It’s not often that I’m left speechless. However, last week was certainly one of those moments where I was totally lost for words.

The wine awards calendar is always something we look forward to as a team, it’s like the wine circuit for wine judges where great communication is celebrated. It’s historically an opportunity to mingle, hug the winners and share a glass of great Australian wine amongst friends. A fitting time to rekindle friendships, come together as communicators and raise a toast to all the finalists who have achieved so much throughout the year. However, 2020 has been different, and in the absence of being able to catch up in person, I wanted to take a moment to properly express my thanks to so many people that I did not get to thank in person. If we’ve learnt anything this year its that the little things very much count and last week will be a moment in time that I will remember forever!

What a fortnight it’s been! It was such an honour to be named Australian Women in Wine 2020 Marketer of the Year,  even more so having missed the opportunity to join the Fabulous Ladies in New York in 2019 as I was in Orange presenting at the WISA Impact Conference! And then, in what’s been the busiest week of the year for our Mastermind team, to be named Digital Wine Communicator along with Wine Communicator of the Year was such a thrill and honour. An utter surprise, and shock to be recognised alongside so many of the people I respect so dearly.

Our Mastermind team topped off the week as finalists for My Business Awards Social Media Strategy of the Year  for the work we do for Nerada Tea. So needless to say it was a week where at the end of the client campaign communications being sent, there were some fine Australian wines enjoyed!

Note – Sadly missing Emily, Deb and Zuzana from these team photos and video above! The reality of this busy time of year when there’s lots on and in the values of our family friendly office, some of the team celebrated with us the next day! 

A heartfelt thank you to the award sponsors, who also happen to be people I love and respect so much having worked with or alongside over the last twenty years! Thank you to Liquid Ideas, Denomination, Jane Thomson and The Australian Women in Wine Action Board and the Wine Communicators of Australia Committee. You’ve all been so intertwined in my wine journey over the last twenty years, and I look forward when we can catch up in person to celebrate over a glass of wine properly.

It’s quite fitting that the very first day working in wine, back in 2004 I was introduced to the Wine Press Club of NSW, now Wine Communicators of Australia (WCA). A tasting at the Royal Sydney Wine Show was unlike anything I could have imagined having come from a different universe at Macquarie Bank. I was hooked, and over the years many of the WCA Committee have taken me under their wing, offering guidance, wisdom and encouragement. Darren Jahn, Lyndey Milan, Jason Bowyer, Cec Lewis, Chris Anstee, Deb Blott, Rob Hirst, Toni Carlino,and Angie Bradbury are just some on a long list of names who through WCA have really shaped my communications career and knowledge about marketing wine. For nearly five years I enjoyed my tenure on the WCA committee, often meeting with a newborn baby sleeping under the table as we worked out how we’d launch a new online payment gateway, tweet ups, mentor programs like Young Guns and Gurus and so many in person events. I vividly recall when these very awards were founded to showcase excellence in what was being done across different parts of the industry, so there’s very much a sentimental connection to these awards and I really am honoured to be given this accolade. Thank you!

Wine marketing and communication is in my opinion a unique craft, and I say that coming from experience across different industry sectors. It’s a fine balance to understand the product nuances, keep the consumer top of mind and make sure that there’s a compelling story to convey. A competitive landscape, but collaboration and friendship is often the hero as regional partners and friends work together to tell a collective story stronger than the individual parts. It’s often the characters and not the product that bring the richness to the storytelling, something different to other FCMG products. This is at the heart of why I love marketing wine and why there’s so many people who I’ve come across that I treasure as good friends.

This has been a year like no other, but one that digital has very much come into the spotlight. I was very lucky early in my career to have been exposed to the digital world in what was very much the infancy of the internet. Yes, a digital dinosaur! Starting out late 1990s/ early 2000 I learnt about the digital landscape at The White Agency via my good friend Elizabeth Buchanan. We were booking some of Australia’s first search campaigns, pioneering digital takeovers through banner ads and creating results that delivered a real return on marketing investment which challenged the more traditional media. This was a medium that helped the little brands have a voice and talk to consumers in an entirely different way. A natural tool to leverage when I moved into wine that very much has shaped how we’ve developed strategy across a variety of budgets. It’s a changing landscape which is what keeps us interested, and on our toes to keep evolving the tactics to reach the end customer.

For many years though digital communications and the supporting digital ecosystem in the realm of wine has been misunderstood. It’s been a challenge to get brands to understand the need to evolve quickly in their channel focus and despite the fact that the investment required can be very measured, it’s a long term game. Building a tribe takes time and money and the infrastructure needs to be maintained and changed up from time to time to keep the consumer experience seamless. 2020 has been the year where for many of the brands we’ve had a privilege of working with, they have seen dividends. But it’s not due to luck, it’s been a consistent effort over many years to nurture their databases and keep offering experiences that their customers enjoy and keep coming back for.

The metrics of success have been turned on their head (often!) this year and propulsion at a time of pause has been key. COVID-19 has driven the Mastermind dream team to do more of what they love, and draw upon their digital armoury to really focus on delivering integrated digital and social media campaigns that achieve results in challenging times.  From conceptualising Shiraz Day, to hosting webinars, countless emails, interactive tastings, new product developments and testing and refining a range of marketing techniques, we’ve thrown all that we can at 2020 to try and keep brands thriving.

I’m not denying that 2020 has been super tough! I’ve really felt a weight of responsibility to help our beloved clients tell their stories directly to consumers and think about how we could keep the income flowing for all of us. It’s not been without an impact on our own team, having to make organisational changes in the team to survive and change how we do things. There’s mostly been seven of us in the team, working part-time whilst home schooling kids, so it’s an enormous commitment and like many we’re growing weary and can’t wait to recharge the batteries over the festive season break.

To the Mastermind team (Melissa, Emma, Emily, Rochelle, Deb and Bec – now joined by Zuzana, Beth and Shannon) who have worked around the clock to deliver results and keep thinking of different ways of doing things, I thank you! For your persistence, patience, and trust to follow a vision to do things differently. It’s crazy at times and we’re always kept on our toes but i’m super proud of the work we deliver.

Our clients have always been part of our family, scattered throughout multiple wine regions, each with different tales and products to showcase. I am incredibly grateful for the trust you place in our team to partner with you to tell your stories, many clients who have done so now for almost a decade – thank you to Best’s Wines Great Western, Brown Hill Estate, Canada Bay Club, Cassegrain Wines, Coravin, David Hook Wines, Flowstone Wines, Frankland Estate, Holm Oak, Margaret River Wine Region, Nerada Tea, Redman Wines, Scarborough Wine Co and Sutton Grange. Plus, to all those brands and wineries who have trusted us over the last 13 years to assist with your marketing, or tuned into/ attended one of our training sessions. I hope we could share some nuggets of wisdom that were valuable and that we can continue to help provide guidance in the years to come.

And finally to my family and friends, my biggest cheer squad. Work is such a big part of what defines me, but it’s you who have my back and why I keep aspiring to do better to make you proud. My amazing husband Mark has the patience of a saint and is the yin to my yang. I could not do it without you by my side and you really live and breathe partnership, allowing me to pursue my dreams but keep me grounded. I’m so proud that my children (now aged 11 and 13) who have grown up watching me build Mastermind (and knowing more about marketing wine than most kids ever should be aware of) see that it’s all worthwhile and that hard work can be rewarded. And to my ever inspiring mum who has always encouraged me to reach for the stars – this one’s for you mum and a testament to your constant encouragement to keep educating yourself and striving to do better.

So thank you once again. I look forward to be able to catch up with many of you in person come 2021. Here’s cheers to the good things that have come out of 2020.