COVID-19 Update 2 April 2020
As COVID-19 shuts down industries across the country, Australia’s grape and wine sector is very fortunate to be recognised as an essential industry by the Australian Government. This recognition allows businesses to assemble the people they need to harvest, transport and crush the grapes that will make vintage 2020.
However, without clear and well-implemented protocols to manage risks associated with infections in the vineyard, the winery and the community, our sector’s ability to continue operating could be curtailed or halted by Government decree with little notice. To put it bluntly, in the current environment, our essential industry status is a privilege granted by the Government. For individual businesses, it is also critical that all employees, whether employed directly by the business or through labour hire companies, are treated the right way.
Australian Grape & Wine has designed this Checklist and Risk Management Template, specifically for small and medium grape and wine businesses, for you to use when designing your risk management plans to ensure we maintain our Essential Service Status.
We encourage all businesses to refer to the materials on the COVID-19 page, including information about what businesses need to do if one of their team members contract the virus, general guidelines about disinfection and cleaning, and links to official government advice. Drawing upon this information, and that provided by official government websites like www.business.gov.au, you should assess your own requirements and develop a risk management plan for you, your team, and critically, your region.
It’s time to ensure your marketing is responsible.
In our update on 30 March 2020, we advised you of the DrinkWise campaign of drinking in moderation, with the potential misuse of alcohol in situations of self-isolation. We are pleased to provide you with the remarkable uptake this campaign has had since its launch not even a week ago. Please see the message from DrinkWise below:
"The messages were well received across media – cutting through in these times of uncertainty, with reach including Online: 2.3m (unique); Social: 2.2m+; Radio: 27m (cumulative); Press: 568,000+. A selection of the digital and print media highlighted at the end of this email (click through available on several to access articles/posts).
Utilising emergency doctor and DrinkWise Ambassador, Dr Andrew Rochford, to lead messaging allowed DrinkWise to speak to COVID-19 and moderation, resulting in more interest and articles in The Australian, Herald Sun (syndicated nationally), Daily Mail Online, as well as national AM and FM radio. Industry trade publications also lent their support, including Drinks Trade and Brews News providing coverage.
Thank you for the support you have shown in sharing the resources across your social profiles and to Australian Grape & Wine for their additional media release, emphasising the messaging. Our partners have actively supported these resources as well, with the NRL promoting the videos to their 2.2m followers on Facebook. The NSW Government Agency for Clinical Innovation has also shared the videos on their social accounts."
- Drinking in moderation during COVID-19: acknowledging that the implications of COVID-19 can create stress and anxiety, encouraging people not to use alcohol as a short-term fix and reminding Australians to support one another.
- Parental influence: reminding parents about the importance of being a good role model for their children, especially during social isolation.
- Guidelines: addressing the importance of moderation during uncertain times, reminding Australians about the (proposed) alcohol guidelines and urging them to seek help if needed.
Despite this great work being done by industry, the anti-alcohol lobby and public health advocates are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a trigger to increase regulation on alcohol sales.
This messaging is being pushed now, placing pressure on governments to continue restrictive measures following the end of the crisis. It is very important that we continue to employ strong alcohol marketing standards.
Australia has a quasi-regulatory system for alcohol marketing: guidelines for marketing have been negotiated with government, consumer complaints are handled independently, but all costs are borne by industry. The ABAC Scheme is the centrepiece of Australia’s quasi-regulatory system and is administered by a Management Committee which includes industry, advertising and government representatives. You should refer to this to ensure you comply with the Code http://www.abac.org.au/
It is particularly important that your social media posts are also appropriate, as they provide an easy target for the industry’s opponents.
We understand a huge part of social distancing is keeping in touch through digital channels. We also understand it is important to reassure your international customers of the quality and continuity of harvest. Digital marketing is vitally important in your brand strategy. However, you must be extremely cautious with your images and copy. The single goal of government is stopping the spread of the virus, and everything else is discretionary.
As an industry, we need to ensure our social media use reflects this message as well, otherwise our ability to continue with harvest and processing is at risk. The following guidelines are those put in place for the New Zealand Industry and are worthwhile considering:
- Social distancing - Please consider the following guidelines before posting or distributing content over the lockdown period. Please immediately review all your scheduled brand posts. We recommend not posting any harvest behind-the-scenes pictures during the lockdown period out of respect to other industries that have closed.
- Eliminate Risk- If you are going to use a stock photo or a photo taken at an earlier date, ask yourself if an image could illustrate the company is in breach of the essential business criteria (e.g. the 1.5m rule). Does the image show people socialising or congregating at your vineyard or winery?
- Be Kind - Please be extremely considerate regarding your messaging and posts. We do not want to be seen either celebrating or oblivious to our privileged position, during such a sensitive time in our communities. Help each other. We need to work together.
- Don’t joke - It would be best if we leave our consumers to post things like ‘thank god there’s wine’ and ‘wine is an antidote to COVID-19’. Please don’t be seen to be endorsing or sharing these types of posts.
- Inform employees - Whether you have a formal social media policy in place or not, it is very important to inform your workforce of the new way your business is intending to communicate to your online community. Please urge them to follow suit. You should make sure any harvest social media groups are closed to the public and monitor that the posts follow these guidelines, as people can still screenshot posts and share them. If in doubt, or if you’re not sure if your own posts or captions could be viewed as insensitive, please don’t post until the lockdown has been lifted.
It would also be wise to add these to the list:
- Don’t promote stockpiling of alcohol and heavy drinking while in isolation at home.
- Review the age gating of your website.
Australian Tax Office Support
We have been working with the ATO to see what relief they can provide wine businesses.
The ATO’s “Dealing with Disasters” page has a new COVID-19 specific link: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/COVID-19/
The contact details to request tax payment deferral is found on this page: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/COVID-19/Lodgment-or-payment/. See also the heading “Payment deferrals” on that page.