A Great PR Guy Is Gone — And Why It Matters

harveyImageHarvey Posert Jr. died on October 3 in St. Helena after a brief illness. At the age of 84, he’d lived many lifetimes, from a privileged childhood in Memphis to college at Yale to several years in military counter-intelligence in Europe. Then there were the phases of his career, from the copy desk at The Memphis Commercial Appeal to working for Dan Edelman in New York and San Francisco, before coming to wine country to represent Robert Mondavi and later Fred Franzia, as well as numerous others.

Harvey was a friend of mine for more than 25 years. I was both a professional colleague and a personal friend. By now you might have read articles about him which have appeared in The Wine Spectator, the Napa Valley Register, Napa Life and Wine Industry Insight. In the coming days there’ll be many more tributes, I’m sure.

Pardon the cliché: Harvey was the last of a breed, a giant among men—whether we’re talking about the wine industry or the world of wine PR. What does that mean? He was a thinker; he was also an enormously astute judge of character and personality; he was also someone who shaped our history as wine marketers. He literally created trends to shine a light on his clients.

You can read elsewhere about the specific programs he dreamt up and the numerous achievements of his career. Here are

10 Things I Learned From Harvey

1. Do The Work

Roll up your sleeves. Do the research. Write the materials. Be courteous to the client. Get the work out in a timely fashion.

2. Open Your Eyes

Read everything you can read. Talk to people. Be curious. It’s all ‘grist for the mill,’ the backbone of your creativity.

3. Every journalist matters

No one is too ‘little;’ if you identify yourself as a writer, you’re welcome in the tent.

4. Find the humor

Cultivate a big sense of humor. You can find it everywhere. It’s a leavening agent, a humanizing factor, a common denominator.

5. Standards

Be on time. Be courteous. Mind your manners. It matters.

6. Stay in touch

You never know when a writer will re-appear somewhere; never jettison a writer after having worked together, even if the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.

7. Be modest

PR people aren’t the story; the client is. Be present but don’t look for the limelight.

8. Don’t overestimate but don’t underestimate your audience.

A press release always has to include the obvious as well as the news.

9. Content IS “king”

Be known for your substance, for ideas and programs which have merit and meaning.

10. Niceness counts

Make sure you thank a writer once a story appears. Think of other gestures to express your appreciation. Be human.

How appropriate that Harvey suggested that donations to honor him go to The American Civil Liberties Union.

18 thoughts on “A Great PR Guy Is Gone — And Why It Matters

  1. Harvey was exceptionally generous with his time and advice when it came to other PR people. I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of his counsel and gentle nudging over the years and will always be grateful for his support. He was indeed the last of a breed and a giant in this business. This post is a very fitting tribute to Harvey and one he would certainly appreciate. Thanks, Julie Ann.

  2. Beautifully stated and like the top ten. He was my hero and mentor. The “Force” had a change for sure last week. I miss him and we’ll all miss him. Cheers to Harvey!

  3. A fitting tribute and a fitting primer for anyone going into public relations. Harvey not only preached these points he lived them. Thank you for posting this, Julie Ann.

  4. This is a lovely tribute and an actionable set of reminders. I had the pleasure of working on a project with Harvey many years ago when I lived in Northern California and learned a lot from him during that time.

    As a reminder, for more Harvey wisdom, check out the book he authored with Paul Franson, Spinning the Bottle.

  5. I share your sentiments and those of my fellow commenters. Thank you, Julie Ann. Well-stated. A fitting tribute to a humble king and mutual friend. (He always spoke highly of you.) Going to share your Top 10 list (which is a great PR primer) with my Dad, who was a corporate PR guy from that same era and ethic. They enjoyed meeting each other years ago. I always enjoyed my time with Harvey. I learned so much, and we always lived point #4. I am sad that there will be no more meals or laughs together. The world is a better place for his having been part of it—as are our worlds for knowing him personally and professionally.

  6. Well stated, Julie! Harvey would’ve appreciate your tribute and would have gotten a kick out of you attributing this Top Ten List to him.
    Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work and carry on!

  7. Harvey was arguably the perfect wine public relations person; smart, creative, generous, thoughtful and ethical. It was my honor to know him. I would add one more item to Julie’s list: Listen. Harvey was a good listener. Being a good listener often is essential for PR success.

  8. Dearest Julie Ann…looking back on Harvey’s special brand of kindness to us….one of the wine world’s greatest teachers and mentors of all time….thanks for your lovely tribute, all fondest to you, Claudia

  9. A lovely and fitting tribute, Julie Ann. Harvey was so helpful to me when I arrived in California, introducing me to people, smoothing the way, warning me of where the land mines were buried (with hilarious asides of course). We’d have a meeting — always over lunch, which wasn’t my NYC normal — but he’d send me a typewritten sheet of meeting notes the next day. An old school pro. And who else ever greeted me by kissing my cheek and saying, “Yummy!”? I will miss him.

  10. Thank you Julie Ann for the lovely tribute. Harvey was an icon of the industry, a pioneer of wine pr, polite to his core, full of humor and fun. He was a storyteller–both on and off the job. And so generous with his wisdom and support for all of us in the pr field. His legacy and friendship is dear, he will be greatly missed. Cheers to Harvey!

  11. As I earlier stated: I was honored to be within Harvey Posert’s close circle, and daily my heart aches at our loss, and at the loss his family has endured. Tonight, however, some clarity from Julie Ann Kodmur who was also close to Harvey. Some of the important lessons that he taught for life, and for ‪#‎wine‬ PR, are nicely summarized by her here. Many of them I heard over and over, and reading them here – I hear them again with his gentle, Southern accent. Thanks Julie Ann…

  12. Dear Julie Ann,

    I echo these sentiments. It is a lovely tribute. Harvey was a true original and I feel blessed to have known him, although I was not part of his circle. The first time I met Harvey was at a Women for WineSense conference, back in the day. He was sitting in the back of the room taking it all in with newspapers in hand! What an impression he made on me–I’ll never forget him. Doesn’t it say so much about Harvey, to have left such a positive mark on so many lives! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Julie Ann,
    I first met Harvey in the late 1960’s when he was at the Wine Institute. He helped me with advice when I operated wine & liquor stores in Chicago, also in the late 1960’s. In 1980 he asked me to co-host the California hospitality room at the Democratic National Convention. He introduced me to many winemakers & executives that helped propel my career. That was Harvey. Generous and always willing to help. He even arranged for a VIP pass to the convention that allowed me to interview candidate Jimmy Carter.
    We met whenever I was in California or he was in NYC. When I needed advice he always took my calls.
    I considered him a dear friend and will miss him.

  14. Wonderful post and sentiments about Harvey. I am lucky to have worked and get know him this past year. I will miss his insight and directness about the world of wine PR. I really looked up to him and so sad that he is gone.