Speaking at the recently concluded 7th Annual Corporate Communications – New Age Communications, Deepak Jolly, Vice President Public Affairs and Communications, Coca Cola India and South West Asia, discussed how a series of sustained and effective sustainability initiatives have contributed to Coca Cola’s growth in India.
After describing Coca Cola’s Live Positively Framework – which aims to embed sustainability in all parts of the business, Mr. Jolly proceeded to discuss how his team’s communications strategy is intrinsically tied to the larger goals of the organization.
Additionally, as a company that produces 3300 brands worldwide, the corporation’s product range is undeniably large and diversified. The key for the communications function, then, is to devise a strategy and plan that is in sync with not only the overarching aims of the organization, but also to its diverse brands. As Mr. Jolly put it, “sustainability is ingrained in Coca-Cola’s global mission and vision,” and it is obvious that Coke’s major communications activities in India have been influenced by this as well.
Mr. Jolly has been in the communications space for over 23 years and his presentation presented some very pertinent points for communications and PR pros. The following are three distinct learnings from his presentation.
Media Reports Energize the Company Within
While discussing how media reports about India Pledge (an initiative, supported by Coca Cola India, committed to changing F&B advertising targeted at children – http://www.pledge-india.com/) and the Coca Cola NDTV Support My School program (a campaign focused on improving primary school education in India — http://www.ndtv.com/micro/supportmyschool/default.aspx) helped Coke attain great press coverage, Mr. Jolly was quick to point out the power of positive press in “energizing the system.” Of course, positive press helps your image with consumers, but the stakeholders within the organization also get a boost when positivity is highlighted. Employees, he noted, were motivated by such campaigns to often go above and beyond basic requirements in fulfilling these campaigns – affording them more pride in their tasks as well as a better alignment with Coca-Cola’s central mission.
Lesson: Don’t look at media reports as only a function to boost your external image. Set up a robust system, intranet, and culture that promotes the system of sharing positive news about the company within. This will help energize and motivate employees, possibly turning them into your brand’s evangelists.
Brand Ambassadors Work
A significant portion of Mr. Jolly’s comments about the success of the Support My School focused on how they managed to get Sachin Tendulkar, India’s greatest sporting icon, as the brand ambassador for the campaign – and how that significantly raised the amount of attention that the campaign received. As a “national figure,” Sachin was able to attract pan-India media interest and plenty of photo opportunities when he went for school openings or events.
Lesson: Even in a media market that is supposedly saturated by a few celebrities, if your campaign can afford them, then seriously consider getting a high profile brand ambassador.
Don’t Trust Verbal Communication
By narrating incidents about how the media can misquote or misrepresent facts, Mr. Jolly stressed the need to back up any verbal communication with numbers and facts. In his words, it is essential for communications professionals to “ensure that numbers discussed on the phone are communicated via mail and in writing.”
Lesson: Follow up every phone conversation with an email that details facts and figures. This will not only give journalists more perspective, but will also limit the chances of misinformed reporting.