Women In Wine Interview : Zelda from Liquid Pulse.
Zelda Furstenburg is the owner of boutique Public Relations company Liquid Pulse Marketing and Communications. Zelda was one of the first PR’s to reach out to me and wanted to work with me.
Her passion for the wine industry is palpable. She has a way of finding her clients' “story” and telling the story well, so you feel invested in the brand. She revels in taking her clients' brands from zero to hero and rejoices in their success.
The past year was filled with challenges the wine industry, however Liquid Pulse never missed a beat, coming up with strategic communications strategies to keep her clients in the public conscious.
I chatted to Zelda about her passion for the wine industry and the special challenges that Covid and the Liquor ban has had for her and her clients.
What do you like the most about your chosen career path in Public Relations?
After having worked in the wine industry for many years, I finally decided to spread my wings and fly solo. Liquid Pulse is now 3 years young, and as the owner of Liquid Pulse, there are two things I enjoy most:
a. Being creative. Having a daily outlet to create provides an enormous amount of satisfaction. Creating blog posts, creating visuals, creating campaigns, creating strategies. The diversity of the brands in our portfolio also ensures I never get bored and there is always an opportunity to come up with something creative.
b. Enjoying the satisfaction of my clients’ success. If my clients are successful, then I am successful. When they phone you to thank you for a piece of work or when they write a testimonial that makes you feel all squishy inside – therein lies the magic for me.
What has been your biggest challenge in your industry?
For me personally, one of my biggest challenges (but also highlights) as a PR consultancy, was to take an unknown and brand-new wine and hospitality organisation, with no strategy and no plan, and to make them shine so much that almost everyone knows about it. Taking a brand from zero to hero provides a great deal of enjoyment. But it comes at a price – you often have owners who do not come from a wine or hospitality background, and it takes a lot of training, planning and convincing to make them understand what they need – because most of the times they don’t know what they need. Or they think they do, but generally lack the know-how to achieve those goals.
You have carved out a career specialising in doing PR for Wine Estates. Was this intentional? I have always had a flair for communications and brand strategy. Starting Liquid Pulse was a natural progression from where I was in the wine industry. I have literally started at the bottom, being a tasting room assistant, and working my way through the ranks of sales manager, marketing manager, direct marketer, and hospitality manager. I was also lucky enough in my career to have worked at some reputable wine farms such as La Petite Ferme, Chamonix, Glen Carlou and Lanzerac. A culmination of 15 years’ experience in various directions of the wine industry led to the birth of Liquid Pulse. All the various roles I performed had two things in common: they needed a marketing strategy, and it required communications.
You clearly have a passion for wine , along with the qualifications. Where did you get your passion for wine?
As a very young waitress, a guest once called me to her table and told me the wine is corked. Not knowing what it meant, I investigated further about its meaning and discovered a book on wine which I devoured in one sitting. It turned out that the guest was the marketing manager of Chamonix at the time. She became my first manager in the industry and taught me a lot. This was many years ago, when the KWV stopped offering their wine courses and the Cape Wine Academy was birthed. I enrolled in their preliminary wine course (today called the South African wine course), and from there on it just snow-balled into doing WSET courses. There was a time where I also lectured for the Cape Wine Academy, and sharing my knowledge and experience is indeed another big passion of mine. I would love to teach again.
2020 has really thrown you and your clients a few curve balls. How did you overcome these hurdles?
I am very lucky that all my clients were able to survive the prohibition, but I do believe that the full effects of it have yet to be seen. There are PR companies that were less fortunate than us, who lost clients due to an immediate cut in marketing budgets, which is very unfortunate. During crisis times, the marketing budget is probably the last budget item that should be reduced, not the first. Instead of abandoning all plans, plans just need to adapt and change. But to get back to your question – I have had a long-standing relationship with most of my clients and rather than being seen as a supplier, I guess Liquid Pulse is seen as an integral part of their marketing teams – I often work very closely with their creative agencies on various aspects of their marketing plan, whether it be new product development or advertising design. I constantly feed my clients information about the industry and industry developments; I don’t merely sit and wait until they give me a press release to write. I am by nature a goal-oriented person who loves to check things off my list, and this makes me almost obsessed and fanatical about reaching targets. I do believe that two things set me apart from my competitors: I have worked in the industry and understand the industry from the inside out, and literally from grape to consumer. The second is my open and honest communication strategy. If something does not look right, it is my job to alert a client and assist them to do better. If people know better, they can do better.
Social Media. I see that Liquid Pulse has harnessed the power of social media and utilise “Influencers”. How do you match up a brand and an Influencer for collaborations?
Not all brands are fit for all influencers, and vice versa. It really depends on the MESSAGE that we want to send out to the consumer – what is it that we want to communication for brand X or for a specific campaign – so it basically depends on the main objective. I don’t merely look at followers and numbers, I also look at detail. Will an influencer fit the product? Do they have a credible reputation? What is their niche? Have they worked on similar campaigns before and are they able to demonstrate an understanding of the industry or what is being required from them? A whole lot of factors are at play when collaborating with influencers.
How can Bloggers and Influencers work better with PR’s and brands?
Interesting that you ask, because I am in the process of writing an article about this for the Liquid Pulse blog which I will be sharing with you soon.
Which is your favourite hidden gem wine estate?
There are many hidden gems and I do find that those two words get used quite often. But for me, a hidden gem is literally a small winery that very few consumers know about, who are not selling or marketing mainstream, who are located off the beaten track, and who produces magnificent wines. One such winery that springs to mind is Ilse Schutte’s BEMIND WYNE from McGregor. But I do not believe in a thing such as one favourite. There are too many good ones around to single out just one.
What is your favourite budget friendly wine?
Sorry to disappoint you, but I also don’t have a favourite budget-friendly wine haha! If a wine tastes great and if I can afford it, I buy it. I won’t say I hardly ever look at price, but I never go for the cheapest wine just to save money. Wine is a luxury consumer good, and if I can afford a luxury consumer good, then I might as well not go for the cheapest. Budget-friendly is very subjective. For me a great-tasting rosé at R80 is budget-friendly, though someone else may not touch any wine under R150 a bottle.
South Africa has a rich wine heritage. Which wine pops to mind when we talk about a proudly South African wine?
The varietal Pinotage, Pinotage, and Pinotage. Without a doubt. I am a Pinotage patriot and I also love the wines it produces. If you give me half a chance, I will talk Pinotage and drink Pinotage. I just love it!
What advice do you have for young Public Relations Practitioners entering the job market?
Only two things will set you apart from your competitors: your niche and your service. Make sure you find your niche early on in your career and carve it out. You want to be known as a specialist in your field, not a Jack of all trades. The second is service delivery – be punctual, be on time, deliver that proposal and that report on time, go the extra mile for your clients. Basically, under-promise and overdeliver.
The wine industry has many career options for those who are passionate about wine and the industry. Wine Estates need Public Relations Practitioners and Marketers to get their product into the public eye. PR’s work with the media to bring attention to their client’s brands. If people don’t know about your product , how are they going to buy it?
Find out more about Liquid Pulse PR here : https://www.liquidpulse.co.za/