Archive for November, 2010


the product that was Four Loko

Nothing short of a phenomenon, Four Loko was a hit across college campuses nationwide. The alcoholic-caffenated beverage was seen has a sure fire way to have a good time, and taste pretty good in the process.

Those days are over.

The manufacturing company of the product, Phusion LLC, recently announced it was dropping the caffeine ingredient from the drink. A move that was suggested from colleges, parents and those who fell victim to the harsh results of over indulgence.

Funny thing about Four Loko, its nothing ground breaking.

The mixing of alcohol with caffeine and other hyperactive ingredients has been a part of late night culture at bars world wide. The popularity movement of the drink, however, indeed a force within itself.

Using little or no advertising the product gained its momentum from mouth to mouth grassroots movements across campuses. From its humble beginnings in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University, Four Loko began circles around the Midwest with displays and handouts similiar to the Red Bull cars that are seen at West Virginia University sporadically. From there, the stories and tall-tales began. Everyone wanted a piece of the action and the chance to experience it themselves. The convienence, affordability or drunken state all were the selling points that got Four Loko to become the PR monster that it was.

Now, although it was a vaiable alcoholic beverage it was far from unique. Anybody who has ever had “one too many” knows of the repercussions of being drunk. Those who partook in the Four Loko craze got a taste of that as well. Damaging reports stemming from all parts of the country created the image of Four Loko as a killer. From sick freshman at Central Washington University to a drunk driving death in Maryland, the beverage ceratinly had some targets on its back. In a damage control move, Phusion LLC released a statement with advising notes on how to use the product in a safe manner.

We share your commitment to addressing alcohol abuse and underage drinking.  We see it as both a fundamental priority and an ultimate responsibility that we share with the entire alcoholic beverage industry. In this vein, we would like to discuss ways we could provide direct assistance to your university to help further responsible drinking education on your campus. This support can be used to enhance the existing alcohol education assistance you provide, to help initiate new relationships with outside vendors providing this type of service, or to defray the costs associated with any current relationships you may have.”

I call it common sense.

The people at Phusion Products took it upon themselves to seek the approval of teh nation upon moving forward with their company. They were put in a tough position by the nagtive media coverage and had to take an evaluation with itself. Something had to be done or parents and college officials would be coming to their offices in mob fashion, guns a blazing with pitchforks. Because it was new and relatively unheard of Four Loko and Phusion caught a lot of unnecessary flack for the ill adivised decsions of the people who drank the product.

PRweek listed a poll on its website regarding the handling of the caffeine limits of Four Loko.

Was it a good move for Four Loko to announce it will remove caffeine from its products prior to the FDA ruling?

-Yes it’s always good to get out ahead of regulations
-It should have defended its product
-It will need to redefine its product and brand now
-Help, I drank two cans and I can’t type properly

Given those options a combination of 1 and 2 would have been the best choices. 58% of responders said its always good to get ahead of regualtions with 17% saying it should have defended its product. Phusion did the best of both worlds and defended its product while staying ahead of the regualtions.

While the steam engine that was Four Loko will be undoubtedly taking a back seat, the Fall 2010 run of the beverage will forever be remembered.


From newspapers to public relations

West Virginia University School of Journalism Student Services Coordinator Jason Broadwater has always stressed the need for a writing foundation in any field dealing with journalism.

It seems that simple fact rings true especially in public relations.

The career is embodied by writing press releases, blogs even twitter updates that all need to be well crafted in order to send a message. It’s message needs to be clear to reach an audience. It won’t be understood if the person behind it simply doesn’t know how to write. Many PR practitioners, or those involved with agencies, have once worked in the newspaper business developing their writing and reporting skills.

A friend of mine, Edmund Coletta, Public Affairs Director for the Department of Environmental Protection in Massachusetts, actually got his start writing for a newspaper. Now, as a Press Secretary he writes the releases and statements flowing out of his busy Boston office.

Recently, ex-publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Brian Tierney put together a new phase of his career. A former PR strategist, Tierney took his experience from working in both industries to expand the forefront of a growing digital industry. He, along with a group of investors, purchased Realtime Media.

The article can be found here.

Tierney has been around the block and with this move can become one of the most powerful names in online media.

Now the talk of newspapers in the current era is a slippery slope.

With the evident switch to the internet, news and information services can be updated rapidly through the use of the online resource.

Daily newspapers don’t have that luxury.

Coletta himself, a newspaper man at heart, admits that it is a dying breed and will fade from everyday use eventually. There is just no beating the convience of news at your finger tips on a website. However, The Daily Athenaeum, student newspaper at WVU, recently released an ad hyping up not just its publication, but all newspapers. The DA cited 35 million daily subscribers to newspapers nationwide.

Basically, they are saying if its out there, people will read it.

The same goes for public relations. Just because it is not as prominent of a news source than in its glory days, newspapers are still viable mediums of information. The history prominent PR people have with the newspaper industry may cause some jolts of revivement. The working relationship and dual partnership both share could make it easier for communication because the writer and practitioner both somewhat have a mutual understanding of what the other goes through in his or her profession.

That being said, to get into public relations, writing is the key. Any experience, any method of skills is not only reccomended, it’s required.


xbox-‘kinect’ing with the world

Looking for the one-of-a-kind gift this Holiday season?

The answer is actually all around you.

The Kinect system by Xbox has been taking the media world by storm in recent weeks.  The commercials demonstrate an interactive gaming system with users acting as the actual remote control. Revolutionary in nature the webcam-esque platform plugs into the xbox consol for a never before seen entertainment experience.

Not only is the product fun and cool, the publicity surrounding it as well.

On top of commericals and advertisements the product uses many mediums to get its message across. A partnership with Burger King is unique in the fact that the restaurant chain is giving away games for the system.

MTV and other television stations are required to promote the system even as going as far as throwing a large, elaborate launch party held in New York City. Celebrity dancers, Ne-Yo and Mark Wahlberg, among others were there to hype up the “it” factor that kinect certainly possesses.

Perhaps no new product passes the “must have” test until it is promoted by the most powerful name in entertainment; Oprah.

This past week Oprah announced to her studio audience that everyone would be taking one home.

Judging from their reaction, I’d say they are pretty pumped.

The rest of America is as well.

There is no doubting the fact that kinect is an innovative system that will certainly be a hit among consumers this Holiday season. However, the PR plan behind it certainly helped boost its popularity. In all honesty I had seen commercials and television plugs for it a good two weeks before I even knew what the heck it was. It led me to search for it online, talk about it amongst my peers and research it more and more. Even posessing a twitter account (@kinectxm) that details when and where new happenings will be held. For example, Jimmy Fallon will be doing a demonstartion on it during his Late Night show on Monday.

For a new hi-tech device like the kinect, an even more dynamic campaign to promote it was necessary. The good folks at Microsoft and xbox will reap the benefits of their media blitz when the $150 dollar device flies off the shelf in the coming weeks.