One of the EWBC’s longest standing supporters (and we use “standing” advisedly), Alastair Bathgate (aka @tiptoptaps), posted an interesting question yesterday, addressing an important issue, the name of the event. We thought it deserved a fuller response to the one already posted in answer to Wink Lorch on Facebook, so here it is:
“The popularity of the European Wine Bloggers Conference is growing so fast I am expecting it to be leading the voting on X-Factor next week. [...] Yet it is going through something of an identity crisis. … All fair enough, but if it is not in Europe, attendees come from all over the world and are not exclusively focussed on wine, blogging forms only 10% of content, and it is not really a conference, don’t we have a problem with nomenclature?”
To answer the question, I need to explain a little about the genesis of the event and the thinking behind it.
THE STORY BEGINS …
The European Wine Bloggers Conference was born out of discussions started on a Facebook group for Wine Bloggers in 2007. It was through this that I met Ryan & Gabriella Opaz (we are true “facebook friends”). To cut a longer story short, we decided that Facebook was not a good way to actually MEET bloggers, so we should organise an event to give us a chance to talk & drink together. Thus, the concept of the “Wine Bloggers” conferences was born. This is where our brand story begins.
The EWBC stands for …
We hoped to find a way to bring people together from more than one country. We were writing in English, but we wanted this to be international, but also close to the wine regions we are familiar with. The obvious, though maybe not far-sighted, solution was to call the event the “European” conference because it sounded more inviting to the people we were mainly trying to attract – the neighbours we had never met.
It was never the intention to limit either locations, participants or wines to Europe, and in fact the first event had participants from 11 countries including outside Europe. It should, in hindsight, really have been the “International” event from the start.
What defined the “European” event was that we had to deal with participants with multiple languages, from different countries, and an industry unaware of social media. This made it important that we focus on building COMMUNITY first. We couldn’t jump straight to wine tastings, or talking about communication tools without first finding ways to bring people together. This helped to lay a strong foundation for the event.
In 2012 this is particularly of interest since we will, in essence, be taking the event to Asia. One can argue whether Turkey is European, Asian or both (or neither), but the location will be an exciting blend of both worlds; taking place on the Asian continent, but in a modern city such as Izmir, while enjoying the foods, sights and sounds of a cultural legacy important to both Asian and European history, and on the subject of wine, a product arguably seen as more “European”. Turkey is certainly close enough to Europe to be in accession discussions with the EU.
After five amazing years, the community is what makes the EWBC so much fun, and it is a global community, so the “European” moniker is misleading.
Everyone who comes to the EWBC is passionate about wine. Wine is what brings us together, what we share in common despite differences in everything else we might do; professions, language, culture, communication channel, etc.
Yet, the event is not just about wine. This is not a Wine Tasting event with content tagged on.
The EWBC has always been a conference about “digital communications” where the common topic is wine, and as such there are many ways to achieve this. Few bloggers were exclusively wine writers. There have always been food bloggers, travel bloggers, marketers, consumers, developers, archaeologists, producers who also make olive oil, and so on. In fact, as organisers we strongly believe that to really promote wine we need to escape the “wine bubble” and get other people talking about wine.
We have been incredibly lucky to find sponsors in Rioja (Dinastia Vivanco), Lisbon (Wines of Portugal), Vienna (Austrian Wine), Brescia (Franciacorta) and now Turkey (Wines of Turkey) that understand this and have wanted to participate in this event to give their wine stories a context and to become part of the community so that we can both learn from each other.
In other words, the event has a strong wine message, but it is not JUST about wine.
In 2007 and 2008, when the event launched, if you created content online you were a “blogger”. There were other tools, but this was an exciting time to create your own content channel, usually on a blog platform. Facebook was a clunky, limited way to interact with people and build conversations. Twitter existed, but was not yet mainstream. Blogging was “it”.
The event also come out of the “wine bloggers” group, so it was natural that we should use this term to mean “online communication”.
However, we recall discussing this issue even at the first conference in 2008 in Rioja. There were other ways to communicate about wine and we started thinking that we wanted to ensure we also included those without blogs or those considering starting one. The event was started by bloggers, much of the conversation was about blogging tools, but it not was a condition of entry.
In 2011 using this term is almost quaint. There are many ways to create content, and blogging is only one part, but there is no easy all-encompassing alternative term. That is why we now use the tag “Digital Wine Communication”.
The main event has always been a 2 or 3 day “conference” programme including presentations, tastings, parties, unconference sessions, lectures, performances and more. However, the “C” in EWBC should always have been “Community” because the days of the event were really as much about the opportunity to meet face to face and share stories and wines as they were about traditional conference content.
Since the beginning the events AROUND the conference were equally important; there’s the amazing ‘United Nations of Wine‘ event that takes place just before the content where participants bring a wine to the “BYOB” to share with friends; there’s the exhibition area where we can meet wineries and wine related businesses and learn about their stories; there are also the post-trips to wineries, regions and tourist locations that are great opportunities to learn about the host venue.
This is not a “conference” in the sense that most people understand the term. It is an annual gathering, a community event, a learning opportunity full of potential to discover great things and make new friends. Does the term do it justice?
And yet … even if we are neither just European, nor just about Wine, for more than Bloggers, and not simply a Conference, is there another name that captures the essence of the event that has emerged under the banner of “the EWBC”?
We have been thinking about this a LOT, and we think that the strapline “The Digital Wine Communications Conference” is a more accurate description of what we DO, … but “the EWBC” is who we ARE. We do not want to lose this legacy … and so for the time being we have kept the term even if we no longer think of it as an acronym, but more of a badge we are proud to wear.
So, in summary, for 2012 the event will be branded: EWBC, the Digital Wine Communications Conference
We hope you like it.