US beer brand Scofflaw hires Media House International to clean up 'rogue' release mess

US craft brewer Scofflaw has appointed Media House International to handle its PR and comms in the wake of the Frank PR rogue press release scandal, PRWeek can reveal.

Scofflaw brewmaster Travis Herman and CEO Matt Shirah
Scofflaw brewmaster Travis Herman and CEO Matt Shirah

Media House International specialises in PR, crisis comms and public affairs, and has a remit to help Scofflaw repair any damage to its reputation caused by the scandal, as well as helping the US brewer find another distributor in the UK after its previous arrangement with UK-based BrewDog was terminated.

In late September, Frank PR sent a press release promising to get the UK "beered up redneck style" and saying that Trump supporters would receive free Scofflaw beer at BrewDog bars.

The release was distributed without sign-off from Scofflaw boss Matt Shirah and he claims it featured several inaccuracies, stressing that the Atlanta-based brewer does not and has never endorsed Trump.

A swift retraction followed, but not before the scandal erupted in the media and on social, leading BrewDog to quickly sever its distribution arrangement with Scofflaw.

Frank PR issued a public apology statement and has since suspended an employee over the mistake. PRWeek understands Scofflaw will no longer work with Frank, which had been employed to help it launch in the UK, and has instructed law firm Dentons to explore legal action against the agency.

PRWeek has learned that the fallout from the scandal has caused several US retailers, repulsed by the false Trump connection, to stop selling Scofflaw beer.

Another source of frustration, claims the US brewer, is that BrewDog did not work with Scofflaw to repair the arrangement, even after it became clear that Scofflaw wasn’t responsible for the rogue release.

BrewDog's PR agency Manifest told PRWeek BrewDog was forced to hit pause on the partnership when the rogue release first went public, but had "reiterated its support" for Scofflaw once the facts emerged. 

'Thrown under several buses'

Shirah told PRWeek his business had been "been thrown under several buses at one time" and that Frank PR "does not consider it was legally obliged to obtain approval" from their clients before issuing a release.

He said Scofflaw appointed Frank following a recommendation from BrewDog and after checking out Frank’s client list.

"I expect it was naive for me to believe that they would have, or should have, a certain duty of care when it comes to releasing messages that can have a global impact on a client's brand, especially given the current political environment," Shirah said.

"I will say that communications I have seen between Frank and my legal counsel state quite clearly that Frank does not believe they had a duty to seek approval from their clients. So yes, it has been a disappointing experience on many fronts.

"We have been thrown under several buses at one time. I will resist the urge to offer more commentary due to all of the pending litigation and related negotiations. I expect it will all come out in the wash. I would add one thing however...we do beer, not politics."

A Frank PR spokesperson told PRWeek: "We are sorry that Scofflaw has decided to get its lawyers involved in this matter, and that as a result, we have been forced to instruct lawyers ourselves. From what PRWeek have told us, we do not consider that Scofflaw is fairly representing what we have said in our response to their legal letter." 

'Getting them through this'

Media House International executive chairman Jack Irvine said he approached Scofflaw boss Matt Shirah after reading about the scandal on PRWeek.

"Immediately after we saw the story, one of my colleagues Rebecca Durnin contacted Scofflaw and spoke to the boss (Matt Shirah), who was very concerned about the damage this had caused his business," Irvine told PRWeek.

"I said to Shirah that we could help you get through this and help you out, not just in PR, but I know a lot of people in the brewing and whisky industry. My remit is to get them through this period, get re-established and hopefully strike a new distribution deal in Britain."

Irvine, who has been to Atlanta where Scofflaw is brewed, said the craft brewery produces a high-quality product, is run by "really professional guys" and is confident of helping them find a new distribution route into the UK market.

He added: "He’s a finance industry veteran with significant experience in the Big Four accounting environment and the beverage industry. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Along with his legal team in London, I am going to help him resolve this mess and introduce him to beer distributors who know what they’re doing."

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