‘Kill the press release’: Lessons in brand journalism from Coca-Cola Journey

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What You’ll Learn:: 

Perhaps you caught the story in Mashable, The Daily Mail, Adweek, or The Huffington Post.

Coca-Cola’s Singapore team designed a new double can that splits into two, so customers can share the fizzy beverage with a friend.

Fantastic PR. But that must have been a lot of work landing stories in media so far and wide, right?

Actually, no.

“It was never pitched to media,” says Brown, who leads digital communications and social media for The Coca-Cola Company. “That story’s out there—that story’s popular—because we covered it.”

In this session, Brown tells how Coca-Cola uses its ambitious brand journalism project, Coca-Cola Journey, to tell its own story. The digital magazine has been so successful, the company is planning to ditch news releases altogether.

You'll learn:

  • Why investing in real content is the future of PR
  • How content investment fuels rapid social channel growth
  • Why it's important for organization to think and act like a newsroom
  • To ask: Is big data a big resource or just a bigger haystack?

Learn from lessons Coke absorbed in the first year of Journey. Find out why Coke decided to re-purpose its old website rather than create a new, separate site. The old portal was “really ugly,” but it got tremendous traffic. So Coca-Cola remade its main website into a magazine.

Find out why Coke decided to build a newsroom and kill the press release. Coke hired people with journalism backgrounds, and it plans to get rid of news releases entirely by 2015.

“I’m on a mission,” Brown says. “What I want to do is kill the press release.”

Learn how to ask questions such as these:

  • What is a two-minute, really high-quality video that someone really would want to share?
  • How do I package that announcement so that someone who doesn’t work at Coke and doesn’t care would want to read it and share it?

Fill your “careers” section with stories. It needn’t be just a static page or job search form. Coke uses a storytelling approach even here, with a piece titled “Photographer Lands Picture-Perfect Gig With Coke.”

Find out how to touch their hearts, as when the company set up camera-outfitted Coke machines in malls in India and Pakistan—traditional enemies—and gave people a chance wave at each other and make friends.

Learn about designing for smartphones, and using data to guide your editorial decisions. It’s no longer about ramming your message down consumers’ throats. You need to offer stories, videos and other content on subjects they are interested in—and that means closely watching your analytics for what works.

Start here and rethink your PR.

October 2013

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Presenter bio: 

Ashley Brown leads digital communications and social media for The Coca-Cola Company. He develops and executes the company's digital strategy, amplifies the Coca-Cola story online and guides digital and social media policies and training. He also trains employees to be effective brand ambassadors, and advises Coca-Cola's customers and partners on their digital and social media.