mocktails

Everyone I know in media is buried in press releases. We receive hundreds of them by email each day despite all the articles and blog posts that claim, “The Press Release Is Dead.” Not to say we don’t want to know what’s new. It’s just that it’s tough to sift through all of them. So, when an account executive at a PR agency sends a personal note offering a very different approach to sharing their clients’ stories, it gave me a reason to not only read the press release but also check out the story in the pitch.

Recently, Trainer Communications, a PR firm in San Francisco, did something different for a corporate meeting. It held a “Mocktail Competition” among account executives, who conjured alcohol-free drink recipes (often heavy on the fruit juices) for a panel of judges, of which I was one.

CEO Susan Thomas said it was not only a fun way to break up the monotony of a typical quarterly offsite, but a way for account executives to gain a deeper understanding of their clients’ needs by whipping up their favorite  cocktail and telling a story.

This Mocktail Competition not only engages participants, it provides useful instruction. I could see a lot of companies doing something like this to push employees to think outside the box when it comes to new products. Earlier this year I spoke with Charlie Ayers, former Google Chef and owner of Café Calafia in Palo Alto, about holding a Silicon Valley-wide cooking competition where each company would have the opportunity to create a dish that best represents its product. Participants would be judged not only on the plating and taste, but also the story and food and how well they represent the product.

In the case of the Mocktail Competition, Susan Thomas, videographer Adam Storek, and I were the judges. We based our decisions on creativity, taste, and, of course, how well the cocktail best tells the story of the client.

The winner? Take a look. It’s quite entertaining: