This paper contains an outlook on the importance and application of public relations in a company. It has centered on the Coca Cola company’s latest promotion scheme “my coke rewards for schools” where the consumers have the powers to donate points to schools of their choice after amassing points from purchase of coke products. The significance of public relations is thus, provided.
Every business person will wonder why some firms flourish in a market where others have failed, and why some firms fail to realize maximum profits in a market where others make the maximum and retain their customers despite offering similar goods and services (DiStaso, 2014). Take for example the Coca cola Company, which has managed to succeed in a market globally despite harsh competition from other companies such as Pepsi.
According to Grunig and Larissa (1998), the answer lies in the concept of public relations, which refers to the strategic communication processes that build mutual beneficial relationships in terms of building reputation with the customers, suppliers, journalists, employees, investors and regulators who have a powerful impact on the success of the firm. Demetrious (2013) explains that the stakeholders above have an opinion regarding the organization that they come into contact with, and can be bad, good, right or wrong. Therefore, such perceptions drive the decisions to shop, work and support the organizations and it is the duty of the organizations to determine the perceptions through their public relations strategies (Edwards, 2011).
The Coca-Cola Company and public relations
Coca-Cola is an American based multinational beverage company that manufactures retails and markets beverage drinks globally. The company has its headquarters in Atlanta and is best known for its flagship product, Coca cola that was invented in 1886. The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s leading beverage company and has more than 500 sparkling brands. Alongside the world’s largest brand, the company has ventured in product differentiation through production of other brands such as diet coke, Fanta, vitamin water, and coke zero among others. The company has commanded the leading position in provision of beverages, juice drinks and ready to drink tea and coffee. The rate of consumption in more than 200 countries globally is at 1.7 billion servings per day. The company has an enduring commitment to the customers through sponsoring events and promotions that aim at building community sustainability. The company has laid down strategies that will ensure environmental sustainability, conservation of resources and enhancement of economic development of the host community.
The Coca-Cola Company uses a significant amount of money in advertisement as seen in magazines, billboards, the internet, and television. Additionally, the company sponsors many events globally in the attempt to boost its public relations; for instance, Olympics and other social and cultural events; hence, advertising the products and the company name. Throughout the year 2012, the company contributed from $1,700,500 to $46 million in the protest against political proposition for costly food labelling (Stares, 2014). The campaign was under the sponsorship of farmers and food manufacturers. The target was to oppose the labeling of genetically modified ingredients in foods.
According to Oliver (2004), corporate social responsibility refers to the obligation of the corporation to contribute to the society in some way because it is the obligation as a form of philanthropy. For the Coca-Cola company, adaptation of the slogan: reduce, recover, and renew has been the most effective way of showing social responsibility to the community. Additionally, the company has modes of communication with the customers from where consumer feedbacks are taken; for instance, social media such as twitter and Facebook.
The company recently launched a public relations event dubbed “my coke rewards for schools”, where the entire community including parents have the opportunity of supporting the K-12 schools by donating their reward points earned from the purchase of the company products. The schools can then turn the points donated into different ways of helping the students. For instance, the schools can purchase athletics equipment, classroom supplies and books among others. In order to participate, schools must register after which any member of the reward scheme can donate their points to the school. The students are empowered to read, learn and do other activities that contribute to their development (Freitag 2009).
The focus of the company in introducing such a scheme is to avail opportunities in schools by enabling the community to literally make use of the “cans”. Additionally, the company aims to better the communities and schools where access to particular academic and school equipment is a challenge. By doing this, the company also gets to advertise its brand and reputation to the community amidst competition from other soft drink and beverage companies. This way, Botha (2007) writes that the community is also encouraged to participate and be involved directly and indirectly in building itself.
Relation to the company mission
A part of the mission statement of the Coca-Cola Company involves creation of value and making a difference to the community and market. Additionally, inspiration of creativity, optimism, fun and passion among the community members and consumers is a target for the firm through offering such public relation promotion schemes (Gregory and Paul, 2013). Therefore, the firm offers the program to communities that are ready and willing to take the initiative in community building since it provides the resources and support, but the initiative remains the responsibility of the community.
How the company benefits
The company advertises the scheme to the community by encouraging them to work together to help schools to have supplies, books and other equipment. The company matches every point with their donation that every consumer donates. By so doing, the company creates good relations with the community and enables the people to be part of the company’s move to develop the community since the benefits of the promotion are visible to the community participating and those that are potential participants in the scheme. The consumers interact with the company for educational rewards and the company boosts its reputation through placing its brand name on community programs. The ongoing public relations campaign enables the people to participate at any time without restrictions with regards to age, or any other variable.
Stares (2014) shares that despite the efforts in creation of favorable public relations, the company attracted criticism from the public and other lobby groups. For instance, the company has been under criticism for a number of environmental issues regarding the components of the drink and water use. In the year 2003, the company came under fire when an Indian organization claimed that it had found a cancer causing chemical in the company soft drinks. The claim by the Indian organization resulted to tremendous effects on the company’s image and loyalty in the Asian region and led to a drop in the sales. However, the ministry of health in India later declared that the tests were null and inaccurate and the company commissioned a number of studies in the water supply, which did not discover cancerous chemicals in the water supplies.
Other critics have highlighted the company’s overuse of water supplies in their manufacturing process. More than 80 percent of the company products is water; hence, it is expected that water consumption by the firm exceeds other non-beverage producing companies. The company’s overuse of water supplies in some of the locations has consequently resulted to a shortage for other users such as farmers. Environmentalists also argue that the packaging used by the company is of significant effect on the environment despite the company’s recycling slogan.
In Australia, there are controversies and criticism to the company due to its intervention in a recycling plan in the northern Australia, which was to be a remodel of the one existing in the south of the country. A ten cent refund is made for every return of the packaging bottles and cans. However, the plastic packaging bottles of the Coca-Cola Company has been found in the digestive systems of many dead birds in the country, which implies that the company does not stand with the country’s recycling policy (Stares, 2014). The company, however, states that the recycling program is ineffective and expensive at the same time.
The criticisms above imply that the Coca-Cola Company has a task to do in order to boost its public relations in some areas around the globe. The reputation of the firm in some parts of the world, such as India and Australia is not as great as is in other parts such as America; hence, implying that the company has to implore other ways of improving relations.
Public relations refer to the strategic ways of communication to the customers, suppliers, sponsors and community members with the intention of boosting the reputation of a company and building the brand name. The Coca-Cola Company, as a leading producer, marketer and retailer of non-alcoholic beverage drinks has made much progress in creation of public relations. It has recently launched a program scheme where it rewards the community through collaboration with the customers in reward provision. Besides building loyalty and brand, the company enables the community members to steer its growth.
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Stares, J. (2014). "Coca-Cola's PR Strategy Overlooks the Key to Its Products' Success – Workers | Policy Review." Policy Review Coca Colas PR Strategy Overlooks the Key to Its Products Success Workers Comments. Public Affairs Network, Retrieved 6 Dec. 2014 from: http://www.policyreview.eu/coca-colas-pr-strategy-overlooks-the-key-to-its-products-success-workers