Coke campaign highlights important media training lesson

26 July 2013
For Coke’s anti-obesity campaign to grow the company’s reputation, its spokespeople will need to improve their media training skills. cokeThat's because whenever Coke comes under intense media scrutiny, their spokespeople need to know how to ensure the subsequent news coverage highlights the good things they are doing, including this campaign. Earlier in the year these skills were woefully inadequate. The company attacked a Judge’s view that excessive Coke consumption may have contributed to the death of an Invercargill woman. From a media training standpoint, they should have shown some empathy for the woman and focused on what they were already doing for obesity. And they were already doing things to tackle it.  Their reputation must have taken a hit by not dealing with that properly. Good on Coke for launching this new campaign. Although it has been criticised by some as purely an exercise in Public Relations, introducing lower calorie products and smaller bottles can’t be a bad thing. Don’t forget, this is a business, not a charity. The point I want to make is that any reputation boost the company gets from this campaign will be shot down in a second if they show the same media training weaknesses that were clearly evident when commenting on the women’s death. The new campaign now gives Coke the opportunity to use it whenever attacked. For example, if attacked as a company offering unhealthy products, a company spokesperson should constantly refer to the campaign and the many things they are doing to fight obesity. But without the media training skills to make this the focus of any subsequent media story, the campaign will have far less impact. This is an important lesson for any business. By doing good things in the community, you can limit any reputational damage when media scrutiny comes your way. But you need to know how to turn any media interview in your favour.

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Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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