Journalists seem to have had their fill of low-carb diet stories. But as Americans remain interested in the topic, the media won't be able to ignore it for long.After a multiyear media feeding frenzy, coverage of the low-carb dieting craze seems to have reached something of a crossroads. On the one side, there's the encouraging early success of several low-carb-themed lifestyle outlets, yet there is also real evidence of low-carb fatigue among the general-interest press amid the slew of new product introductions, restaurant openings, and books. "Low-carb coverage reached a fever pitch, and the trend became ubiquitous, producing stories like the May Time cover calling this a "Low-Carb Nation," says Doug Dome, president of Chicago-based Dome H&K. "That ubiquity then strengthened the inevitable media backlash that we are now experiencing." What's amazing is just how quickly the low-carb tide can turn in the media. Straightline PR VP David Roznowski represents Old Orchard's low-carb juice line and said he was able to get that introduction covered late last year by a host of outlets ranging from the Associated Press to Fitness magazine to the CBS Early Show. "But when we sent out the announcement on Old Orchard's new low-carb cranberry line in May, we didn't get a very good response at all," he says. There's no doubt it's gotten tougher to get low-carb reviews. "In the beginning we were getting individual products covered, but now they tend to be part of trend pieces," says Brian Wendel, account supervisor with Off Madison Ave., which represents Ideal You, a low-carb sweetener and beverage line with added calcium and fiber. "What reporters are getting tired of is the same old, same old," adds Andrea Barish, associate director of Ketchum's global food and nutrition division. "What they want is news and research and things that are supported by data. If it's supported by something that's going to give them an advantage against other books, then they'll use it." Understanding carbohydrates Dean Draznin of Dean Draznin Communications says the end of the low-carb zealotry in the media might end up being the best thing for the low-carb industry. "You're seeing far more messages of moderation in trend stories now," says Draznin, who represents nutritional supplement company Enzymatic Therapy. "There's a lot more emphasis stressing that you have to be careful and do it right because you don't want to do something that may harm your health." Indeed, the demonization of all carbohydrates in both the public and press is slowly being replaced by an understanding of the difference between good and bad carbs. Lance Buckley, executive national media director with Pierce Mattie Public Relations, represents the new diet book Mission Possible and says he's attracted interest with the message that there's nothing wrong with carbs. "We try not to bash low-carb diets, but we do point out to reporters that your body craves carbs and that a gradual approach to weight loss is far safer in the long term," he says. Consumers' interest still strong That still leaves the question of whether some in the media may be growing tired of this topic too soon. Dome, whose agency's clients include General Mills and Wyler's Light, says, "Surveys and polls prove that even though editors are sick of hearing about low-carb, consumers are still demanding products that fit that lifestyle. It's not over yet." The best evidence of that is found not just in recent numbers noting that 26 million Americans are currently on low-carb diets and 70 million say they're watching their carb intake, but also in magazines like LowCarb Living, which has seen its circulation nearly quadruple to more than 300,000 since its launch eight months ago. Bobbi Schlesinger, president of Freeman Public Relations, represents the title and says it's been able to raise its profile by positioning the editors as experts in low-carb eating. While noting that the sheer number of new low-carb products is making it harder to get individual reviews, Schlesinger says, "The media are still interested in low-carb, but now they are looking for information on where the trend is heading next. People living the lifestyle want to know about resorts or restaurants that emphasize low-carb, and once they've lost weight they want to know about fashion." "Dieting, just like overeating, is as American as apple pie," adds Draznin. "So there will always be space for something like low-carb. The test over the long-haul is will the science bear it out, and thus far it does." ----- Pitching... low-carb media There are literally thousands of new low-carb food items now on the market, so simple product press releases won't cut it anymore. Look for trends on where this diet is heading and position your client as an expert in the category You need to pitch something new and truly unique. Food writers generally won't cover specific low-carb products unless you offer that To combat low-carb fatigue in the media, keep pushing the numbers. Seventy million people currently watching their carb intake is too large an audience to ignore for too long
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