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Bartenders: 8 Great Ways to Master Your Media Presence. With or Without Training.

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(illustration: Sofia Varano)

The media landscape can be intimidating to anyone unfamiliar with how it operates. Press coverage can propel a bartender’s career to the next level. Some bars shell out for publicists and provide media training to their employees, but they’re in the minority. The truth is, if you want to be recognized for your hard work, you need to know how to master your own media presence. These are eight expert tips on how to do just that.

1. Understand Your Brand

Whether you’re working for a brand or bar, the key is to become an expert on the business. “Media training is all about branding,” says Stefany Cesari Elliott, the president of The Same Paige, a communications agency. “The better you understand your own brand and brand message, the better you will be at communicating that with media.”

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Effie Panagopoulos, the CEO and founder of KLEOS Mastiha Spirit, agrees. “I always say that marketing is about emotional connectivity, and in order to get media, trade and consumers to emotionally connect with you and your brand, you have to know how to best communicate to them and deliver your message in a concise way that will also resonate with them.”

Freelance food and drink writer Ben Setiawan lends some insight from the press perspective: “Having someone who can articulate their expertise on a subject matter is always appreciated, because we are constantly requesting interviews and needing quotes to support our articles,” he says. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.” And most importantly, says Setiawan, be quick about it. “Often, our editors will come back to us and say we need to quickly get a quote about something specific. The industry professionals who respond promptly and creatively tend to get the most exposure. If you liked working with someone and they provided the answers on time, you’re more likely to go back to them for a future article that you’re working on.”

2. Network with Your Peers

Opportunity to learn about your brand is everywhere, and if it’s not presented to you, you can always seek it out. “Reach out to someone you respect and ask if and where they’ve received media training,” says Robin Nance, a media manager at Beam Suntory. “See if you can train with them. Ambassadors should also work with their managers and HR departments to set up training. If you’re a bartender, reach out to an ambassador you know and see if they would be willing to help you set up media training for your team.”

As far as what brand training entails, Nance says, “We have either an internal or external partner come in and talk through tips and tricks. We leave them with key skills for not only media but also interviews for brand jobs.” Internal training, says Nance, “usually comes from a PR partner or HR rep. We walk through the basics—how to get your message across, how not to disparage other brands, how to bring an interview back to the topic if it veers off. Then we each get a different scenario and do mock interviews using what we’ve learned.”

“This industry is family,” says Elliott. “Get involved in Facebook groups, conferences, industry night, things like that. Lean on your family. If you see someone’s name popping up in a lot of articles or on TV, reach out to them directly and ask if they have any tips or advice they can share. The more we learn and share with each other, the stronger our industry becomes.”

3. Be Available for Questioning

“I always advise bartenders to ‘stand still,’ says Sother Teague, an author and the beverage director at New York City mainstay Amor y Amargo. “I truly believe that one of the reasons the press reaches out to me as often as they do is because they know where to find me. I’m not a moving target.” Teague also stays relevant in the community by actively networking where it counts. He attends various events around the city and speaks at conferences like Tales of the Cocktail, San Antonio Cocktail Conference and Portland Cocktail Week. “It’s costly to go to them due to missing working behind the bar,” he says. “But the payoff is worth it to keep people interested in what I’m up to. Even if they may not be able to come see me or my bars right away, it’s a reminder, and it keeps them interested.”

4. Enter a Cocktail Competition

There’s no crash course in media training quite like competing in a major cocktail competition, according to Darnell Holguin, the beverage director and a partner at NYC bar Las’ Lap and 2017 East Coast Bacardí Legacy champion. In this kind of scenario, says Holguin, “it’s mutually beneficial for the brand to train the bartender.” During the the Bacardí Legacy competition, Holguin received extensive training from outside consultants, which primarily covered public speaking and key brand messaging. There’s also inherent press coverage for competitors who make it to final rounds of competitions like Legacy. In Holguin’s experience, this consisted of a combination of organic press surrounding the competition itself and opportunities brought forth by Bacardí and its brand and media partners, which differ from year to year. (Liquor.com has served as a past partner.)

5. Leverage Your Social Media

Every public social media post is a chance to brand yourself. It’s also an opportunity to promote the brand that you represent. “I advise creating a consistent social media presence that speaks to a core ethos,” says Teague. “[For example], I’m known for being a bartender and ‘the bitters guy,’ but the umbrella that I function under is that of general hospitality. And as the years wear on, I’m becoming known as an educator. All of this is shown in my personal media.” Being featured in the press generates social media content in itself, which can add clout to your feeds and possibly generate a snowball effect.

6. Create Experiences

One way to generate press buzz is to host a media event, says Zack Berger, an Edrington Americas portfolio ambassador and former head bartender at Analogue in New York City. “Chances are you and your brand are going to be top of mind if a writer finds something on their own at your event versus having had it forced upon them inorganically,” says Berger. Experiences like The Macallan’s immersive “Behind the City” series made waves throughout the beverage world and garnered impressive coverage, which was due in large part to the brand allowing the experience to speak for itself with minimal branding, according to Berger. “It’s also important to know who’s who in the room at your event (without them knowing that you know who they are) so that you can pay careful attention to important guests like the media and ensure that they have the exact experience that you want.”

7. Don’t Wing It

When preparing for an upcoming interview with a journalist, it’s helpful to practice beforehand. “I highly recommend videotaping yourself and doing mock scenarios and role-play exercises,” says Panagopoulos. “You’ll be able to see if you make awkward gestures and what your body language says. Do you say ‘um’ all the time? How is your vocal inflection? Do you speak with confidence? How do you handle getting tripped up? This can help you fine-tune your delivery.”

“Find a friend or co-worker and have them interview you,” says Nance. “It’s also helpful to watch or read interviews of people you respect to see how they navigate questions.”

8. Be Authentic

Once you’ve begun landing interviews, it’s important to stay true to both yourself and the business you represent so as to avoid coming across as inauthentic. “Don’t wear clothes you wouldn’t normally wear or memorize scripts in a language you wouldn’t use,” says Panagopoulos. “Authenticity is key. The people and media can see through anything that’s fake.”

Locations: New York
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