Walkie Talkie

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365 days of Alken-Maes

In February 2023, we started working for the Belgian brewery Alken-Maes. The company is widely known for its lager brands Maes and Cristal, tequila flavoured beer Desperados and other brands such as Grimbergen, Affligem and Mort Subite. Having no less than five production sites spread across Belgium – Alken, Puurs-Sint-Amands, Kobbegem, Opwijk and Aubel – and employing over 600 people, it is safe to say that there are always multiple stories brewing behind the scenes. 

Being a company with a very diverse range of stories and numerous external stakeholders, we helped Alken-Maes in picking its battles and guided its beverage client in the most key stories. Ranging from corporate to lifestyle angles, sustainability topics to product reviews, interviews with farmers to the ones with the CEO – 2023 was quite the year. Let’s recap.

a birthday, investment and a snack

We kicked off in March with a press release that announced the collaboration between Walkie Talkie and respectively the Alken-Maes corporate team, and both the Cristal and the Desperados brand. Not to score clippings, but to make all relevant media and journalists aware that Walkie Talkie is the one to contact now, for all Alken-Maes’ press-related questions. The press release featured a sneak peak of what the year had in store. Those who wanted, received a sustainable branded box – made by a partner of ours – containing the beers. Both in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. It is 2023, after all. 

Early in June, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the brewery in Alken. Albeit a local story at first sight, we looked into the magnitude and national impact of the brewery. And listed what the future has in store. In the end, and by combining thorough embargoed pitching with a press release, we secured  22 clippings, for a reach of nearly 6 million and an AVE of over 550,000 euros. Sudinfo, La Libre, Grenz Echo for instance covered the story – besides all local Limburgian media. 

As June is the traditional month to harvest barley, we coordinated and executed the press approach of Cristal’s collab with Belgian barley farmers in Kruisem and La Bruyère. This in collaboration with Arvesta and its respective PR agency. Next to a press release to reach a broader media spectrum, we set up interviews in both regions to secure a total of 13 clippings –  from VRT NWS to Landbouwleven and La Dernière Heure. The news reached 3.75 million people and had an AVE of nearly 160,000 euros. 

Announcing a 100 million euros investment in its Malting Albert in Puurs-Sint-Amands mid-July, we maximed press attention for a total of 39 clippings, a reach of over 8.8 million and an AVE of nearly 450,000 euros. How? We dissected all available information and translated those to accessible storylines regarding the long-term sustainability impact, the magnitude of the financial numbers and the meaning for Belgian lagers. Then, we pitched the embargoed story along with interviews of key Alken-Maes people to a number of key journalists. Followed by a press gathering Mid-July and a press release to other relevant members of the press. A front-page in both De Tijd and Gazet van Antwerpen, multiple television reports and radio interviews, and 10 Walloon clippings: all were secured. 

When Alken-Maes informed us they would start a trial in 20 Belgian bars with the ‘Cristal Cracker’, a snack made from the beer residual ‘draf’, we advised to bring the news on the date of the top topical of Earth Overshoot Day in August. A move that paid off. The Cristal Cracker was featured in the ‘national’ print edition of Het Nieuwsblad, as well as in in-depth stories in trade press such as Horeca Magazine and De Zytholoog. Number-wise: the 10 clippings combined for a reach of over 4 million euros and an AVE of over 140,000 euros. 

Last but not least, we created newsworthy storylines regarding the West-Flemish hop harvest in September for the Limburgian brewery where Cristal is brewed and bottled. With pinpoint pitches, both Cristal and its valued partner ‘t Hoppecruyt were featured in 14 clippings – among which the front page of the trade magazine Boer & Tuinder. By making it to every relevant West-Flemish medium, we managed a reach of nearly 4.5 million and an AVE of over 160,000 euros. 

‘Harvesting’ low-hanging fruit

From scoring Alken-Maes CEO Marc-Josephus Jitta interviews in De Tijd, to having female farmer and Alken-Maes partner Benedikte Coutigny portrayed in local media on Women’s Day. From enthusing journalists on Affligem on their collaboration with the local neighbourhood network Hoplr in four major Belgian cities, to pitching Father Karel – the face of the abbey of Grimbergen – in the wake of the launch of a new beer for charity. From scraping Statbel databases on local malting barley numbers to joining a Royal Antwerp Football Club call after writing a press release on its brand-new partnership with Cristal. 2023 had it all. We can’t wait to see what 2024 has in store! 

  • Making Alken-Maes visible as a sustainable brand
  • Develop and create PR hooks around harvests of ingredients and ways to reduce food waste
  • Copywriting & editing of press releases
  • Press mailings
  • Development and implementation of (product) seeding strategies and community building
  • Calculation of PR-values