UnNoticed Entrepreneur - public relations for business

How "Drinking and Knowing Things" can be good for your business.

December 07, 2021 Jim James
UnNoticed Entrepreneur - public relations for business
How "Drinking and Knowing Things" can be good for your business.
Show Notes Transcript

How can combining opposites into your brand name help your marketing? That's just one of the insights I have from today’s guest, the bestselling author of Drinking & Knowing Things,
Michael Juergens. Michael runs the wildly popular Drinking & Knowing Things wine blog which was adapted into a book that provides 52 specific wine recommendations. He is the founder of the Bhutan Wine Company and is leading the development of the wine industry in the magical Himalayan country.

Based in California, Michael Juergens is a Certified Sommelier with the Guild of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Specialist of Wine, and a Master of Wine Candidate with the Institute of Masters of Wine.   Michael also owns the award-winning SoCal Rum company, which was recently awarded the highest point score in history for any Silver Rum. Michael Juergens is a professor at the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of CA, Irvine. He lives in SoCal, where he spends his time blind tasting and doing extreme sports. 


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Jim James:

Thank you for us on the UnNoticed Show today. I'm delighted to have Michael Juergens who has joined us from actually today from Pennsylvania, Michael. Thanks for joining us.

Michael Juergen's:

Thanks for having me.

Jim James:

Now Michael, you have written a book called drinking and knowing things. You're also a certified sommelier. You've also got the Bhutan wine company. You're an entrepreneur and a bestselling author. So what love to hear from you today is, you know, how you've got noticed with all of these businesses that you've been building. So where do you want to start with.

Michael Juergen's:

Why don't we maybe start with a bit of a, more of a macro view. which is, I know, have you read the book sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

Jim James:

Yes, I have, actually. Yes,

Michael Juergen's:

Okay. So you know how in it, he talks about the way that the sapiens really were able to defeat Neanderthals were they could tell stories, right? Like that was the competitive and they were dumber smaller, weaker, bad at everything, but they could tell stories. And so what I believe is that, that, somehow neurologically we're pre-wired. Around this idea of stories and we resonate well with them. So one of the things that I try to do in all of my businesses is tell some sort of a story. And isn't, it doesn't need to be long story. but some sort of story. that people respond to that differently than they might respond to other mechanisms. It's interesting. then they'll retell the story and those people will retell the story. And all of a sudden, now you've got brand ambassadors for you, just because you have a cool story.

Jim James:

Yeah, that's a really nice idea, actually. yeah. And when you, when you think about it, as you say, they talked in sapiens about how storytelling meant people could galvanize around a goal and the facts could change as time went on, but the overall mission and the story was the same. So do you want to tell us then one example of how you've built a story one of your many businesses? Because I know you have lots.

Michael Juergen's:

Yeah. I mean, I think maybe the easiest one is if we look at like the Bhutan wine company. And so for people that don't know about Bhutan, this idea of here's this hidden Shangri-La in the middle of the Himalayas and we're making wine. Like that's cool. for people who do know what Bhutan they have this idea in their head of like the happiest place on earth and, you know, these vistas, these stunning landscapes, then to sort of wrap, Hey, we're going to also put some wine into that. You know, now you've got some imagery around it. So either side that, the story that I'm telling, even in the name of the company, like the Bhutan wine company, we didn't try to come up with a fancy name, like it's right. Bhutan wine company, someone hears something to go, what the hell is that? Or they know what Bhutan need a week. Bhutan has wine, what are you doing? And it sparks the interest. And then you, you can tell as big and his brand, his story as you need to for that person. And sometimes I tell the 30 seconds we Bhutan story. And sometimes I tell the two hour Bhutan story.

Jim James:

how important do you think it is that you've juxtaposed elements that don't immediately seem to be, that they should be on the same Because time people dBhutanof wine, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, if people have even heard of it, do you think that adds to the. To the story or the

Michael Juergen's:

100%, 100%. If I said, oh, I have a French winery, then the story needs to be, oh, it was like this old vineyard from the 12 hundreds at the monks used to tend and I'm rejuvenating it and blah, blah, blah. Like there, it needs to be. More precise. But to your point, when people think of Bhutan they don't connect it to wine, either have never heard of it? They don't know what Bhutan is. And frankly, the first time I went there, I thought it was an island in Indonesia. We, I scheduled a trip thinking I was going to Indonesia and my girlfriend said, no, it's in the Himalayas.

Jim James:

Yeah. Cause there's Bintan and Batam, both off Singapore. Right?

Michael Juergen's:

Yeah. And those is what Iatought we were going. No, it turns out we're going to the Himalayas. So if people don't know what it is, it's, it's a sort of a, there's a, the curiosity takes over. but if people do know what it is, then it's, even more curiosity because they, in their heads, they have this picture of, of what we taught is, and then you bring up, we're building the wine industry. They're like, wait, what.

Jim James:

So you got this idea of a story and, and this juxtaposition of kind of the obvious and the, and the completely non-obvious, which makes this kind of intrigue but then what do you do with it? Cause that sometimes entrepreneurs are great with the, if like the headline story,

Michael Juergen's:

Right.

Jim James:

how you then take it out to the people that you need to hear it. Cause they're not all the same audience are there and they're not necessarily on the same place.

Michael Juergen's:

Yeah. So, that's a great question. And I think the way that I do it is I have probably five or six different stories related to Bhutan that I will tell different stories depending on the audience. And I'll give you like high levels of maybe three of them. So one is how many world can organically grow wine. They don't do it already. And the answer is not very many, like pretty much everywhere in the world that can already guys and hdoefor thousands of years. So this idea of you get a whole country, build an industry, look whatever you want. That's a fascinating story for an entrepreneur or an Here's the biggest pallet in the world. Do what that, whatever you want. There's another story that says, you know, you have Bhutan is doesn't measure. growth, they measure happiness, gross, domestic happiness, and that's one of the things they're known for around the world. So then the question becomes like, how does wine fit in with that that's strategy for that for a nation and the idea of wine, bringing people together and being this joyous thing and helping build bridges and, and helping communities. And you look at the cultural impact of wine and like places like champagne or burgundy. Oh, that's a very different story, but also very telling. And then you, you have this sort of environmental play, like Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. And it's on track to be the only, 100% organic country in the world. So how, how did bringing in some additional plant life for biodiversity and sustainability and agricultural, harmony and so I will tell different stories about Bhutan depending on my audience. And I probably have, like I said, six or seven. Ready to go, you know?

Jim James:

So Mike, that's actually really clever and that's really what PR agencies ask clients to do. According to the different media outlet to look at what the readers or the audience are going to be interested in. So you're doing that intuitively as well. Now you've also got the so Cal, company, which is the rum company, Southern California. I'm assuming that stands. How have you built the narrative or the story for a different business? Because Southern California famous rum. I don't know that it is.

Michael Juergen's:

no, it is. That's very different, very different story. But, but also you have some of the same juxtaposition aspects of it. Right? So wait a minute, Southern California. That's not not where rum comes from. So for us with the so-called rum, we were rated the highest silver rum. Ever in history from a quality perspective, 95 points. So the story around this is more about the Southern California lifestyle and this kind of capture the essence of beach and fun and Southern California. And you know, people from all around the world, everyone knows Los Angeles and people vacation I save up money for years to go visit Southern California. And I say, Hey, look, I've got this product that you could experience. Some of that. in a bottle, you know, and our, our label has, you know, sunsets and waves on it, but it also happens to be the best in the world.

Jim James:

Yeah, because otherwise rum is. preserver somewhere like Jamaica. there's an association isn't there with, with rum and that kind of lifestyle, taken it to a different location.

Michael Juergen's:

said, it's not the Caribbean, it's Southern California. And it's the Southern California version of that. but it's not, it's not gimmia right? It's the quality is super, super high and the story. fuse those two elements into everything we do, and if you look at like our marketing, we have a social media person that, that crafts, these clever photos and texts to sort of keep reinforcing this message. So you'll see, you'll see, a guy surfing, and, you know, and a cocktail. Like, Hey, you can do this.

Jim James:

well, so what's nice then is you're then also that you're taking that message across multiple platforms, right. Using it for the text, using it for the pictures, for the videos. And, and also I think. You've got a blog. You're an author. Can you just tell us, know, mighMike have you done that? Because you've obviously got a storytelling genius there. How are you then taking it off social media and make it into, for example, long form and short form content.

Michael Juergen's:

So I I'm, I'm what's called the master of wine certification. There's about 417 in the world. There's 57 in the United States. it's the highest classification you can get. And I had been pursuing that for a number of years and to that end, started just, my friends were bugging me about. Hey, tell me what wines I should try. Like you're the wine guy, let us know. And I'm like, ah, I'm not really responsible for figuring this out, but, okay. So I just started a little email that I sent to like 10 of my friends and said, Hey, you should try this wine. And here's why I think. And, and they said, oh, give us more, give us more. And they forwarded that to their friends and their, their friends forwarded along. And now I have like thousands of people from around the all my, on my blog, but I never intentionally set out to market it, frankly, quite the opposite. I never did anything to market it. What I focused on was creating true, authentic, genuine content for my friends. And I think There are many bloggers or whatever, who they measure their success in terms of number of subscribers or how much volume they put out there. I took a very contrarian approach to that. I wanted really true, authentic content, and I wanted it to get in the hands of people who were looking for that. and so I would rather have, you know, a thousand super engaged. People then a hundred thousand people who are deleting it every time it hits their inbox.

Jim James:

okay. That's yeah. So that's really fantastic. You say, if you visualize, and of course people call it an avatar, but I really actually liked the way you visualize it as writing for friends. And that may put your heart in it as well as your, as well as your, your spirit. If you don't mind the pun,

Michael Juergen's:

Well, and to that end, like I think one of the, when you look at like the comments on, on like my Amazon page, like everyone loves the voice. Like it's not snobby. There's a lot of F-bombs, you know, it's literally how I talk to my friends. And I think that because the topic is wine, I think the topic was like punk rock music. It, you know, it would be sort of less impactful, but it's, I took this thing that people think is snobby. And I talk about it

Jim James:

Yeah.

Michael Juergen's:

in a way that's not. And, and th that, I think that authenticity allows people to engage with it differently than they would engage with wine spectator articles or whatever.

Jim James:

And in a way it's another, at the risk of say it's another juxtaposition, isn't it you've taken perception of how wine would be written about and done it differently. So we're building a bit of a recurring theme here,

Michael Juergen's:

you know, I, I never put that together, Jim, but you're kind of right. I haven't been like just juxtaposing two dissimilar things, in all those examples that.

Jim James:

It was a very clever and creates this. I don't want to say idiosyncratic, view, but makes it very accessible. Right. It makes it notable. so in terms of your you're getting subscribers, because are. Which is in a way, the sort of the true definition of going viral is, is a, the cascade effect where people share because they like it and they want other people to read it. What have you done with that content? If you've got it? Cause you've got the book as well. And you and I were talking before we came online about, how you've consolidated and compiled and curated the articles. Do you want to just share with us,

Michael Juergen's:

Yeah. So what I did was, yeah, so it, it became, became very difficult to manage out of my inbox. So one of the things that I did do is I, I contracted with a company to build me a website where people could self subscribe. So you just go to it and you put your email in and there's no white, big signup credit cards. It's just, what's your email. You get to get started getting these things and doing that I think allowed people to afford it much more easily than someone gets it, and they're like, oh, this was cool. Like, I'm going to click on this and I want to subscribe before it would to email me and say, Hey, I'm so-and-so, could you please add me to your list? And, and so removing that obstacle, I think allowed me to get a bunch more, followers. And then the second thing that happened was, people would email me, they would find out about it later and they would say, Hey, can you email me all the last issues? And it's like now I'm not, I'm not your librarian. It's like, I'm sorry, you came late to the party, but. You know, and so after about the 403 requests for all the old articles, I said, okay, I'll make it easy for people. I'll just put 52 of them together and self publish it on Amazon so that you can just go grab it. and it just thinking it would make it easier for people. And then the book became a best seller, which that was the craziest thing to me. And all that says is I, I never set out to a best seller. Set out to make my life easy by stopping daily. You want old issues? Here's the first 52. Bam. That's out.

Jim James:

Okay. So the best seller thing, you know, I having launched a book, you know, myself September, and, I've been told, you know, you really do the marketing three months in advance. You need to get out to people, do reviews. So what's the secret? What was the secret?

Michael Juergen's:

I think the secret was is that I already had this captive audience that were, that really liked the content that was coming out and were asking me for, Hey, can you send me the back issues? So once I made it available, then, I already had a built in audience. And the second piece of this is that allowed it to be a very good book. very good. And for people that, my friend's a wine. Io, going to send him this book because he's going to think it's hilarious and also entertaining. And so I think that's, and I could even see, like in my book, sales Christmas time goes around, I they're spiking dramatically. And I know it's people are buying them at stocking stuffers. Cause they're like, it makes them look good. Like here's a check this out there. They're part of this in club that other people don't know about. And. Once again, that wasn't, it wasn't a strategy. I literally, I started doing this for fun and I still do it for fun, but the fact that people respond to it is just.

Jim James:

But isn't that perhaps partly the moral of the story, that if you're doing it for friends and you're having fun, people are looking for that right now, as opposed to a sort of an intense lead magnet funnel, know, piece of something to lead you to buy something bigger, right? Maybe that's part of the moral of the story is that.

Michael Juergen's:

Well, I think that like you have entrepreneurs say my goal is make a billion dollars. And so I need to think about, you know, where's a market niche that I can get into. I'm going to build this product to fill this niche and I'm going to do it. then they end up making an algorithm that, you know, connect printers, wireless, lead to phones, and they sell it to Google. They make a billion dollars, right? Nobody in the history of everybody wakes up in the morning, passionate about printing algorithm ever, but it them and they make a billion dollars me. I don't think that life, measure your success in that. And this probably comes from hanging out with Baton often. I think thuta really, you should measure your. By how happy you were in it. And the way for me achieve happiness is to do epic shit with cool people. And so I just focus on doing that and if the money comes, the money comes and if it doesn't, it does it, but what I want to do in the goal of And ever since I adopted that mindset, all of my businesses have explore.

Jim James:

well, I think we get more than one person. Who's listening to the show, reflecting on whether they're really doing. Great fun work with people that they love and enjoy. I have to ask, how did you then get into Bhutan? It's not as strictly speaking in the topic of how you get noticed, but it is in terms of mindset. I think so. How did you get into Bhutan? Just very quickly?

Michael Juergen's:

yeah, my girlfriend had read a book. well in high school, about a woman who moved to Bhutan and married a Bhutanese person. So she had always talked that we'd been together for almost 16 years, and she's been talking about it the whole time. So an opportunity came up to run a marathon in Bhutan been running marathons all over the world. And so I, I signed us up and as I mentioned, thought Bhutan was in Indonesia. I didn't even know. I just heard she was go. So I had got it for her as, as a present. And that's how we ended up at Bhutan for the first time. And then once I was there, I was like, wow, this place is amazing. They should have a wine industry. So I dealt with.

Jim James:

So I am going to come back to the nature of the content though, as well Mike, you talk about writing things that other people want to read opposed to things that you want to tell them. Right. There's a fundamental difference. We this often with RPR cour PR clients,'re like, I want to tell people I do this. So they buy it and we often say, well, actually we need to ask them what they're interested in and share that with them. It seems like you crack that code. Can you give us some guidance? Was it a different view of wine that you took? You took a different perspective, plainly.

Michael Juergen's:

Yeah. So when I first started really while, I winut and bought all the, in my books I could, and they were all very dry and boring. And what I wanted was a wine, like a story that captured my attention and taught me wine, but not in a dry way that book didn't exist. So I wrote one, I wrote a story about like the, it was, fictional novel about the secret underground world of high stakes gambling on wine run by the mafia. Like that's the story I wanted to read, but it didn't exist. So I wrote it just for fun, just like to do it. And, and then that book had a lot of great success room was like each write another one. So I, I wrote a couple more books once again, that I wanted to read. It didn't exist figured it like I'd have fun doing it. And if people liked Cool. And then that sort of led to, Hey, send us some wine recommendations, which led to the blog, which led to the next book, which, you know, it's, it's sort of, I have this theory that the, the universe is kind of like a whitewater rapids. it's going to take you somewhere. And the question is, is how fast can you get there with as little bruising as possible? And if you're, if you're in the whitewater rapids and you just follow the flow and you steer and you nudge a little bit, you get to the bottom fast and it's fun. But if you paddle and you try to go sideways, you get banged up and you get exhausted and you're fighting it. And so I kind have maybe 10 years ago said, just, just. Go with it. And that's the whole, every book I've written sort of built on the last one and I just sort of went with it.

Jim James:

Michael Juergens that is fantastic. Both life theory, but also you've given some really great insights and always going to remember this juxtaposition how you're the, the obvious and the not obvious together many ways. can people get hold of you?

Michael Juergen's:

certainly the, the Baton wine company, Bhutan wine.com or @bhutanwine on Instagram. So Cal rum.com or @soquelrum.com or drinkingandknowingthings.com or at drinking and knowing it's really pretty straightforward, you know? And I, and I encourage you. Yeah. If you want to see what's going on with any of that stuff now, or send me an email, I, I, I will talk to anybody about any of this stuff all the time. I'm highly accessible and I just we're doing cool stuff and I I'd love, I'd love talking about it.

Jim James:

Well, Michael, thanks for sharing. I've really enjoyed our conversation and there's a whole nother conversation about how you manage multiple brands as well, but we've only got 20 minutes. So thank you so much for joining me from the east coast, rather than the west coast where you you so much for joining me today on the UnNoticed show.

Michael Juergen's:

Thanks again, Jim.