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Recap of the Coca Cola Journey: PR News Social Media Conference

Doug Simon (@DSSimonDoug), CEO of D S Simon Media spoke with Doug Busk (@dbusk), Group Director, Digital Communications & Social Media, Corporate Communications, of  Coca Cola Company at the PR News Social Media Conference about Coca Cola’s Journey.

In today’s installment of VlogViews, Doug speaks with the Group Director of Digital Communications & Social Media (Corporate Communications) of Coca-Cola Company Doug Busk. Doug and Doug delve into the impact of Coca-Cola Journey and the inclusion of a famous Coke advertisement in the series finale of the critically acclaimed show “Mad Men.” The Doug’s also discussed the refreshing PR maneuver used by Coca-Cola when faced with the impact of a negative Op-Ed piece. You don’t want to miss this one!

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Video Transcript:

Doug Simon: Hi, I’m Doug Simon from DS Simon media. I’m here at the PR News Social Media conference. We just heard the keynote from the very well named, Doug Busk, from Coca-Cola. Thanks so much.

Doug Busk: Always glad to meet another Doug.

DS: Now, Doug has really helped lead the transformation of the Coca-Cola website over the last four years to something called Journey. So tell us about Journey and the journey.

DB: Sure. Journey is our digital magazine, sort of our own media outlet that’s housed out of cocacolacompany.com. And we tell stories all about our brands, our business, going way beyond what you might see on a typical corporate destination. But we always focus, first and foremost, on the people behind the stories of this 130-year-old company you thought you already knew.

DS: Great. And obviously, you’re so deeply involved in storytelling, you also have thoughts on how the content you’re putting there will be perceived by journalists who might see it. And that’s been a big part of the conference so far.

DB: We found that Journey is a wonderful way to really collaborate with whatever memes, stories, potentially even criticisms or controversies that are surrounding the company, so we’ve created in Journey, not simply a storytelling engine for our fans and our friends, but also people who have questions about the company and that has been tremendously successful among journalists.

DB: Because increasingly, our media relations team will say, hey, you know what? There’s a great story that was published on Journey about this. Why don’t we just send that along to you. Nobody wants to sit down and trudge through yet another corporate boring press release. They want to read, and particularly if they want to share, stories.

DS: You had a Mad Men plot spoiler for those who may have been living in a cave for the last couple years, why don’t you tell us about how that evolved, where Coke became integrated into, actually, the finale of Mad Men.

DB: Well I have complete sympathy for anybody who hasn’t caught up on their binge watching. As a relatively new father, I have a three-year-old daughter at home.

DS: Congratulations.

DB: I think I’m up to speed on Doc McStuffins. That’s about the only binge watching I’ve done lately. Mad Men is a phenomenal story from multiple angles, not the least of which is the show runners have a tremendous respect for Coca-Cola and our brands. They really treated them as they promised, as characters on the show.

DB: So we were lucky to have partnered with them for throughout the run of the show, really. But with the finale, the request came through for the best resolution copy we had of our iconic 1971 ad Hilltop, I’d like to buy the world a Coke. We had no idea how it was going to be featured. And we were truly honored with the way in which the show runners and writers decided to close out the entire series with Don Draper in a zen moment, effectively, the implication is, leading into the creation of the Hilltop ad. Which makes sense because he was back at McCann, which was, of course, the agency of record in the US for several decades.

DS: And we should just clarify, Don Draper was a real character, right? Did he really exist?

DB: Don Draper is a character. There have been suggestions by many of the bigger fans that he’s based on various McCann leaders that were around at the time. We’d like to think, he’s really just evocative of that entire era of advertising.

DB: So what we did at Journey, in order to not dominate the conversation but to answer questions we knew fans of the brand and fans of the show would have, we created an entire package of content resuscitating an essay on the real story of Hilltop, that our now chief archivist, Ted Ryan, had produced– whom I think you’ve met– several years before which is based on an essay that he had actually written nearly a decade prior.

DB: We refreshed that content as well as added new stories around our relationship with McCann, the true story of the producer behind Hilltop, how he came up with the ad. And new iterations of partnerships that have spun out of the phenomenal advertising campaign.

DS: And you’d mentioned Ted Ryan, he put together an op-ed piece after some controversial news came back. And something that people might not always be aware of to think of that you’d include in your brand insight, is you’ll tackle some of the challenging issues.

DB: Really when we speak to editorial tension, what we want to do is make sure that, again, we play the right role in conversations. Being a brand journalist doesn’t mean that you exclusively deal in the realm of happy news, necessarily. So we are looking to move the definition of our digital magazine out from simply telling stories that extend and elaborate upon the company and its people, but also, sometimes directly engage in conversations around the company.

DB: A great recent example, you listed one, but a more recent example, is our transparency effort. So in reaction to the New York Times, a major story an investigation into some investments we had in nonprofit and research organizations, Muhtar Kent not only decided to publish a–

DS: That’s the CEO for those who don’t know–

DB: CEO, excuse me, Muhtar Kent, the CEO, not only publish an op-ed but we followed on with a letter from Sandi Douglas, who’s the head of our North America business, detailing our commitment as a company to be transparent about our investments in these spaces. And how we’re changing our direction there. And we added a searchable database of every single investment we’ve done in these spaces going back five years.

DB: What’s more transparent than a searchable database of the activity? So when you go to transparency.cocacolacompany.com you will see, not only there but increasingly in countries around the world, the same approach. So at Journey, we run the gamut of stories around the company that extend everything from marketing to innovation to music and occasionally, areas of tension.

DS: And just for full disclosure, I’m more of a Coke guy than the other brand, thank you so much for being with us.

DB: Thank you so much and we appreciate your support.