Amid a Huge PR Crisis, Monster Beverage is In Denial Mode

Monster's energy drinks
are under fire

Monster Beverage Corp. has a monster of a PR problem. On Monday, Oct. 22, the FDA announced it was investigating reports of five deaths that could be associated with the company’s Monster energy drink. In addition, Monster is being sued by the family of Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old Maryland girl with a heart condition who died after drinking two cans of the beverage in a 24-hour period.

Some industries are magnets for PR crises, and the food and beverage space is one of them. There’s always the chance of contamination issues that could cause harm to consumers, damage a company’s reputation and hurt its bottom line. In the case of Monster, it’s not contamination that’s the problem, but the drug that’s an active ingredient in its drink: caffeine. And the bottom line has been seriously hurt, with Monster’s shares falling more than 14%.

Now under intense scrutiny, the communications response from Monster Beverage might have been cautious. Instead, the company said it did not believe its energy drink was "in any way responsible" for the Maryland girl's death. In addition, the company stated that "Monster is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks," adding that it intended to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.

Of course, Monster’s legal team is most likely behind the “deny, deny” strategy for liability reasons. However, Crisis PR 101 dictates it might be better for Monster’s long-term survival to be more measured in its messages, like “we need to view the evidence before we can comment.”

Whatever the response, Monster Beverage and the entire energy drink space is now under fire, and if the deaths were ultimately linked to the drinks, the industry could be facing regulatory action. In the weeks and months to come, some deft communications will be required by Monster and other players in order to keep the energy drink space flowing.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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