All Four Seasons without an Olive

My wife Megha, attended an event at Olive organized by Four Seasons Wines from United Breweries thanks to her new found friend Rushina (food blogger). While I usually write the reviews on Megha’s blog “Live to Eat!!!” now known as “I2Cook”, this was an all cooking blogger event with single representation and hence I gladly sat this one out. The event was a good one as brought out in the words of Vinda Dravid (food blogger): –

“Being an eager amateur at wine tasting and pairing, a recent Food Bloggers’ Dinner at Olive, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai, hosted by the acclaimed Four Seasons Wines of the UB group in India was an enlightening experience for me and most certainly a doorway into the mystifying yet alluring realm of wines.  It also gave me the opportunity to socialize with my fellow food bloggers.”

So what prompts me to write about an event that I never attended?

I am a digital marketing specialist and run campaigns for corporates through the digital medium. I have been a part of this trade for the past 6 years. So what happens when a corporate like UB is prompted to setup a PR event at an upmarket ‘Olive’ for bloggers. What do the stakeholders expect and are they getting it?

Why should we bother?

A blogger organised it and is a friend? Such events take a lot of work and co-ordination to setup as pointed out in the words of Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal (Blogger and organiser): –

“And what a crazy dew days it was getting it all together, with mails going back and forth between me and Melissa Serao of Grey, planning the where, when and how, planning menus and sending invitations. But it all came together in the end, thanks to Melissa who did all the groundwork and on the 19th about 18 bloggers (the most ever) settled down to a degustation dinner.”

It is human nature to look at the economic gain and react accordingly and bloggers are no different as pointed out in the words of Vishwas Kasat(Food blogger):-

“We were told to reach at 8 pm but I reached around 8:30 PM and as previous blogger meet at Indian Harvest I was almost the last one to reach. Settled down with fellow bloggers and then we were first given a menu which had a four course Salad, Starters, Main Course and Dessert (tea and coffee at the end but who is interested in that when one has wine)”

Kasat is really fond of food as his blog suggests and influenced by fellow writers but may be more interested in the wine than the olive.

It intrigued me to write when Megha explained the aftermath of the event and informed me that most bloggers felt that it may not be ethically right to write for free wine and is purely PR driven. This is not just her expression but is brought out in the words of Pranav Kacholia(food blogger) as well. The interesting part is the Disclaimer.

“What happens when you take a bunch of food bloggers and throw in a wine expert? You get the first Bombay Food Bloggers dinner of 2011. It was an event courtesy of the UB Group who wanted to introduce us to various wines, from their Four Seasons brand, that can be paired with the different parts of a full four course meal.

I have not reviewed any of the food or wines on this post. As this was a PR event it would not be ethical of me to do so.”

The disclaimer brings out the fact that the olive comes free with the wine. While I believe that the photos Pranav has put up are sweet wine which can be valued as payment for a good olive. I believe the PR guys would agree with me here.

Just to bring some perspective, the organising of olives costs wine that more than all the 18 bloggers present might sweeten or brew through their blogs to UB or Olive. It is a combination of several such olives that makes the wine worth the Olive for a corporate to brew bloggers.

So has the corporate or Olive made a mistake? I am sure that the PR agency would differ and call this more than an experiment. Digital media gives us the power to talk to specific people and bring affinities together. So who do you call for such an event? Was it incorrect to call Kalyan Karmakar for such an event?

“I was seated at a little table beside the main table. Caught up with a couple of old friends, Rushina and Jyotika. Wouldn’t have made it but for the earnest urgings from both of them.  Met some new folks – couple of charming ladies from the agency that organized the evening and a Chino German animator who was marooned in India after the film she came to make got delayed. I missed out on the wine lecture though. Well, as they say bad boys have all the fun.

Hopefully, looked enough of a ‘connoisseur’ to not make the sponsors question the organizers for inviting me.”

Kalyan like all the other bloggers present is a lover and promoter of good food as is brought out in his blog but could not bother differentiating between the non-existent olive and the wine on a no cash event.

The corporate invests in these olives to have influential bloggers taste their produce of wine and differentiate it from the olive for their readers who are waiting to choose. Has the wine turned sour? Not really. There are great bloggers out here in Mumbai and can write brilliant reviews on subjects that they know; like I believe Nikhil Merchant (food blogger) did who also attended.

As the 3 lakh odd bloggers in India evolve into a unified influential strength the corporates are bound to approach more bloggers to test, taste and affirm belief into their wine and olives. While these tests may seem free they should be obligatory to a blogger in the interest of the blogging community. PR is always going to be around to motivate you but should not influence your direction. That is what marks bloggers apart from the population. But you guys already know that because you have followers created out of sour grapes.

The bitter taste of not writing might be greater as the corporates will have less belief in the bloggers and may feel that they received less than their worth of olive. On the other hand the bloggers who did write will lose future wine.

While it is difficult for a PR agency or corporate to choose the right bloggers, we as bloggers must say NO when the subject does not auscultate a reaction to an olive. Will all the next four seasons remain without an olive is for bloggers to choose? Every olive counts and marks the growing strength of a blogger. I write reviews based on the feelings that the offering creates and will not be afraid to differentiate an olive from a wine or to call an olive the bitter taste of nature based on the nature of the barrel.