How to build the worst Dry January pitch of all time
A foolproof guide to unsuccessfully soliciting trend coverage for any non-alcoholic beverage brand
It’s roughly halfway through Dry January, and as expected, the discourse has been utterly dismal. Trend pieces about non-alcoholic beer, wine, and “elixirs” have once again flooded the timeline. Business outlets are demanding you take note of the massive growth that some1 booze-free brands are showing. Dubious statistics and tedious sanctimony2 abound: PBR’s ass-eating tweeting was apparently part of a since-aborted “Wet January” campaign designed to counter-program self-imposed sobriety for the month. People seemed madder about that than the analingus endorsement!
Strange times we live in, dear reader. Stranger still if you’re a communications professional trying to get the word out about your client’s non-alcoholic potables. With all that noise in the media ecosystem, how will you break through?
Never fear, because your fearless Fingers editor is here. As a seasoned beer business journalist, I’ve been on the receiving end of many a Dry January-themed press release. As you might imagine, this sucks! But having been bombarded with booze-adjacent palaver for about a decade, I’m deeply, painfully qualified to identify what makes some Dry January pitches merely boring, and others downright catastrophic.3 Today, like Dr. Frankenstein assembling the otherworldly beast that bore his name, I’m going to put those hard-won insights to good use. That’s right, dear reader: we’re building the worst Dry January pitch of all time.
🏗️ The building blocks of all bad pitches
Every terrible pitch, Dry January-related or otherwise, has a few fundamental components. Typos and chaotic formatting are IN; coherent, relevant information is OUT. Why would you convert body copy to plain text when you can copy/paste three different fonts and colors into the same message? Exactly, you wouldn’t. Hell, if you’re feeling saucy, run black copy on a black background, so the recipient will only be able to read it if they randomly happen to highlight the text with their cursor. Go nuts!
Attachments should be plentiful. If you know how to make every social button in your company’s signature into an individual .jpeg, do it! That’ll make it a lot harder to find the one-sheet you’ve included about your brand, which must—repeat, must—be sent in .docx format so it’ll immediately crash any Mac that opens it. Always, always be asking yourself: Would this pitch give Mavis Beacon uncontrollable vapors on sight? If the answer is anything besides an emphatic yes, you’ve got work to do. Pro tip: slightly change the subject line every time you follow up—which should be at least thrice—to break Gmail’s threading function!
💃 Notes on tone and style
As with all pitches, you should be slightly condescending and also cloyingly friendly. But for Dry January, it’s very important to add an arbitrary frisson of urgency to your dispatches. This is a pressing item! Assume that your ideal reader, a food & beverage writer, has never heard of, much less considered the concept of not drinking for an entire month, and that you are serving it up on a very-sober silver platter. Act accordingly. Exclamation points, BLOCK CAPS, emoji—for a story this big, there’s no punctuation too overbearing, no syntax too spectacular. Dry January is here, and these dipshits in the content mines need to know about it.
Some PR pros fret about the relative lack of vocabulary available to concisely describe such an abstract concept as “a temporary sobriety ritual that is sort of a British thing but also now just ‘a thing,’ I guess?” But not you. You’ve got plenty of bars about not going to bars:
Drying something new
And so forth. Don’t be afraid to make words up: just because no one has ever referred to not drinking as “me-totaling” before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t randomly pepper it into your pitch without warning. Journalists love this.
At some point—hopefully no sooner than four or five grafs into your pitch, make ‘em really hunt for it—you’ll want to talk about the client’s actual product. Here too, you should get freaky with the catchphrases. You’re not hawking a glorified iced tea; that’s an “inventive, mixology-driven mocktail.” Booze-free beers are “ale-adjacent,” carbonated hop water is “non-alcoholic hard seltzer,” and kombucha… actually, that’s still just kombucha. Philistines might call it grape juice, but you should describe it as an “wine-inspired zero-proof fruit expressions.” Remember: everything is plant-based, and nothing matters. The more impenetrable, the better. Yeehaw!
🖥️ Start-uppy brand names
Obviously, you can’t control what your clients call their non-alcoholic products. But best (worst) case scenario, you’ll be sending Dry January pitches for companies with absolutely bizarre brand names. Intentional misspellings are good; numbers in place of vowels are better. Everybody knows to reinvent the wheel, you have to spell it W33L. And now you do, too.
🧗♂️Convenient founders’ bios
Technically, you can’t control the client’s personal background, either. But for the purposes of pitching, you may as well just fabricate it. What’s the worst that could happen? You’re looking for something active and outdoorsy like skiing, but also deeply obnoxious, like triathlons. When in doubt, just say the client got the idea for fauxdka while… uh… recovering from an ultra-marathon and/or hungover paragliding. Yeah, that’ll do it.
📊 Vague statistics
Larding your pitch with bizarre figures of questionable polling provenance is absolutely key. Do you have data from a poll that shows 67% of Zoomer LDAs plan to butt-bong yuzu-based sober sake this Dry January? No? Well, dammit, you really should. What’s that? You don’t know how to “properly establish survey control groups and margins of error?” Who cares?! Toss up a Twitter poll and see what comes in. By the time anybody double-checks your Dry January data you’ll be blasting out Valentine’s Day drivel anyway.
🍺 O’Doul’s jokes
The more stale and embarrassing, the better—which, coincidentally, is also O’Doul’s new slogan, amirite?!?!
⚖️ Diet discourse
Consider including some passive-aggressive commentary about losing weight and following through on New Year’s resolutions. Yes, it’s kind of gross. But on the flipside, it’s kind of gross! We’re building the worst Dry January pitch of all time. Never lose sight of the mission, which—just to be crystal-clear here—is making people feel bad about themselves and then offering them costly consumer goods they can buy to make themselves feel better. (Suggested subject line: “ATTN: PLUMP FAILURES…”)
🧪 Pseudoscience, generally
Fingers is on-record endorsing Bang Energy CEO Jack Owoc’s decision to inject himself full of dead fetal tissue for #gains, so it should come as no surprise that this publication’s official editorial position on Dry January pitches framed around junk science is *extremely Kylo Ren voice* “MORE, MORE!” Here’s a handy reference guide for your medically inflected and maybe-accurate pitching needs:
Super-fruits: provide “anti-oxidants” to “boost immunity”
Adaptogens: “reduce stress” and “improve mood”
Nootropics: are adaptogens?
Prebiotics: naturally “enhance gut health”
Probiotics: naturally “enhance gut health,” but at the professional level
Antibiotics: doctors prescribe these, weird flex to be in a N/A beverage but OK
Amino acids: are the powerhouse of the cell no shit that’s mitochondria shit
Some of these things may be true! But it’s important to remember they absolutely don’t have to be. What’s the FDA going to do? Sure, they could put the kibosh on you like they did to Four Loko, but would they? You sure about that? You sure about that’s why?
📦 Ample samples
Bludgeon your pitchee with offers for free product. Tack it onto the end of the subject line. Put it in bold halfway through the body of your pitch. Remind them that “like hi-res images, samples are available upon request,” then remind yourself to follow up with them to ask why they haven’t requested any samples. Yes, given all the “sUpPlY cHaIn IsSuEs,” Dry January will be in the rearview by the time your shipment of virgin amari arrives at their address. But that way, they can just extend their monthlong sober-curiosity into a year-round lifestyle—which, incidentally, should be the subject of your next pitch.
🤝 SUBSCRIBER BONUS: The worst Dry January pitch of all time
The guide above is free to the entire Fingers Fam, but paying Friends of Fingers also get a fully assembled and utterly garbagio Dry January sample pitch below. If you enjoy this newsletter, consider buying a subscription! I depend on readers to underwrite the labor that goes into producing this newsletter. Thanks for your support!—Dave.
From: JL @ The Picard Agency
To: Dave at Fingers
Subject: following up? - Tackling Dry January with *new* plant-based non-alcoholic tinctures from Tēmplė (SAMPLES AVAILABLE)