The story of the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is well known, just recently dramatized in a well-received HBO miniseries has brought it renewed attention.
To call that event, the worst nuclear accident in history, a PR disaster would be a gross understatement. More than three decades later, the very name “Chernobyl” has become synonymous with nuclear disasters. The site is has even become the focus of numerous horror films and horror video games.
In reality, thousands of people still live in the officially abandoned area, and the unemployment rate among them is about 50 percent. Add to that, agriculture and new investment are forbidden, making the prospect of economic recovery unlikely.1
An entire geographic region with these kinds of issues, on top of a “horror” PR reputation may sound insurmountable, but there are efforts underway to change the world’s perception of surrounding regions, such as Pripyat in the Kiev region.
A team of scientists that have been studying the land near the Chernobyl have come up with a rather novel idea to do just that – and that idea has a rather “Russian” ring to it.
How’s vodka sound?
The scientists started the project by using rye grain and water gathered from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Working with the Chernobyl Spirit Company, the scientists created the first bottle of “artisan” vodka.
They’re calling Atomik Vodka.
Now, before you scream, “It’s radioactive!”, it isn’t. Remember this beverage was created by not-so-mad scientists very much aware of that particular hurdle. (But it is 80 proof in case you were wondering.)
In fact, Atomik Vodka is very much radioactive free, as one of the scientists explains in this video.
Jim Smith, Professor of Environmental Science put to rest assuaged the obvious assumption. “This is no more radioactive than any other vodka. We’ve checked it. We’ve had two of the best laboratories in the world look at it and see if they can find any radioactivity from Chernobyl, and they haven’t found it,” he said.2 (Well, I do feel better now.)
As pure as their vodka may be, the whole point of the project isn’t about selling booze. On top of giving the profits over to the affected areas around the Ukraine, they wanted to bring larger attention to a part of the world that is in dire need of an economic as well as reputational revitalization, basically a way to help rebrand the area.
And attention they got – major news outlets such as the BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and CBS News.com all provided coverage of the vodka’s creation and its altruistic purpose to an audience around the world that numbered in the millions!
That’s incredible (nonradioactive) exposure for a single bottle of booze!!!
There’s a much larger takeaway here: the deep crisis afflicting the lands around Chernobyl are being given most reputable third-party validation possible – from the very scientists studying the region, distilled (pun intended) down to an actual product they helped create.
The radiation is not the problem anymore, it’s the perception of the region that is now the real problem. The plight of its people was laid bare to the world.
That’s what you’re always aiming for – not merely third-party validation, but validation from sources with stellar reputations of their own. Once you have these sources vouching for your company, your products and services, you’ll have achieved an advantage over any competition relying just on marketing and advertising.
Contrast this worthy PR effort to intentional omissions of vital information that ended up losing lives – read The #PRFail – How Was Safety NOT Their First Concern???
Now, about that name, “Atomik”… maybe a PR firm could help you work on that…
JOTO PR Disruptors understands crises and the methods to overcome them. We’re also experts at creating the strategies needed to build your reputation using strategic communications to gain the right attention and reputable third-party backing. Ultimately, we’ll help bring your business back to the forefront of your industry and have your clients buying from you once again.
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- Karasz, Palko. “Vodka From Chernobyl Is Perfectly Safe, Say the Scientists Who Made It”, The New York Times. August 09, 2019. nytimes.com/2019/08/09/world/europe/chernobyl-vodka-atomik.html
- Herring, James. “Now you can buy Chernobyl Vodka – and it’s radioactive-free”, FamousCampiagns.com, August 8, 2029. famouscampaigns.com/2019/08/now-you-can-buy-chernobyl-vodka-and-its-radioactive-free/