Archive for iMedia Public Relations

A Monster Consumer Problem

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2012 by innovativemediapr

Did Monster Energy® drinks cause the deaths of five individuals and a non-fatal heart attack? That’s what the FDA is currently investigating. It comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed in Maryland by the parents of Anais Fournier, a 14-year girl who allege that a Monster Energy caused the death of their daughter.

Apparently, the daughter collapsed after drinking her second 24-ounce Monster Energy® drink in two days. She died six days later.

Obviously this is a tragedy and for the Monster Beverage Corporation, owners of Monster Energy, this lawsuit, the FDA investigation and negative news stories associated with this issue, is a major blow.

According to a story on WebMD.com

The reports are not proof that the drinks caused the deaths, but merely signal there might be a problem. Even if the deaths are determined to be caused by caffeine poisoning, the FDA will consider all sources of caffeine before blaming the deaths on the energy drink.

In addition to caffeine, energy drinks contain other stimulants, including taurine and guarana, a caffeine-containing plant.

Because energy drinks are sold as nutritional supplements, they are not regulated as foods. This means they may exceed the FDA-mandated limit of 71 milligrams of caffeine for a 12-ounce soda.

When news of this broke about this story on Monday, I was preparing my lecture notes for my public relations class the next morning at Rider University. It just so happened, the topic was going to focus on Consumer Relations.

During class we discussed the various reasons why developing a positive consumer relations program was important to companies. We covered dealing with complaints, engaging consumers and even discussed the government agencies that serve as watchdogs for the consumers. That gave me an opening to discuss the Monster Energy® case.

We examined a news story in the New York Times about the FDA investigation and the wrongful death law suit filed by the parents of Anais Fournier. As we discussed the issue, I called up the Monster Energy product website so we could see if they posted any information on this and/or what kind of safety information and ingredients did they list about their products.

According to an NBCNews.com story:

Monster Beverage Corporation, which describes Monster Energy Drink as a “killer energy brew” and “the meanest energy supplement on the planet,” puts labels on cans stating the drinks are not recommended for children and people who are sensitive to caffeine.

However, as we scrolled through the Monster Energy website, we were able to click on each drink. There was no specific ingredient information listed or any warnings of safety issues associated with drinking these beverages.

I asked the class to name a leading competitor so we could see how they addressed safety and ingredient information. The class all named Red Bull so off to Red Bull website we went. There, listed first on the left side of the banner was a products page. From there we were able to click on each product and all of the ingredients were listed, including caffeine. On a separate FAQ document page, Red Bull outlined how much caffeine was in each can and described how the amount of caffeine in one can was the equivalent of drinking two cups of coffee.

These figures were similar to findings by the Center for Science in the Public Interest which says the Monster energy drinks contain about 10 mg of caffeine per ounce of drink, which would mean 240 mg of caffeine in a 24-ounce energy drink – not much more than two strong cups of coffee.

Share of Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST ) dropped 11% the day following the announcement that the FDA was investigating.

Yesterday, the company issued the following press release:

Monster Beverage Corporation (Nasdaq:MNST) (“Monster”) today issued the following statement in response to inquiries it has received and numerous recent media reports in connection with a lawsuit that has been filed against the company by the family of 14-year old Anais Fournier, who died last December.

Monster is saddened by the untimely passing of Anais Fournier, and its sympathies go out to her family. Monster does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit. The company wishes to point out that:
■Tens of billions of energy drinks have been sold and safely consumed worldwide for approximately 25 years, including more than 8 billion cans of Monster Energy® that have been sold and safely consumed in the United States and around the world since 2002. The company monitors consumer communications it receives, is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its products, and has never before been the subject of any lawsuit of this nature.
■Monster Energy® drinks generally contain approximately 10 milligrams of caffeine from all sources per ounce. By comparison, the leading brands of coffee house brewed coffee contain on average more than 20 milligrams of caffeine per ounce. An entire 24-ounce can of Monster Energy® contains about 240 milligrams of caffeine from all sources, which is around 30 percent less than the average caffeine contained in a medium-sized, 16-ounce cup of coffee house brewed coffee.
■Monster Energy® drinks, including their ingredients and labeling, are in full compliance with all laws and regulations in each of the more than 70 countries in which they are sold.
■The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has stated that adverse event reports about a product do not mean that the reported event is caused by the product. The FDA has made it clear that it has not established any causal link between Monster Energy® drinks and the reports it has received.

Neither the science nor the facts support the allegations that have been made. Monster reiterates that its products are and have always been safe.

I gave my class an assignment for Thursday to track what was being said about Monster Energy in the press and online, including polling their own social networks to determine if these cases might influence whether their friends and family will have any apprehensions of using energy drinks.

The key question for Monster Energy Corp is how will they respond to their consumers? Unlike their competitor Red Bull, they decided that a warning on a can was enough. Will they add content to the website about the level of caffeine in their drinks? Obviously, with a lawsuit filed and because they are a public company, their actions may be limited by legal issues.

However, the way they engage their consumer over the coming days and weeks will be essential to maintaining their reputation, company and market share. It will take more than a press release to defend their position. They will need to ensure that their products are indeed safe.

For Monster Energy, Consumer Relations has become paramount. How the company responds will determine its future.

Tom Cosentino

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Have Your Facts Straight

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by innovativemediapr

I had my Publicity Methods class at Rider University develop a fact sheet this week for the fictional cartoon prop company ACME corporation, featured prominently in the Warner Brothers cartoon classic, Road Runner and Wile E Coyote cartoons.

The only working knowledge was the fact the company, based on the cartoon, serviced props like anvils, cannons, giant blocks of lead, etc. all designed to clobber Road Runner.  Chief spokesman of course was Wilie E. Coyote.

In having the class undertake this exercise my method was to show them how at a moment’s notice, they in the future may need to develop a fact sheet about the company they work for. In that case, would they know enough about their company to put such a document together?

Fact sheets are used every day by companies to direct information about their company, products and services to their customers and to the media.  A fact sheet should incorporate all there is to know about a company such as locale, satellite- offices, distribution centers, key executives, products, history and contact information, among others.  Fact sheets can be creative and feature illustrations, graphs and other artwork. Most importantly, they should give the person walking away with a copy, a full handle on what your company is all about.

Next week, I will have my class develop a fact sheet for an existing client of iMedia Public Relations. They will have access to the client website and will be able to assemble pertinent data needed to come up with a complete document.  The twist will be to see how they punch it up a bit with creative thought and insight.

Every organization should set in place a process so that all employees have an understanding of what the facts are about their company.  Would you want your employees saying the wrong thing about your brand or company?  Does everyone in your company understand what you do?  While a worker in a distribution or call center or an office staffer may never talk to a reporter, they still deal with their own sphere of influencers and represent you to them. If they are communicating the wrong information, that will reflect badly on your company and products.

Make sure everyone has the facts. Think of it as the old elevator pitch. Can everyone you employee describe what your company does in a three-minute elevator ride?  It’s the same process. How you communicate the facts will translate into how they deliver your message.

Tom Cosentino

 

 

A Day to “Wine” with Pride

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2012 by innovativemediapr

Yesterday, prior to delivering his State of the State address, Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill making New Jersey the 39th state to allow direct shipping of wine to consumers. The law takes effect on May 1 and applies to small wineries anywhere in the country that produce less than 250,000 gallons a year. It gives New Jersey wineries the right to do what wineries in 38 other states currently can, directly ship wine to the homes of consumers within and out-of-state.

This was an effort that iMedia Public Relations has jointly worked on with our sister agency, Capital Public Affairs, for the past three years. We are proud that we played a role in bringing this legislation to fruition and equally proud that it was done using a total grassroots approach. The passage of this legislation was a total David vs. Goliath struggle pitting our firms and the small wineries in New Jersey matched against the powerful liquor lobby intent on keeping in place its three-tiered system of distribution of wine. Our argument, which we made continuously, was that the majority of New Jersey wineries produced too small a quantity of wine to be of interest for wholesalers. Our effort was focused on helping the New Jersey wine industry, currently seventh in the nation in production of wine, continue to grow by expanding their distribution network and at the same time giving New jersey wine consumers greater choice.

In December 2008, Capital Public Affairs launched http://www.uncorknj.coma website that provided information on the importance of giving New Jersey wine consumers the same choice that the majority of states in the U.S. had the ability to order wine and have it directly shipped to their homes. The site also provided news updates and gave consumers the chance to contact their legislators directly from the UnCorkNJ site. This site was launched in conjunction with the start of a lobbying effort in the legislature to bring this cause to the forefront of legislators and begin the process of developing legislation to seek the enactment of direct shipping. The original client was AmericanWinery.com, but after a few months they ceased their involvement. Thus, for some time, Capital Public Affairs pursued this on its own until about two years ago, when Tomasello Winery, the state’s largest winery, came on board as a client. iMedia began serving as the agency for Tomasello Winery and also served to help promote UnCorkNJ.com.

In December 2010, a U.S. Court of Appeals Federal Court ruling effectively ruled that New Jersey wineries were operating in an unconstitutional manner by not allowing out-of-state wineries to operate retail outlets and tasting rooms in the state. New Jersey had unconstitutionally discriminated against out-of-state wineries by permitting only in-state vintners to sell directly to consumers. The appeals court sent the case to U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark to preside over the constitutional challenge. Her options were twofold, either give out-of-state wineries the same right, or prohibit all wineries from selling directly to consumers. Judge Hayden extended her deadline for New Jersey to correct the situation to March 21, 2012. Failure to act on this could mean the closure of retail outlets and tasting rooms in New Jersey which would effectively close many of the state’s wineries. Over a dozen new wineries in New Jersey are frozen from being licensed until this matter is resolved. The effort then turned to merging a remedy for this situation into the direct-shipping legislation.

This process started with putting this issue in front of media throughout the state, making them aware of the danger facing New Jersey wineries that would be threatened with having their retail outlets and tasting rooms closed by Court order unless the state remedied the situation by enacting legislation. In June, we held a press conference at the statehouse in Trenton with former Governor James Florio, whose firm represented the Garden State Winegrowers Association, winery owners and my partner Steven Some of Capital Public Affairs representing UnCorkNJ.com. The purpose was to raise the seriousness of a pending deadline placed on New Jersey wineries by the District Court. At that point, the legislation did not have enough votes to pass.

However, U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark gave New Jersey legislators a deadline of March 21, 2012 to remedy the situation before acting. Throughout the summer and fall, we continued to make our case both legislatively and through the media. This issue was strongly endorsed by editorials in nine leading newspapers in the state.

Newspapers that published editorials in favor of the legislation were:

Burlington County Times, Courier Post, Daily Record, Express Times, Gloucester County Times, Newark Star Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer, Press of Atlantic City and Trenton Times. In December, S-3172, sponsored by Senate President Sweeney, passed the Senate 23-13 with bi-partisan support. The accompanying measure A-4436, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, Assemblywoman Celeste Riley and Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, passed with amendments on the last day of the legislative session on January 9, 2012.

This legislation was signed into law by Governor Christie yesterday morning. In his State of the State speech later that afternoon, the Governor said the NJ Comeback had begun. For the New Jersey wine industry, the future was just beginning. We are proud to have played a small role in planting the seeds of its growth.

Tom Cosentino

iMedia Public Relations President on NJTV Tonight

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2012 by innovativemediapr

Tonight on NJTV’s NJ Today newscast, I will be interviewed as part of a news segment devoted to legislation allowing for New Jersey wineries to direct-ship wine to consumers in and out of the state, as well as preserving the retail outlets operated by New Jersey wineries.

On Thursday in Trenton, the Assembly Budget Panel, by a vote of 7-0-4 advanced and released A-4436, out of committee bringing this piece of legislation to the floor of the Assembly for a full vote on Monday, January 9.

This is an issue that iMedia Public Relations and our sister agency, Capital Public Affairs have been driving for almost three years. We created www.UnCorkNJ.com, a grassroots community of wine enthusiasts in New Jersey to help lobby for legislation that would give New Jersey wineries the right to do what wineries in 38 other states currently can, directly ship wine to the homes of consumers within and out-of-state. The proposed legislation also allows small out-of-state wineries that produce 250,000 gallons of wine and under each year to ship directly to New Jersey consumers.

A-4436, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, is a vital piece of legislation that ensures the future of the New Jersey wine industry, bringing New Jersey wine to a national market of 38 other states that allow direct shipping, while also preserving farmland and creating jobs in New Jersey.

This issue has been strongly endorsed by editorials in eight leading newspapers in the state. You can access each editorial by clicking here. Newspapers that have published editorials in favor of the legislation are:

Burlington County Times
Courier Post
Express Times
Gloucester County Times
Newark Star Ledger
Philadelphia Inquirer
Press of Atlantic City
Trenton Times

 
A year ago, a Federal Court ruling effectively ruled that New Jersey wineries were operating in an unconstitutional manner by not allowing out-of-state wineries to operate retail outlets and tasting rooms in the state. The Federal Judge extended her deadline for New Jersey to correct the situation to March 21, 2012. Failure to act on this could mean the closure of retail outlets and tasting rooms in New Jersey which would effectively close many of the state’s wineries. Over a dozen new wineries in New Jersey are frozen from being licensed until this matter is resolved.

A-4436 remedies that situation by allowing out-of-state wineries to open retail outlets in New Jersey. Senator Sweeney sponsored S-3172, which the Senate passed with bi-partisan support, 23-13 in December. This bill, and its accompanying piece of legislation in the Assembly, rectify the situation and protect the retail operations of NJ wineries, while allowing them to ship wine directly to consumers.

Those of you in New Jersey that are in favor of giving New Jersey wineries the chance to grow their industry can show their support by contacting their Assembly representatives and urging them to pass this bill on Monday. You can do it directly through http://www.uncorknj.com.

Tom Cosentino

St. Nicholas Deserves Some PR

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by innovativemediapr

I first wrote this entry a couple of years ago and felt it would be a good time, on the anniversary of his death and the observance of his feast day, to write about St. Nicholas and the need to publicize the life of this real human being who did great deeds centuries ago in Europe.

You cannot escape seeing the image of Santa Claus at this time of the year. Although the Christmas season is really about the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Santa Claus figure dominates the retail season and the mindsets of children worldwide as they anxiously await the toys and goodies he will bring on his sleigh come Christmas Eve.

For many of us, the innocence of childhood can best be reflected in our belief in this jolly old soul. From the letters we wrote to him at the North Pole, filled with our wish list of the toys we wanted for Christmas, our visits to him at the department store or mall and the numerous shows and movies we watched on television, Santa Claus was as real as the full head of hair on our childhood head.

But then, at some point along our path through grade school, our innocence was shattered as a fellow classmate, sibling or eventually our parents, broke the news that Santa wasn’t real at all. Christmas was never the same again, until we had children of our own and suddenly, we couldn’t wait to share with them the stories of Santa and our beliefs in him.

What has always struck me is why this need to raise the spirits of children, only to see them shattered when there is a true historical person that the legend of Santa Claus is based on.

Christians know him as St. Nicholas and history records him as Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. His is a tale of great courage, charity and a love of children. It is no wonder why his life and legend became the basis for the Santa Claus character. This belief was brought to this country by Dutch settlers and was later immortalized in Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.”

Although St. Nicholas is not a client of iMedia Public Relations, I thought it was time that someone did a little publicity for his cause. We’re not the only ones that feel that way. A tremendous resource for learning about the life of Nicholas is through the St. Nicholas Center, a registered non-profit corporation in the State of Michigan with federal tax exempt status, which cooperates with other organizations around the globe that share its concerns for St. Nicholas. They have created a virtual knowledge center about St. Nicholas. Their site gives a great accounting to the life of Nicholas, his legend, good deeds and role in the early Christian Church. Here’s a brief biological sketch of Nicholas taken from the home page.

 The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas of Myra became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

 Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6 (December 19 on the Julian calendar).

 Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

 One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
So, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us all take a moment to give some publicity not to a costumed figure at the mall, but to the life of an individual who can truly inspire us all. There’s no need to dampen the spirits of children the world over. Teach them about a man who truly lived and followed the teachings of Jesus, the one the Christmas season is all about. Nicholas was all about giving, and whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or even an atheist, he is a person who inspires good in all of us.

Tom Cosentino

From the Coast Guard to the Green Room

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 1, 2011 by innovativemediapr

Guest post by Andrew Hartung

After being found ‘not seaworthy’ to work in search and rescue with the United States Coast Guard (USCG), I returned to school and found a new career that I felt I could be just as passionate about, public relations, which I would choose as my
next and hopefully final career.

At 40-years old, I was extremely excited to graduate from Seton Hall University in May 2008 but was discouraged to discover that it was very difficult to find employment. I had just spent the last 36 months in school but had absolutely no experience in the field. School taught me to network heavily, both in person and online via LinkedIn, and my work paid off with an internship at iMedia
Public Relations
. I now found myself with Tom Cosentino, my new boss, who doesn’t wear stripes on his sleeves or act as if he were made of salt water like my previous supervisors in the USCG.

My task since first arriving a month ago has been to raise awareness for “The Caesars Tribute II: A Salute to the
Ladies of the Ice,” with different media outlets. I have found that pitching an ice skating event in October, when it’s not even cold outside, is like trying to sell ice cubes to an Eskimo. Some editors entertained the prospect of interviewing a world famous skater but many nicely declined.

Building a rapport with the media was useful in receiving my first bite. One planning editor/producer at FOX
Television
in Philadelphia, Berlinda Garnett, grabbed onto my story. I quickly built a connection with Berlinda and was able
to initiate a friendly and comical dialogue. After a few conversations, she took to the story of interviewing a skater but soon after I sold her on the story that ‘ice cube’ melted. However, the skater, who we planned to bring to town as part of the media tour, was unable to make the scheduled date.

A week ago, Tom informed me that he had scheduled Sarah Hughes for an appearance on “Good Day NY,” a Fox5 morning show,
and invited me to come with him to the interview. Sarah is a gold medal Olympian and as a participant in the Caesar’s Tribute, was booked to promote the event.  Tom’s job was to ensure everything went smoothly at the morning show.

The night before the show, I was very anxious knowing I had to be up at 4:30 a.m. to meet Tom for the drive into Manhattan.  I had met some important people throughout my life but meeting an Olympic Gold Medalist, who worked their entire life to gain such recognition, still put me in awe. I tried explaining to my daughter, Abigail, who is five-years old, what I was about to do. I showed Abigail a You Tube video of Sarah’s ice skating performance and she thought Sarah was a princess.

When we finally arrived in NYC the next morning and met Sarah with her mother, I was astonished to see how down to earth she actually was. She came across like any other young girl, if not friendlier than most. We were immediately escorted to hair and make-up which was even more exciting. Never in a million years would I have ever entertained the idea that I’d be in this kind of situation a year or two ago. I was dying to take pictures or videos the entire time so I wouldn’t forget a minute, but knew I had to restrain myself. The halls of Good Day NY were filled with past celebrities autographs who had visited over the years. It was
amazing.

After make-up, Sarah went to get her hair done. Tom, her mother, and I went to the Green Room (which was actually brown). As I stepped through the doorway, I saw someone who looked very familiar, Theresa Caputo, a psychic medium. Her ability to talk to the dead is the focus of a new show on TLC called “Long Island Medium.” Literally two days prior, I watched about 15
minutes of this show for the first time. She made everyone’s hair stand up as she explained to a pregnant assistant producer that someone was ‘visiting’ her.

This assistant was in tears and barely able to stand. Soon she turned her attention towards Tom and claimed his father and cousin were there. It was very strange.

Soon we were called into the actual studio. Sarah was already sitting next to Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly preparing to go
on air. The count down started; three, two, one and in minutes it was over. Since it was my first time to witness such a production, I had no idea how it went but it all looked good to me. Tom said she did well, he is the expert.

I look forward to my new career and many more similar experiences like I had my first time in a Green Room.

Class on a Mission

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 20, 2011 by innovativemediapr

Two weeks ago I began teaching a Publicity Methods course at Rider University.  As part of the early curriculum, we have been discussing mission statements, boiler plates and business memos.  For an in-class assignment in our journalism lab, I tasked the class to develop a mission state for iMedia Public Relations.  After interviewing me, the class set out to begin crafting the statement. Below is the final version, taken from input from each of the 18 fine students in my class.

iMedia Public Relations Mission Statement

iMedia Public Relations is a premier strategic media relations firm dedicated to establishing awareness for our client partners and positioning them as leaders within their industry. We are a company built on the core values of honesty, integrity and transparency which are incorporated into every aspect of our comprehensive approach to public relations. By adhering to a high set of ethical standards, promising to never oversell or offer services that are not relevant to our clients, iMedia creates
solid, long-term relationships with our clients.

 iMedia believes in giving our clients the personalized attention they deserve. Our hands-on innovative approach to every aspect of a client’s program, allows us to truly understand a client’s business goals and objectives and to develop strategic media relations
programs that helps them achieve success.

 We offer a variety of services to fully satisfy each client’s individual needs, identifying the right media target to showcase
their products, organizations and programs to the right audience. This strategic media relations approach has allowed us to establish great credibility with the media since we deliver content that meets their editorial criteria and does not waste their time.

 We pride ourselves in building solid, long-term relationships with not only our client partners but the media we target as well. By partnering with iMedia you are teaming with a company fully invested in your business and success.