THE PLACE: UC Davis Extension Program

THE PROGRAM: PR and Social Media for Small Wineries

THE CHARACTERS: Rusty Eddy (Program’s Educator/Director), Paul Mabray (Social Media), Steve Heimoff (Traditional Media), Jose Diaz (Media Marketing), and me for PR

THE SCENE: The room was still… You could have heard a pin drop…

I had delivered Unique perspective as a PR person, José had just finished Marketing Through Social Media, and it was now Steve Heimoff’s turn to address Rusty Eddy’s UCD’s course, this past Friday. Steve did eventually get to How does a winery get from the minor leagues to the major?

Before I had begun, Paul Mabray had delivered what really became a keynote speech, more than anything else. Paul gave an overview to the class on the Importance of Social Media and The Role It’s Playing in the Wine Industry Today. Paul didn’t have solutions for how to use it; just that digital media is playing a larger role than most people understand. It would be up to the listeners to learn more; and to that end, Jose was prepared. (I noticed a lot of note taking during José’s presentation.)

I’m a huge supporter of both men, Steve and Paul. Each is brilliant in his own right. Each “gets” his own world better than anyone else I know:

  • Steve Heimoff is a pure, really well written and researched journalist, whose work I trust implicitly… He can’t be bought or sold, period. I get his work ethic from conversations we’ve shared. His thoughts are his own, and they’re as truthful as they could possibly be.
  • Paul is a pure, scientific research gatherer… He’s not going to bend the numbers to appease an audience. It wouldn’t be ethical, and ethics are as important to him as math. As he just said to me, “Math is math,” to which I added (from my kids’ 6th grade teacher Mr. Proctor’s musings), “And, math is life.” (We both nodded at this.)

As Steve was about to begin, I noticed – because I was sitting away from the head table, not wanting to be a distraction from what was about to happen – that Paul’s body language had become totally engaged. He was sitting right next to Steve, and had even turned slightly in his chair to face Steve. It made it a bit impending, and understand this was not Paul’s intent. Paul was really engaged and wanting to listen and understand what Steve was saying. These two men have been at odds for a while now. I’m not just gossiping here. It’s widely documented on the Internet; they’ve lightly sparred, each respecting each other, but still not being on the same wave length.

Their bone of contention:

  • Steve believes that social media is not building brands today, great wines via scores are doing that, as they always have.
  • Paul believes that great scores aren’t where it’s at today from traditional media days gone by; that social media with trusted friends spreading the word about wines they’ve tasted and love is the “new deal.”


To be meeting publicly in one place and to be having this moment be on stage, none-the-less… not just in a back room duking it out… was a classic, OMG moment. I hadn’t even thought about this before hand. I don’t think any of us did, except for perhaps – with a bit of tension – Steve and Paul knowing beforehand that they were going to be in this incredibly interesting situation.

And here it was, the moment both had perhaps long dreaded… Having to work it out.

Steve began… slowly… Paul drawing in a bit closer. Steve explained that there are those who think that he “hates social media,” when in fact he “loves it”…  Paul drew back a bit, because he got what he was needing to hear was said. But smooth sailing wasn’t over for at least the next 15 minutes…

Knowing what went down in those 10 minutes was worth the price of the ticket. It’s also why Rusty’s class continues to delight people each year (I’ve read the evaluations).

Steve did continue, and I’m not sure that the class really understood what was going on, because earlier Paul had asked how many people were seriously into social media, and very few hands were raised.

To be continued tomorrow…

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