Developing a Consistent Format for Newspaper Columns

This is a challenge for any writer -- developing a consistent format -- and an absolute necessity. I learned this the hard way as an entrepreneur who started up a marketing consultancy in order to spend time with my toddlers and not have to bow to the inflexible schedules of Corporate America in the 70's. When I developed a standard format for my proposals -- the business took off!

It took about three columns before my format blossomed. I am limited to 600 words plus 1-2 pix, so that is a challenge too. My format is pretty simple:

1) Find an angle for the headline and first paragraph: something that is genuinely unique to the place where the wine tasting is taking place.

2) Get a quote in the second paragraph that sums up the mission statement of the winery/winebar/wineshop/restaurant. Sometimes for newly-opened venues, that's difficult -- because they don't always understand what their mission is quite yet!

3) Take a deep breath and start right in with the tasting notes. Don't be afraid to use the tools of the internet to see what other writers have said. Visit the websites of each winery too.

4) Find the "special wine" that has something unique about it. This goes beyond your tasting notes: it can be the unique vineyards from which grapes are sourced, the history of the founders of the winery, the difficulty of growing grapes in the mountains (my column focusses on venues/wineries near Lake Tahoe), etc. Once you've found this point of interest, give it a very full paragraph.

5) Soldier on with the tasting notes.

6) No false or fancy wrap-ups. I came, I saw, I tasted, I noted, and here's where and when you can go to do the same.

Working with owners, managers, and PR folks to set up tastings.


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