When Morgen McLaughlin announced she was leaving her position as president of Finger Lakes Wine Country back in April, a void was created in regional marketing. McLaughlin became Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Vintner’s Association in southern California. Her work had made a wide and powerful impact; more Finger Lakes wines were being reviewed by writers and critics. More conversations about the Finger Lakes region were happening on social media. The number of articles about the Finger Lakes region written in tourism magazines and newspapers across the country spiked, at least in part thanks to McLaughlin’s efforts.

In short, McLaughlin decided that buzz would beget buzz, which would eventually lead to more visitors and more purchases.

Finger Lakes Wine Country, based in Corning, has chosen Laury Poland to succeed McLaughlin in the role. It is fair to say that the two women are very different.

For starters: The New York Cork Report has been unable to get a hold of Poland since her elevation to the position at the beginning of October. McLaughlin is a constant present on Twitter; Poland does not tweet, as far as I can see. McLaughlin responds reasonably quickly to email. I emailed Poland directly last week and have not heard back. Lenn Thompson has also reached out. We understand that Poland is busy with the work of settling in to her new role. However, I’ve been in touch with other FLWC staff members, and they’ve been almost instantly responsive.

“Laury brings a fresh perspective to our marketing strategies and will continue to do so as we move into 2014 programming,” wrote Christina Chely, FLWC’s Director of Media Relations. “Laury has a passion for the region that she first developed as a visitor. Now, as a member of our amazing community, that passion will continue to grow and develop.”

So who is Laury Poland?

We’re told that Poland was responsible for all advertising and promotions initiatives of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) Bureau of Marketing Communications, Branding, and Design. She took courses in wine education. We’re told that while with PLCB, Poland created new media campaigns and website development, along with social media presence. She wrote, produced, and edited video projects.

Privately, several sources tell me she understands the delicate dance of government relations, with a keen understanding on how to shake dollars loose.

You can’t blame Poland for the sins of PLCB, of course, but it’s worth noting that PLCB has been a source of heated controversy. It’s worth reading this piece by our friend Joe Roberts on Palate Press. Roberts isn’t the only one who has maligned PLCB as a body that stifles wine buying freedom. I’d like to ask Poland if she would support similar efforts in New York state.

McLaughlin, who noted that FLWC is in solid position in regards to annual budgeting, said, “I wish her the best of luck navigating the waters and propelling the region forward. It is an honor to help promote one of the most exciting wine destinations in the world alongside a committed and passionate staff.”

So what is Poland planning to do? We’ll let you know, just as soon as we hear from the new president of a very significant organization.

Update (10/23/2013): Evan and email from Laury earlier this afternoon with answers to some questions he posed:

How are things going? Are you gaining a level of comfort?  I have found the Finger Lakes to be warm, welcoming and incredibly inclusive.  My level of comfort increases every day as I get the opportunity to meet winemakers, community leaders and business owners who make this area thrive.
How familiar were you with Finger Lakes wines before taking this position?  My familiarity with Finger Lakes wines is primarily as a repeat visitor to the region.  With Central PA being so close in proximity, I have spent many vacations touring the area and enjoying some of my favorite cool-climate wines produced in the Finger Lakes.
How will your work in PA help you in this role?  The role I held in the wine and spirits industry in Pennsylvania was a good entre into this opportunity.  I was primarily responsible for advertising and promotions for the PLCB’s 608 retail outlets and online store.  During my time there I had the opportunity to complete coursework in wine education.  The best education, though, will be visiting our wineries first hand as I make my way through the region.  I look forward to taking my brand management experience to further the initiatives of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association.
Do you plan to become more active in social media?  As you are aware, Finger Lakes Wine Country is incredibly active in social media and boasts remarkable followings and fan bases across multiple social media platforms. My predecessor, Morgen McLaughlin, is a savvy social media pioneer for the wine industry and she was responsible for this region being early adopters in the social media arena.  I have every intention of working with an incredible staff of professionals to take what Morgan began and continue to propel it forward.
Finally, what do you see as the region’s biggest challenge?  I see the region’s biggest challenges as an opportunity.  Our purse strings are tighter these days, which affects how tourism dollars are allocated.  My role as president will be to find creative ways to generate sustainable funding to continue our efforts of tourism marketing of Finger Lakes Wine Country as a destination.
Thanks so much for reaching out to me.  My contact information is below.  I welcome your calls of emails at any time thanks again for your warm welcome to the region.