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Officials from area distilleries share how to get word out about products

The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association held an event about how to create buzz in a crowded marketplace.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. October 4, 2019
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“I chose rum because I love rum.”

That’s what Troy Roberts — the founder, CEO and head distiller of Siesta Key Rum — told the audience at a recent gathering of the Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.

The event, which was about how to create buzz in a crowded marketplace, included a panel discussion with officials from area distilleries, Roberts among them.

Roberts started Sarasota-based Siesta Key Rum in 2007 and says it was easier to get press coverage then because there weren’t as many distillers operating at that time. “Print is powerful,” he says. “All it took was one article for me to realize, ‘Holy cow, this has a huge impact.’”

Another tool that’s been helpful for Siesta Key Rum sales is its very name. According to Roberts, the name is a big factor that has encouraged customers to pick it up off the shelf. What’s also helped move product? Bottle labels and tastings.

Carolyn Rudy, vice president of sales and marketing for St. Petersburg Distillery, told the group, “Tastings are one of the most important things. If they haven’t tried your product, how are you going to get them to choose you over a brand they know?”

Tampa-based Florida Cane Distillery officials agree. Lee Nelson, president and co-founder, says his company invested in events, and its tasting room generated sales.

The distillers also say they generate buzz through social media. With limited marketing dollars, Nelson says Florida Cane Distillery determined it could connect with people by building an army of Instagram influencers in Tampa. Roberts says he has also used social media, particularly Facebook, to get the word out about special events.

Beyond print and social media, the distillers have turned to awards to boost their brands, too. Early on, Roberts says, Siesta Key Rum entered competitions and received awards that helped build the company’s credibility. It also sent bottles of rum to professional reviewers whose positive quotes about Siesta Key Rum are now highlighted on the wall at the business.

But the most important factor for building success in the now crowded marketplace boils down to something simple, according to Roberts: “For us, No. 1 is making darn good rum.”


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