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$10,000 to Twitter about wine? It's a 'Really Goode Job'

A Sonoma County winery is on a nationwide search for a social media maven to generate buzz about its products. Hundreds of applicants have submitted videos.

June 05, 2009|Tina Susman

NEW YORK — Are you a "people person"?

How about an "excellent communicator"?

Do resume-wrecking cliches like those make your thumbs twitter with excitement? If so, you may be just what California's Murphy-Goode Winery is looking for.

In a sign of the cyber-crazed times, the Sonoma County winery is on a nationwide hunt for someone to fill its "Really Goode Job." The successful applicant will earn $10,000 a month to tweet and use other social media skills to generate buzz about its reds and whites.

The job, which begins in August, offers no health insurance and lasts for six months. But by the time auditions were held this week at a restaurant at New York's Grand Central Terminal, at least 747 people had posted videos in hopes of impressing winemaker David Ready Jr.

Hundreds more are expected to submit applications -- videos no longer than 60 seconds -- by the June 19 deadline, either by posting them directly to a website or by going on camera at auditions across the country.

Ready said his idea was to "demystify wine" by using social networking via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites to spread interest among a crowd that might view the beverage as out of its league.

"This has never really been done in the wine industry," said Ready, a burly Minnesota native who sipped wine samples as hopefuls closed in, hungering for face time with the man who might be their boss.

"It's so the new frontier," said Tara Moncheck, who planned to submit a joint video with her fiance, Rayhan Daudani.

"We obviously didn't expect double salary or anything," Daudani said when Ready emphasized that he wanted just one online guru to send out messages and thoughts on wine to people around the globe.

The job-seekers who showed up at Michael Jordan's Steak House were a reflection of the recession's indiscriminate effect: They included a former investment bank vice president who was laid off after 20 years, two young journalists (Moncheck and Daudani) and passers-by who couldn't resist giving it a shot, like Stefanie Johnston.

"I love wine!" Johnston burbled as she stood before the camera on a balcony overhanging Grand Central's main concourse. As proof of her devotion, the New Yorker pointed out that she even had a copy of Wine Enthusiast in her backpack. "Look, I'm serious," she said, pulling the magazine out after her audition.

Another drop-in spoke of his varied passions and talents, but he forgot one important thing. "I should have told him to say something about wine," the videographer muttered as the man walked away.

Ready said he got the idea of hiring a "lifestyle correspondent" via video application from the Australian state of Queensland. Early this year, tourism officials there caused an online sensation by inviting people to submit videos for "The Best Job in the World." The gig: spending six months as caretaker of a palm-fringed island surrounded by azure sea, and using blogs, video updates, photo diaries and other online media to promote tourism. More than 34,000 people applied for the roughly $120,000 job, which went to Ben Southall, a self-described adventurer from Britain.

"We thought, 'Wow, can we apply this to the wine industry?' I guess we can," Ready said as applicants joined him in sipping samples of Murphy-Goode wine. Many said they had learned of the job -- which calls for an imaginative, inquisitive "people person" who is also a communications whiz -- through e-mail lists or from friends.

Ready said the main weakness among the applicants so far was their inability to show a passion for wine or for life in the bucolic Alexander Valley, not their mastery of the Web as a marketing tool.

In one video, an applicant named Valerie stood with a fat snake coiled around her neck to show her fearlessness in the face of one element of the job: monitoring the creatures that live among the vines.

"I want to be able to go into the vineyard and get my hands dirty and stomp on some grapes," she said as the serpent's head bobbed beside her left ear.

"Already my name makes me the perfect candidate," said another applicant, noting her last name was Vinograd: "As in 'vino,' as in the Latin root for wine."

There has been plenty of humor. One applicant gargled with a bottle of red wine, and another attempted to capitalize on Ready's devotion to his home state's NFL team by pouring wine into a Minnesota Vikings helmet and drinking from it.

There also have been some clearly Web- and tech-savvy applicants.

"I'm a Twitterer, a YouTuber, a Facebooker, a MySpacer, a Digger," said Clay, who also touted himself as a blogger, photographer, video producer and sommelier. "Did I mention I was a home-brewer too?" he quipped at the close of his breathless video.

But most who auditioned in person beneath the cavernous sky-blue ceiling and ornate chandeliers of Grand Central simply stood and delivered their spiels in between train arrival and departure announcements.

"I have over 1,000 friends whom I actually know," said Meredith Garcia, a fashion and style blogger, referring to Facebookers who accumulate "friends" they've never met. Actually, according to the site, Garcia has 906 friends.

Stacey Chait, who spent 20 years as a corporate events planner, read her pitch to herself over and over, trying to memorize it before she went on camera. After several takes, she was satisfied -- and hopeful that her background in planning events for the likes of former Vice President Dick Cheney, ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Clinton would give her an edge.

But, she admitted, "I don't tweet" and can't get excited about most people's tweets or Facebook status updates.

"If I was tweeting for Murphy-Goode, I'd have something to tweet about," Chait said. "But tweeting about my lunch today?"

--

tina.susman@latimes.com

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