Demonstrates Environmental Credibility for Kendall-Jackson.
In 2004, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Ltd. (K-J) was contemplating the development and use of their owned and leased properties in the fertile wine growing area of Santa Barbara County, Calif., an area featured in the 2004 best film Oscar nominee “Sideways.” The twist for K-J, however, was that the land was habitat to the threatened California tiger salamander. To its credit, the company understood its responsibility as stewards of the land and began talks with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) for an agreement that would both enhance the habitat while still allowing for the potential of vineyard development. The company was prepared to expend tremendous resources to the initiative.
K-J called on Fineman PR because of the agency’s extensive record of helping companies get their stories told fairly in the media and general community. The strategy was to help K-J get “out in front” of the issue. Working in cooperation with the local office of the USFWS, K-J took great pains and expense to conduct a number of geologic surveys and environmental impact reports.
K-J was readied to serve as an important example, for local and national audiences, of how a corporation can act in the capacity of a “white knight,” using its resources to solve a problem that concerns the community while still allowing the land to be a resource for its owner.
The majority of the subject land was marked as protected and enhanced for the salamander. Not only would the designated acreage remain undeveloped, the company would take on the responsibility, along with the local Sainz family from whom K-J was leasing one of the parcels, of managing the property for the salamander’s benefit.
With the accurate and positive reporting that followed, it was clear the careful planning and proactive communication program by company officials, with help from Fineman PR, had paid off. A key indicator of the success of this communications program was the absence of public criticism. Having gotten “out in front” with all the facts explained thoroughly, the partners to the agreement demonstrated credibility and left no opportunities for potential adversaries to misinterpret the story in a way that reflected badly on K-J.
In fact, among the most vocal of the company’s potential critics, an activist who had initiated court action asking that the entire property be barred from any development, was quoted as saying, “There’s room for the tiger salamander as well as the kind of growth the county envisions for North County.”