Most of us shy away from our mistakes, try to keep them hidden and hope nobody will notice. After all, good publicity and link building only come from positive stories, don’t they?

That’s not so, as Colorado Brewer, Ska Brewing demonstrate in a clever piece of marketing…

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The story appeared in this article, Ska Brewing Uses Humor to Turn a Bad Hops Contract Into a Beer.

Story from Westword about Ska Brewing's big mistake.

Journalist, Jonathan Shikes of Westword tells the story:

The year was 2014. The sun was shining, the flowers were blooming, and Ska Brewing was getting ready to introduce a new year-round beer, Rudie  Session Ale …which Ska tagged with the line “Rudie can’t fail,” from a Clash song of the same name…

…Fast-forward to 2017. “ Rudie is failing,” says Ska co-founder Dave Thibodeau.

But not only was the beer a failure, the brewery bought into a 5-year contract for the special hops required to make it.

They weren’t alone – other breweries had bought into the same type of contracts – and as a result, many of them were giving away vast quantities of hops or selling them at discounted prices.

However, the guys at Spa Brewing are made of stronger stuff.

Rather than getting rid of the unwanted hops, they embraced their mistake and created a new beer called Bad Hop Contract (BHC) to use all of those unwanted hops.

As Shikes reports:

Then [Ska sales manager] Arlo [Grammatica] suggests that we make a beer called Bad Hop Contract and use all of those hops,” Thibodeau explains with a laugh.

Not only did the brewery salvage something from the unwanted hops they had bought, they turned it into a great story.

Have you used the power of mistakes in your link building?

Mistakes shouldn’t be at the heart of your promotional campaigns, but under the right circumstances, they have a part to play. I just did a search on Google News for “admits mistake” and got 12,000 results so it a popular topic for both journalists and bloggers.

If you can follow the example of Spa Brewing, then your story could stand out from the mountain of press releases and pitches that publishers receive. Perhaps, it’s something you could mention to your client when the time is right?

So what link building and PR lessons can we draw from Ska Brewing?

If you do go down this route, here are some lessons I took from this example:

1. A mistake handled well, can lead to great publicity.

2. Always give the journalist some memorable quotes – if the quotes are good they’ll use them – and that means you get to frame the story. Thibodeau’s comments were tongue in cheek and they certainly gave a good impression of the company.

3. Recognise that media coverage is not a one-off activity. You’ve got to look at it long term and build a PR plan – no matter how sketchy than plan might be. Aim to plan for at least the next 12 months. Some of your ideas won’t come to any publicity (so repurpose them) – but some of them catch a writer’s eye and give you a great result.

You can see from the press section of their website that Ska Brewing get regular coverage:

Such coverage doesn’t happen by accident – the guys at Ska worked at it!

4. Back your PR message up with great content on your site. Ska Brewing do a great job of this on their “heroes and villains” story. Such clever humor is not only entertaining for readers, but is likely to convince a browsing journalist that they are worth writing about.

5. Get to know what journalists write about – even if it’s about your competitors. Most media outlets now carry journalist profiles, often including contact details. So get to know journalists who write about you and about your competitors.

Here’s how Jonathan Shikes is described at Westword:

The profile gives you a list of his previous articles and that tells you what Shikes likes to write about. If he’s a relevant prospect, try to pitch him with something similar.

6. As you can see from this screenshot from Majestic, Ska Brewing has a healthy link profile – but it’s not possible to separate the influence of PR activities and traditional link building activities on the overall link profile of a site – they work together.  :

Final words

Publicity campaigns don’t need to be just about your latest product features and what might usually be regarded as news. Indeed, you need to be creative in generating ideas – and looking at mistakes is certainly one you should consider.

Digital PR and link building are perfect bedfellows. You can see 6 more examples in this video: How online PR adds a new dimension to your campaigns.





Author: Ken McGaffin

I’ve been working online since studying entrepreneurship at Boston College, MA since the early 90s. I now consult and provide training in digital marketing, public relations and link building. If you’d like to have a chat, give me a call on +44 (0)1292 263801 or drop me a line to ken @