By: Meaghan Shaw

Adam Ritchie, owner of PR firm Adam Ritchie Brand Direction, Skyped into last Tuesday night’s PRSSA meeting to discuss injecting new forms of creativity into campaigns. Ritchie is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and a four-time recipient of the Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America. He has also received a Best in Creative Excellence Distinction from PRWeek.

In addition to running a PR firm, Ritchie is the guitarist for rock band The Lights Out. Of course, the band wanted to sell records, but Ritchie’s obstacle was selling records “in an age when no one wants to buy music.” Spotify has made streaming music for free so popular that it was a challenge to convince audiences to purchase records. Ritchie says that record stores’ main audiences are people who want “reissued classics,” not fresh rock albums. The solution to this, he said, was in creating an exclusive experience only his band’s record could give.

The idea to pair the release of his band’s album with a beer came to him when he asked around for what kind of stores record-listeners actually went to. The answer? The liquor store, for beer, on the weekends. So Ritchie pitched his idea – to match music to a beer and call it a concert to Aeronaut Brewing, a brewery just outside of Boston. Aeronaut was founded by scientists who loved the idea of parallel realities in The Lights Out’s album, entitled T.R.I.P. The brewery created a beer of the same name to match the album, which was created with galaxy hops from Australia. However, the experience didn’t stop at the taste; Ritchie wanted to create another dimension of audience interaction.

“If you’re doing entertainment PR, and there’s something happening on stage, everyone’s gonna be on their phone anyway,” Ritchie said. “The secret is, can you make something happen on that stage that makes them rotate that phone 90 degrees and point that camera at what’s happening on the stage rather than on their feet?”

The beer can’s design had a digital version of what Ritchie refers to as a “call to action” printed on the label. If audience members tweeted “#TRIPME” to the Twitter accounts of The Lights Out and Aeronaut Brewing, a message pre-designed by the band members would be tweeted back at them. During the meeting, Ritchie had members send this Tweet and tell him what the responses were. Tweets included, “In an alternate universe, you are twice as strong, but only half as fast” and “In an alternate universe, you are on vacation at the finest hotel on the moon.” The tweets included a link that brought members to a website where audiences could download or stream the band’s album, all while enjoying the craft beer.

As for the album-debut concert itself, Ritchie wanted it to match the experience. The concert was held at a rock-climbing venue where wormholes were projected onto the walls and band members rappelled off a cherry picker 70 feet in the air onto the stage. Band members wore costumes with LED lights installed in them, adding a galactic glow to the scene.

It all paid off: earned media went through the roof, making national and international headlines across a variety of media outlets. Ritchie attributes all of this to what he calls the ‘principle of scarcity.’ That is, making something extremely limited edition creates a sense of high value. He pressed the idea to PRSSA members that no campaign idea is brand new, but it’s how the idea is used that sets it apart from others.

“If you turn it into a treasure hunt,” Ritchie said, “now you’ve got something.”