While the communications team at the American Beverage Institute (ABI) was lucky to leverage President Obama’s “Beer Summit” and move its organizational mission to a much larger stage, its luck was made, not stumbled upon. Planning, foresight and an ever-watchful eye (even on Sundays) helped ABI effectively hook the media, according to Sarah Longwell, managing director, and Sarah Kapenstein, communications director, at ABI.
• Monitor, monitor, monitor. As a watchdog agency, ABI tracks everything that Mothers Against Drunk Driving does to ensure it doesn’t miss an opportunity to insert its mission into the national dialogue. “We’ve got LexisNexis alerts, every Google alert that you can think of. We’re always looking for MADD, and the names of their top people,” says Kapenstein.
• Don’t hesitate. “If we had waited even one day more, the story would probably have fizzled,” says Kapenstein.
• Human interest trumps all. The fact that the nature of the story—Obama drinking a beer on the White House lawn—was on the light side made it an easy pickup for press. “You’re not talking about foreign policy,” says Longwell. “It was a human interest story that had policy around the periphery.”
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