For Your (Everyone’s) Eyes Only

What do fine wines, James Bond, Wikipedia, venture capitalists, control freaks and online privacy have to do with each other? In a few words: good public relations. This past week, I joined nearly 30 colleagues in Sonoma, California to explore the latest in online reputation management in today’s digital world.

The conference was hosted by Fineman PR for our worldwide colleagues of IPREX an international partnership of independent PR firms with extensive and varied public relations experience  and whose clients include some of the world’s most recognized corporations and brands.

Heidi White and Lorna Bush of Fineman PR

Good public relations is one thing. But good online public relations is another. With the tools, media and landscape ever evolving online, public relations programs must improve efficiency, accuracy and credibility in rapid fire timing. Yesterday’s tools (SEO) may not be the answer for tomorrow’s challenges. (Yes, you read that right… SEO is not the quick fix to your brand’s online existence.) And now, more than ever, PR must reclaim its role as the synchronizing agent for corporate communications online for the sake of credibility and consistency.

Between an insider’s taste of Sonoma’s wine country, and in good timing with the Sonoma International Film Festival, our group shared collective insights about best practices in online reputation management and learned from established leaders in online communications. The sessions (as well as the wine) did not disappoint.

Well-known wine writer and author, Paul Franson, and luxury wine executive, Jean Arnold Sessions, of Hanzell Vineyards, helped immerse our senses in the opportunities and challenges for historic wine brands as they strive to genuinely engage with consumers online in real time, while maintaining the prestige and tradition of their time-honored, barrel-aged past. (Talk about a dichotomy of pace/timing.)

Michael Fineman with Jean Arnold Sessions, of Hanzell Vineyards

Next, we spoke with Jay Walsh, head of Communications for Wikimedia Foundation. For anyone who has ever thought of Wikipedia as “just” an online encyclopedia, think again. Jay shared insights into the building movement for freedom of information online thanks to 92,000 volunteer “Wikipedians” and presented a compelling case for online media transforming as a result.   Owen Tripp, co-founder of, discussed the growing challenges of online privacy for brands and individuals and how to evolve strategic programs for the benefits (and privacy) of our clients while addressing nagging issues for search relevancy. Paul Mabray, CEO of VinTank shared en pointe social media tips for e-commerce and online brands.

In PR, we talk about tips and tools often. And for good reason: good PR doesn’t sit on a shelf until it’s needed. A good PR program is actively behind the scenes, building alliances, anticipating change, adding dimension and looking for the next big opportunity. As strategic counselors, it’s our job not to just keep up, but to keep an eye out for what’s next and evolve that conversation.

For more on the IPREX conference:

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