DNA Brands’ False Press Release Leads to Resignation of CEO

dna energy drinkProfessional communicators have debated the evolving role of the press release with increasing frequency over the past few years, but DNA Brands Inc., makers of a line of energy drinks, proved this week that the press release is still a very important tool. Unfortunately for the company's former CEO, Eric Fowler, he proved the power of the press release in a way that lead to his departure from the company.

On Monday, DNA announced via a press release that it has signed a distribution agreement with Trenton Coca-Cola. The press release included a quote from a man named Chuck Jones, the supposed president of the bottler. "We are excited about the opportunity to launch these exciting products and look forward to working with the DNA management team to develop our market," the press release quoted Jones as saying.

For a smaller company like DNA Brands, partnering with Coca-Cola was huge news. In the four hours after the announcement, the company's stock (which trades on a penny stock market, not a national exchange) jumped more than 500%.

But there was a problem. A huge problem. DNA actually had no deal with Coca-Cola. And Chuck Jones isn't the president of the bottler.

In a press release issued yesterday, DNA Brands announced that as a result of his approval of the highly inaccurate initial press release, the company's Board of Directors and Eric Fowler have mutually agreed that Fowler should resign. Fowler is quoted, saying that he "misunderstood a phone conversation with a representative of Trenton Coke and I authorized the announcement of the distribution agreement."

For professional communicators who are charged with crafting press releases, DNA's story is a cautionary tale. While the press release's importance may be eroding, that doesn't mean that long-held standards for accuracy are deteriorating along with it. Getting the facts straight before issuing a statement—especially when people who read it have the ability to invest money in the that's company being written about—is extremely important, and there is little room for error.

Do you think Fowler's mistake was a fireable offense?

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