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August 18, 2019

How to Successfully & Legally Promote Alcohol-Related Events

Guest Blog by Melanie Ford, MPR Intern

HappyHourHappy hour promotion can sometimes be a gray area for marketers – especially when you have clients in different states like Myers PR does. Of course every firm wants to promote the “fun, cool, hip” activities of their clients, but this gray area has complicated and varying regulation laws nationwide which we recommend you pay attention to.

So, what is considered an acceptable promotion for a client’s happy hour, bar crawl, or event with alcoholic beverage sales?

1. Research the agency that regulates alcohol retail and advertising within your country, state, and region

Control States

Laws vary on each of these three geographic levels. Within the United States, the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment in December 1933 put alcohol regulation into the hands of state legislature. Today, there are 18 “control states” in which the state government has varying degrees of monopoly on alcohol sales and advertisement while the other 32 states operate via private licensing systems.

Maryland, for example, has four counties – Montgomery, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worchester – whose alcohol sales are county alcohol-controlled.Virginia and Maryland are both control states, while DC is not. However, just to make things fun, laws and regulations, even among control states, are not standardized.

The 18 control states are listed on the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association website which is the best place to start for information on alcohol regulations within your state.

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2. Find out what types of promotions and promotional phrasing are acceptable for the event

As of January 29, 2014, Virginia restaurants and bars can legally advertise in all media forms (social, print, and broadcast) using the phrase “happy hour” and “drink specials” and the event time span.

IMG_6123Be careful though! Advertisements cannot mention specific happy hour drink types, happy hour beverage prices, or the word “discounted.” The cost and type of alcoholic beverage may only be advertised if it is the same price regardless of the time of day. If an exact amount of alcohol is specified, food and alcohol drink package pairings may be promoted.

Happy hours that last past 9 p.m., 2-for-1 drink specials, and offers for unlimited alcoholic beverages are also not legal in Virginia. Be sure to check out these current regulation examples from VA ABC for acceptable promotion ideas.

VA ABC began its regulatory review in 2011 and received approval from the McDonnell administration on its proposed changes in December 2013. “The process involved gathering recommendations from the public, alcohol industry representatives, restaurant owners and other key stakeholders, and was focused on public safety and business-friendly decisions,” former ABC Chief Operating Officer Curtis Coleburn said in a January 2014 news release.

As far as alcohol-related advertising goes, Virginia has come a long way. Prior to 2009, Virginia restaurants could not promote happy hour drink specials. In 2009, vendors were only allowed to advertise drink specials inside their establishment or on a 17-by-22-inch window sign with limited phrasing allowances. Virginia’s ban on advertising drink specials dates to the 1980s and is due to concerns about drunken driving.

Washington D.C. and Maryland don’t have laws specifically preventing the advertisement of happy hours online or on social media – which makes things much easier on those of us promoting the specials.

3. Remember, different platforms all have their own policies regarding alcohol

Social-Media-SitesAs a general rule, happy hour promotions should never target an audience or region outside of the permitted area. For example, if you want to advertise a Maryland happy hour event via Facebook ad, do not target a Virginia region or audience unless you know that the phrasing of your ad aligns with both state’s laws. It goes without saying, but just to cover all our bases: never target an audience below the legal drinking age. Same policy goes for print publications.

Google allows “brand or informational advertising for alcoholic beverages in the US” as well as “advertising for the online sale of alcoholic beverage.” For more information, see their AdWords policy page.

Twitter’s policy states: “The promotion of offline sale of alcohol and general awareness of alcohol brands is permitted in the US.”

Print publications each have their own advertising policy that should be reviewed prior to purchasing any ad spots as well.

4. Lastly, keep public safety a top priority

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While some ABC laws may seem overly strict, ABC has said in the past that excessive alcohol consumption, fatalities, and the targeting of underage drinking are the main concerns surrounding happy hour advertising. The reality of these problems should not be overlooked when it comes to event or product promotion.

Promote responsibly and ensure that the event has proper security, licensing, and transportation options before advertising.At Myers, many of our client events are metro accessible, so when advertising for these events, we encourage the use of public transit, carpooling, and cabs.

While there are hoops and loopholes to be navigated in promoting alcohol-related events, knowing what regulations you have to work with is the best way to stay ahead of the game. And to celebrate ABC as it reaches its 80th anniversary in the same year the new Virginia state legislature regarding happy hour advertising took effect, “Cheers to 80 years!”

Fairfax County Home to 100 Festivals

Guest Blog by Henrik Sundqvist, Director of Communications & Programs in the Arts Council of Fairfax County

 

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Patrons visiting the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, which is produced by the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE). Image Credit: Greater Reston Arts Center

Not only do festivals contribute to the quality of life for Fairfax County residents, but they act as a major draw for visitors from both the region and nation. “Tourism in Fairfax County is a $2.9 billion industry,” says Barry Biggar, President and CEO of Visit Fairfax. “Our visitors have numerous opportunities to attend many arts and cultural events, including festivals, and they significantly contribute to Fairfax County’s overall tourism experience,” according to Mr. Biggar. When communities attract cultural tourists, local businesses reap the rewards. A study done by Americans for the Arts found that nearly half of arts and cultural event attendees live outside of the destination, and their event-related spending is more than twice than that of local residents.

“People come to festivals for one thing, maybe the arts and crafts, are then introduced to forms of art they never would have experienced otherwise, and often are inspired to seek out new arts experiences in the future,” said Carole Rosenstein, Associate Professor of Arts Management at George Mason University, who worked on the 2010 National Endowment for the Arts study – Live from Your Neighborhood: A National Study of Outdoor Arts Festivals.

Updated Logo for Website 3.31.14Fairfax County’s diverse offering of festivals showcases everything from the arts, to culinary, to seasonal festivities, to film, and theatre works, nearly every month of the year on an annual basis. Holly Koons McCullough, Executive Director and Curator at the Greater Reston Arts Center helps run the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival which will be held May 16-18. The fine arts festival showcases more than 200 juried artists nationwide and draws 30,000 patrons to Reston. “The festival provides a personal experience; visitors have the opportunity to view, purchase, and interact directly with the featured artists,” says McCullough.

Other community-wide festivals bring locals and visitors together to celebrate our ethnic diversity. The annual DMV Punjabi Mela 2014 Festival, which will be held May 25 at Bull Run Regional Park, draws over 10,000 attendees and celebrates Indian & Pakistani heritage and culture.

“Festivals offer diverse and creative venues for experiencing the arts and create opportunities for meaningful exchange of ideas,” says Linda Sullivan, President & CEO of the Arts Council of Fairfax County.

For more information on the arts and cultural festival listings for the entire 2014 calendar year, visit the Arts Council’s website at www.artsfairfax.org/resources/festivals. Fairfax County’s many events and festivals are published on Visit Fairfax’s website at www.fxva.com.

Why a Diet of Volunteering is Healthy for Your Company

WeHeartProBono_Med_SizeWhen Marion started out in business, 20-some years back, she was working part-time and volunteering for local community groups and (like many young moms) her children’s PTAs. She became recognized for her success in promoting community events and was hired to do the Public Relations for Reston Town Center. Hence – Myers Public Relations was established.

Myers PR employees are encouraged to embrace community service. Myers PR staff members have taken volunteer and leadership roles in: the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce; Reston Association; Friends of Reston; Reston Chorale; Reston Historic Trust; the Greater Reston Arts Center.

A corporate culture that supports volunteering is good business strategy on multiple levels:

  • It helps with the recruitment and retention of quality employees
  • It is a creative way for employees to test drive new skills
  • Volunteering helps foster job-satisfaction and good morale
  • Pro bono projects raise your company’s brand awareness
  • A reputation as a corporation that gives back increases customer loyalty
  • And…. it’s good for your community

Today, Marion averages 500 hours of service annually. She has served on the Boards of: Initiative for Public Arts – Reston; The Medical Care for Children Partnership; the Reston Historic Trust; and is a Past Chairman of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. She is a current Board Director for the Fairfax County Council for the Arts and Leadership Fairfax, Inc. Combined, the MPR team donates close to 800 hours a year. Now, that’s a very healthy diet of volunteering. Bon Appetit!

Let’s Celebrate Reston as Reston Celebrates!

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Celebrating milestone anniversaries is a great way to create buzz about your client. Or, as in the case of Reston, to create buzz about your community!

2014 is a landmark year for Reston as well as for its founder Robert E. Simon, Jr. (note the R.E.S. in Reston). Reston is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its first residents moving in, and Robert E. Simon, Jr. (Bob to his friends) is celebrating his 100th birthday!

In preparation for this auspicious year, Myers PR set up a website, www.RestonCelebrates.org, to act as the hub to record and promote all the “50/100”commemorative events. Reston will be celebrating throughout the year as various organizations in the community present special tributes and celebrations of all sizes. The highlights are listed on www.RestonCelebrates.org , including the April 5 Founder’s Day celebrations, a screening of “The Reston Story” documentary film, and the Best of Reston gala, being held on Bob Simon’s April 10 birthday. All events related to 50/100 in 2014 will be listed, and all those featured will be open to the public, some with free admission, and some requiring ticket purchase.

The plan is that www.RestonCelebrates.org will be maintained in perpetuity, as an online gathering place dedicated to the special events and festivities that take place in Reston, Virginia. Supported by participating organizations of all sizes throughout the community, www.RestonCelebrates.org is provided as a public service owned and managed by Myers Public Relations, LLC. www.MyersPR.com.

Participating organizations supporting the 50/100 events are Reston Community Center, Reston Association, Reston Historic Trust/Reston Museum, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Reston Hospital Center/Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Cornerstones, Reston Town Center, and Myers Public Relations, the host of www.RestonCelebrates.org.

Maid Bright Recognized as Community Service Standout

Guest Blog by Melanie Ford, Myers PR Intern

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Corporate awards aren’t the only way to build credit behind your company or brand.

A combination of community outreach & service, corporate awards and excellent values can really go a long way. Doug Levy, co-author of Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results, says, “The companies that care about something bigger than their products tend to sell more of their products.” And we think Maid Bright, a Sterling cleaning company, proves that point.

This outstanding small business is a family-owned residential cleaning company which consistently acts upon its corporate values of excellence in service. And not just their cleaning service.

Cleaning for a Reason LogoNot only did Maid Bright representatives participate in Cornerstones’ Help the Homeless Walk and the Love Your Body Event during 2013, they have also been affiliated with Cleaning for a Reason the past three years and helped clean the houses of women battling cancer. Combined with their consistent 10% discount services for senior citizens, veterans, firefighters, and teachers, Maid Bright has provided approximately $9000+ a year in the form of donations and cleaning services to philanthropic initiatives.

In the words of Maid Bright owner, Yusuf Mehmetoglu: “I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find a job, pay your bills, and sustain a comfortable life… In order to make our community a better place to live and help those going through similar situations, it is imperative that Maid Bright be involved in our community and to support others who are less fortunate.”

Employees of the monthSo how do the Mehmetoglus facilitate a work culture where their employees earnestly pursue community involvement? Employees who are the most engaged in volunteerism efforts, as featured on Maid Bright’s Facebook, receive financial incentives in the form of a gift card or bonus each month. The company’s third-party reputation for quality, commitment to equal opportunity employment and industry-approved cleaning supplies also enable employees to take a sense of pride in upholding corporates values.

Recipient of Angie's List Super Service Award 2013Maid Bright has been recognized by various industry-coveted awards. For the fifth consecutive year (2009-2013), they have earned the Angie’s List Superior Service Award, which ranks home and health service providers. This award gives Maid Bright market respect, credibility and increased brand awareness among two million plus Angie’s List users.

“Only about 5 percent of the companies Maid Bright competes with in Washington, DC Metropolitan Area are able to earn our Super Service Award,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “It’s a mark of consistently great customer service.”

Maid Bright Car Design They also won the 2013 Loudoun Green Business Challenge in the tenant-leased business category. This points-based competition was hosted by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and encouraged more efficient and sustainable business operations. After attending an Executive Leadership Conference in Dallas, TX, Maid Bright also gained recognition for Best Vehicle Graphics at the Professional Image Awards from the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI) Awards Committee.

Seeing as how Maid Bright has lived up to their slogan,”spotless quality & service every time, guaranteed” since 2004, and have the recognition to prove it, we think their corporate goals and values match up for a winning combination.

Have you thought about how your business could get more involved and build quality relationships in your local community? What is your corporate direction and how are you promoting it within your workplace culture?