United Distillers and Vintners (UDV) North America is the exclusive distributor and marketer of Jose Cuervo brand tequilas in the United States.  In September 2000, UDV embarked on a program to research media coverage of a crisis affecting the tequila industry – the shortage of the blue agave plant, from which tequila is made.  The shortage is driving up prices of tequila at retail stores as well as at restaurants and bars serving drinks made from the spirit.  UDV was concerned that false information and negative publicity about the shortage was appearing in the broad consumer press. 
As the representative of the largest tequila manufacturer in the world, UDV had a vested interest in managing and containing this issue through accurate reporting and consumer understanding.  The company recognized that no-one had stepped forward as the “voice of the industry” on this issue.   In order to develop a strategic public relations program to address the shortage, UDV conducted extensive research to assess current media coverage of the issue from a qualitative and quantitative perspective. The research was used to benchmark media coverage of the agave shortage, and later served as the foundation for a strategic public relations campaign that began in January 2001.  All research conducted for the program occurred in 2000.  This research, or “State of the Industry” report, is hereby submitted for an Iron Sabre.
As the industry leader, UDV (Jose Cuervo) believed it had both the opportunity and credibility to serve as the primary industry resource for tequila and agave shortage information.  The company sought to use the media as a conduit for consumer education about the issue, to ensure that tequila drinkers supported the Jose Cuervo brand and were informed about the reasons behind the tequila price increases.  The challenge was to determine which reporters were writing about the subject; which companies and brands were quoted most often; which, if any, rumors and false statistics were being disseminated; and whether media coverage of the issue was on an upward (increasing) or downward (lessening) trend.    
Based on nearly a year’s worth of media coverage (since January 2000), this research chronicled the evolution of the tequila shortage and would determine whether or not UDV (Jose Cuervo) had an opportunity to lead consumer education on the issue and serve as the voice of the industry.  Based on that analysis, the report also would provide the foundation for a strategically sound and multi-faceted public relations campaign to address the shortage.
The analysis is based on nearly 200 articles on the agave shortage that appeared in the media from January through August 2000. All articles were provided to PR 21 by Lexis-Nexis.  An independent team of analysts within PR 21’s Competitive Intelligence Services Practice (UDV/Jose Cuervo’s public relations agency), determined the favorability of coverage and extracted all relevant information from the searched articles
The methodology behind this strategic media analysis report is consistent with the research and evaluation guidelines established by the Public Relations Society of America and Guidelines and Standards for Measuring and Evaluating PR Effectiveness (c 1997, Institute for Public Relations Research and Education).

The following five objectives were set for the research:
  • Competitive Branding - Identify the top tequila brands that have been associated with the shortage and how much coverage they received month by month. 
  • Hot Topics/Issues – Identify specific issues relating to the shortage that capture the media’s attention (i.e. prices, crime, substitute brands/drinks).
  • Top Publications and Journalists –Pinpoint the most attractive media targets for news and commentary from UDV/Jose Cuervo, based on their track record of reporting.
  • Top Influencers/Spokespersons – Identify the experts used by the media for commentary on the shortage.
  • Quantity of Coverage – Determine how much media coverage the issue has received, and whether it is on an upward (increasing) or downward (lessening) trend.

A team of analysts extracted data from nearly 200 articles based on specific search terms related to the agave shortage (and the subsequent tequila shortage), as well as Jose Cuervo and its competitors. The data was analyzed to determine which competitors were most often mentioned in connection with the agave shortage, and how often the Jose Cuervo brand was mentioned.  Several charts and graphs (attached) were generated to depict the results.  The graphic representations revealed recurring messages and themes, a competitive analysis of brand mentions, quantity of media coverage month by month, as well as the names of reporters and publications covering the issue. 
The report revealed that since January 2000, media coverage of the agave shortage had increased by approximately 300 percent.  In particular, significant attention had been given to the shortage's effects on retail tequila prices and corporate earnings. 
The report also revealed that despite Jose Cuervo's leadership position in the tequila industry, the brand had not received the most mentions in the media. It also confirmed that none of Jose Cuervo’s competitors had seized the position of “voice of the industry.”  As a result of this extensive research, UDV (Jose Cuervo) determined that a compelling opportunity existed to take the leadership position on this issue to educate consumers about the agave shortage, while elevating the position of the Jose Cuervo brand and the tequila category in general.