Marketing & PR: In-House vs. Outsourcing

Investing in who markets your brand is a personal choice that can be dictated by dollars. For the most part, many breweries when it begins eschews using their small base of capital to promote itself outside of word-of-mouth or free social media channels.
But for each brewery that spoke with Brewer, making the decision to go with a public relations firm to speak the brand for a wider market reach or working with a company to help mold the brand comes down to essentially time versus money. Having ​the time to properly approach and connect with your message and branding may mean spending money to have it happen. Erstwhile, sometimes the money isn’t there, so the time is carved out to achieve the needs.
As a small, but rapidly growing brewery​ ​without opening new markets​ outside of its home base, Montauk Brewing​ is highly focused and committed to ​its ​brewing ​while reinvesting ​capital into people and growth​ said co-founder Vaughan Cutillo of the Long Island, New York brewery​.
​“​We are fortunate in that there are effective ways to connect with our fans that go beyond paid marketing or traditional avenues,” he said, although he acknowledged that those that do go out of house to spread the word isn’t​ ​ineffective​ (“They can just be more of an investment.​“​)
​“​As co-founder of Montauk, I take the brand identity very serious and my job is to keep my finger on the pulse of the brand​,” Cutillo said​.
​He feels that social media works very well to communicate ​the Montauk story to fans​.
“But at the end of the day, you need an authentic story first — otherwise social media won’t do much​,” he noted​. ​“It was easy in our case, as we started the company as home brewers in my basement just a mile from where the brewery stands today. Myself, and my two co-founders grew up together, we are true locals and this is very important to our story.​“​
​The marketing strategy has been fairly simple​ for Montauk: brew the highest quality beer ​they can and honor ​their fans.
​With more than 55,000 followers on Instagram​, it can be a highly effective ​tool ​at going beyond beer.
​“​Obviously beer comes first, but I do my best to show the Montauk lifestyle to our fans​,” Cutillo said​. ​“In fact, the dog in the photos is mine and all the locations are mainly shot on my iPhone in Montauk without staging. That is just how we live our life out here and we like to think that by highlighting the culture of Montauk Brewing Company we will offer our fans a positive feeling/vibe when they see our pictures.​”
Cutillo​ said the liquid in the can is the most important​ thing to Montauk​. But with thousands of breweries and hundreds of options on the shelf ​the brewery and its staff is also committed to creating branding that ​stands out.
​“​We wanted a can that told a story, without having to get up close to read it​,” he said​.​ “You may have never been to Montauk, but the cans welcome you in, and the beer will keep you coming back for more.
​“​At a very simple level, our opinion has been: Why spend an enormous amount of dollars on a billboard if you can’t buy one of our six packs in the bodega underneath the sign? Eventually we may get there, but right now we remain focused growing distribution, telling our story, and sharing quality beer with our fans.”
Seedstock Brewery co-owner Ron Abbott made the decision with his team to outsource the marketing and PR efforts for the Denver brewery.
“We are a very small brewery and do not have the knowledge or experience on our existing staff,” he said. “Additionally, we also do not have the time.
“Hiring a PR firm has been a good move for us because it fulfills a critical function for a brewery. … every day we’re learning more about each other. Seedstock Brewery has a unique story to tell. We fit a little differently within the craft beer industry and we’re all learning together the best way to tell that story.”
Abbott and his crew chose to work with Lexa PR, which was local for Seedstock. He said they looked for experience, knowledge of the industry, and, of course, cost.
“We approve everything that goes out, so if something were to negatively impact our brand, it would be our fault,” he said.
​Both North Coast Brewing Company and its PR agency, Grady Britton, are BCorps​, so Deborah Moody, North Coast’s Marketing Director​​ said that since both organizations share the same values and ​its messaging is consistent with those values, ​they are very ​‘​in-tune​.’​ Although they use a PR firm to promote their message, North Coast opts to keep marketing in-house.
​“Marketing our brand includes what the consumer experiences when they come face-to-face with one of our beers,” Moody said. “Creating a label and packaging that tells a story about the brewery and the beer comes from a process involving our brewmasters, our internal marketing team, and graphic designers that have shared the brewery’s voice for over 25 years.”
She added that Grady Britton is integral in promoting the North Coast Brewing brand, telling its story and engaging fans.
She said it’s a collaborative effort, and both teams are experts at talking through the various options available in messaging.
“Our partnership has been strengthened by both team’s ability to remain open to new ideas,” Moody added.
Every month the PR agency provides a proposed scope of work for the upcoming month. The scope is constructed from the brewery’s content calendar.
“In discussing the work with them, we determine who can most effectively satisfy the tasks to provide the best possible campaign,” Moody said. “There is not a hard and fast rule for who does what.
“Every project is different and requires an equally unique look at the roles and responsibilities of both teams.”
At Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, Adam Martinez said that the breweries have been on both sides of the aisle.
“For the most part, we keep everything in-house as much as possible,” he noted. “Our philosophy has always steered us towards people that actually understand the brand, versus people that have “heard” of the brand.
“We have gone to agencies a handful of times when we feel we aren’t fully envisioning the project.”
When the San Diego-area brewery decided to create a third brand with The Hop Concept, Martinez said they brought in a third-party agency to “clean up our work.
“They took a well thought-out idea we had and added an outside perspective to really create an experience in both graphic design and their work with social media,” he said.
The people they have worked with have been ‘beer people,’ Martinez said, so it was pretty easy explaining where the brewery wanted to go with projects.
Plus, he noted, the price is much better when working in-house.
“You also have an employee that’s “invested” in the company culture,” Martinez noted. “An agency gives a fresh perspective on how the public will view something, but if that direction alienates staff by promoting something they don’t believe in, morale can take a hit.
“I imagine [agencies] all have something to bring to the table, but if I have to hold their hand to explain the brand and direction, I can get it done in the same amount of time in-house.”
That doesn’t mean how Martinez and his team operates is the ultimate solution. “Everything can be better,” he said. “More posts, more dynamic copy, more press releases, more contacts. But that’s what marketing is. There are no accomplishments, there is only progress. If you take the time to pat yourself on the back on a job well done, the person down the street is ten miles ahead of you. He or she saw your idea, thought of a way to tweak it to make it better and is already on their way to overshadow you. It’s what makes this gig fun and extremely frustrating.”

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