Emma Roberts is director of Eviva Communications working with clients that range from Picpoul de Pinet to Japanese spirits. Amanda Barnes interviews her to find out more about how she got into the wine world and how lockdown has changed the industry from her perspective, including the positive side of helping the planet, riding a bicycle and working in your pyjamas.
How did you get into the wine world? What attracted you to work in the industry, or what was your ‘ah-ha’ moment in wine?
Like many people in the wine world, I fell into it. I was temping in London after university and asked the agency to place me in assignments that required French. An opportunity came up at Sopexa and by chance they were recruiting for a PR assistant and I got the job. Shortly afterwards I was working at the launch of the new AOC campaign at a beautiful venue in Chelsea and had to consume delicious French wines and food whilst chatting to people and having fun….well I’m not sure that was exactly what I was meant to be doing, but I knew I’d found my ideal job, and my love of wine has just continued to grow!
What do you foresee being the greatest challenges coming out of the coronavirus crisis for wineries and brands? Will it change your approach to wine launches and events in the future?
Uncertainty has to be the main challenge as none of us knows from one day to the next at the moment what is going to happen. This makes forward planning very hard. For campaigns, and particularly events that Eviva has got coming up in the months ahead, I’ve made sure there is an online contingency version in case the real-life version can’t take place.
And the other is that the wine world in particular functions around people. Inside the industry it’s how business and PR are done, and outside it’s how wine is consumed. So let’s hope that there can be a lot more social interaction in the months to come…
Do you think there have been any silver linings to the way the wine industry has responded to the pandemic?
I know it’s been a very tough time for many in the industry and that it will continue to be for quite some time to come, but I think we are a close knit industry and we will be there to support one another. I know that’s certainly the case for the wine PRs for which I am very grateful. But I think there have also been a lot of very positive changes that were long overdue, enabling the UK wine industry to catch up with others, for example the digitalisation of events and online communication and marketing.
In terms of tastings, I think we’d got into a bit of a ‘this is how we’ve always done things’ rut, although it’s not easy when clients insist that’s what they want! But I think everyone’s now realised that there is scope for doing things differently and more cost-effectively online. Zoom meetings have also been a revelation, particularly with clients based overseas who you don’t get to see that often, except when you forget and you’re still in your pyjamas!
There’s a whole raft of new podcasts, Youtube channels, insta lives and so on hosted by wine writers, communicators and producers popping up all over the place which opens up lots of new outlets for wine PR and is a really effective way to educate consumers and stimulate their interest in wine.
And then, of course, there’s the fact that we’re all flying a lot less than we were (though not by choice!), which is of course much less fun and a Zoom press trip is never going to convey the feeling of actually standing in the vineyards with the winemaker, but for the time being at least, and hopefully in the future to some extent as well, it is helping to save the planet!
What’s coming up in the rest of 2020 for Eviva?
We’ve got lots coming up starting with the launch of a new range of artisan Japanese spirits from our new client, leading international drinks distributor, the Marussia Beverages group which we’re really excited about!
Next we’ll be running a media relations campaign for Famille Helfrich, the independents and on-trade arm of Les Grands Chais de France focussing on wines from the indies, as well as getting ready for a major relaunch of GCF’s top selling French brand in the UK, Calvet, in 2021.
Towards the end of this year we’ll be hosting a tasting for Badet Clément’s recently repurchased family Burgundian estate, Edouard Delaunay, details tbc and we’ve just found out that we’ll be launching the first ever UK PR campaign for Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet, and in between all of that hopefully spending some time on a beach somewhere!
As well as working in PR and events in wine, you are a wine judge and writer with a particular focus on gastronomy, as I understand. What have been your go-to recipes or food and wine experiences during lock down? Is there anything you discovered or severely missed?
I’m still a judge at the IWC and I’ve always been a foodie and I used to review, quite a while ago now, for the Time Out Eating & Drinking Guide, the AA Restaurant Guide and occasionally Decanter. One of the things I have loved about lockdown is having more time to cook properly and try new recipes.
I like dishes that are packed with flavour and I particularly enjoyed a wild garlic risotto that I discovered on Peter and Susie’s Wineblast podcast. I also love baking, and being gluten-free I haven’t had any trouble getting hold of flour, but my waistline is definitely feeling the effects now!
Beyond wine and work, what do you like to do in your spare time? You mention in your bio drawing heads… tell me more about that! Do you draw complete people, or just heads? I’m intrigued!
When I’m not supping wine, I can often be found practising yoga in India, whizzing around London on my bike which is one of my positive new lockdown habits, or drawing heads! I’ve always loved art as my dad was an artist and dragged me round lots of galleries when I was younger much to my intense boredom at the time! For some reason heads have always fascinated me, as a teenager I used to draw popstars from album covers and now I draw from life in a studio. I find it incredibly absorbing and challenging and nothing beats the feeling when you know you’ve done a good one and really captured the model!