Ian Wisniewski talks to Jim Long,international public relations manager at Chivas Bros,based in London
IAN Some people think PR is just about organising great parties.JIM I’ve been in my current role since 2002, and my job is to help journalists from all around the world to get as much information as possible, and as quickly as possible, about the Scotch whiskies we make. So, it’s really trying to create that direct line of communication from journalists right through to the people who make the whisky, and in that way putting consumers as close as possible to them as well.Whisky is a brilliant subject because it’s very complex, and there are always new questions to answer, and our job is to keep answering them.IAN One aspect of this is that master blenders are on tour far more than ever before,hosting events and conducting tastings, so it’s now easier for journalists and whisky fans to meet them.JIM The good thing about my job is that I get to work with, and meet, all the people behind our brands, and we try to bring as many of them to the fore as possible.The other way to do it is to bring people to Scotland, and we’re trying to do that more and more.People from all around the world often go to the home of their favourite Scotch, and it’s something we’ve really been encouraging.IAN To what extent is interest in Scotch whisky growing among the world’s media?JIM Scotch whisky is having a great boom at the moment.It makes a very exciting day for me, because you talk to people from Asia in the morning, Europe at lunchtime, and the United States in the afternoon.Scotch whisky is a subject with a tremendous amount of depth and a lot of history, and there’s never a shortage of people who want to discover more, and we’re there to facilitate that process.IAN Is it too simplistic to think that providing more information leads to more media coverage, and so a greater interest in Scotch whisky among consumers?JIM Scotch whisky sales are rising so the two things go hand in hand.When a new part of the world is discovering Scotch whisky everyone in the Scotch whisky industry is keen to help them as much as possible, to explain the complexities so that they can start appreciating the differences in Scotch whisky, and start to choose their brands.IAN How does the motto, think global,act local, apply to PR?JIM You’ve got to look at what’s happening in each part of the country and each part of the world. Some markets are very interested in single malts and some are very interested in premium blends, some are interested in both.I’m very lucky to work with great colleagues around the world that I know well, and we keep in very close contact.We try and make sure that as much information as possible is available to start with, so part of our job is to constantly keep everyone updated, and give them a lot of background information on our products.We respect the press, their endorsement is incredibly important, so I’m there as the PR guy who works for the brand owner, we want to speak from the heart.IAN How about working with bars,which can be a great arena for consumers to discover Scotch whisky,and can buying by the glass provide the drinker with more opportunities to experiment, compared to buying by the bottle.JIM This is a great area for building your brand, it’s often where people first meet your brand, and conversations with friends in a bar, or with the bartender can be quite formative. So on the PR side we are keen to talk about our brands, whether it’s the latest cocktail you can make with Scotch whisky, or with single malts working with bartenders around the world to say, this is how you can explain the difference nuances between different whiskies.Every bar in the world is a natural home for Scotch whisky.IAN What about the importance of travel retail as an international shop window?JIM It’s an area where there’s a lot of buying of luxury goods, and Scotch whisky fits into that category.
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