and of course word-of-mouth. I mean, who doesn’t remember the Dalgona Coffee craze in lockdown? Again, it started on TikTok…!
The key is to be on top of your game to ensure you jump on the opportunity before anyone else does. Timing is everything.
Last but certainly not least – what campaign are you really looking forward to next?