Coca-Cola’s message to PR students: Carbonate to onnovate
By Anna Gibbs
Teams were assembled, name tags were peeled and notes were scribbled down as Ohio University students prepared to carbonate to innovate.
Kent Landers, Coca-Cola’s company group director and corporate media relations head, traveled more than 500 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, to Athens, Ohio, to speak at the “Opening Up Innovation With Coke” event Nov. 4.
Students winners with Kent Landers of Coca-Cola.
Landers explained how the professional journalism world is changing. America now has nearly five public relations professionals for every reporter. Millennials want something different from companies today, he said.
“Generation X was more interested in stock information, and millennials aren’t impressed by that,” Landers said. “They want to know what you’re doing for them as a consumer and what does the future look like.”
Kent Landers presents his lessons.
Sixty-two percent of millennials want to see new product technology, and 19 percent want to see the inside look into the company by employees, 11 percent want to see the financial growth of the company, and 8 percent want to see vintage products and company history, according to Landers.
“You’re not just going to be writing press releases,” Landers said. "Now we want to know how to immerse people in our content."
Landers said he can’t remember the last time someone solely used a press release for a campaign. Now professionals are looking to engage.
Coca-Cola enhances brand conversation with the help of Coca-Cola Journey, a digital magazine that promotes brand journalism. The purpose is to engage the conversation through storytelling and creating content that makes a difference for the business.
Jennica Lurie, a senior studying strategic communication, learned brands are expected to keep up in a society where technology is advancing rapidly.
"It takes more than a TV commercial to maintain a solid brand; interactivity and conversation with consumers is what really sets a brand apart these days," Lurie said. "It was cool to see how a brand that stretches from one end of the globe to the other, like Coca-Cola, and digitally innovates to reach its consumers."
After Landers spoke, participants broke into four teams to start the summit competition. Teams were tasked with a case study and asked to outline what they would do to ensure that a new company, Global Foods, Inc., would be a leader in engaging media of all types.
Each team had to come up with a plan and stand before four panelists to present its idea. The panelists included Landers, Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the President Jennifer Kirksey and OU professors Parul Jain and Dan Farkas.
Alex Corsi, Anna Gibbs, Danielle McCarthy, Ellie Halter and McKennah Robinson won the competition. Their idea included a media relations team that would be well versed in old and new media platforms. This group created a cultural-engagement team to properly orient products to diverse markets by changing messages to be culturally appropriate. It also decided to develop stories using a bottom-up approach in the company to ensure community engagement.
“Coca-Cola is such a well-known brand nationally, so it was cool to see what happens on the inside in order to make the media relations so successful,” said Corsi, a senior studying strategic communication. “Being able to apply what we learned from the keynote speech to our case study and winning the competition on top of that felt like a real honor!” Lander’s parting advice was: Never stop learning, leverage your network and don’t be afraid to fall forward.