EDITORIAL: Can Daft reverse PR tide at Coke?

Coca-Cola used to be one of the few companies that PR pros pointed to as truly ’getting it,’ truly understanding the constant nurturing its image as the world’s top soft-drink company demanded. Now, after a year that saw the company hammered on several fronts (a contamination scare in Europe, a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination), Coke seems to be wandering astray in the PR desert.

Coca-Cola used to be one of the few companies that PR pros pointed to as truly ’getting it,’ truly understanding the constant nurturing its image as the world’s top soft-drink company demanded. Now, after a year that saw the company hammered on several fronts (a contamination scare in Europe, a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination), Coke seems to be wandering astray in the PR desert.

Coca-Cola used to be one of the few companies that PR pros pointed

to as truly ’getting it,’ truly understanding the constant nurturing its

image as the world’s top soft-drink company demanded. Now, after a year

that saw the company hammered on several fronts (a contamination scare

in Europe, a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination), Coke seems to be

wandering astray in the PR desert.



Last week’s news that incoming chairman and chief executive Douglas Daft

was attempting to convince his highest-ranked black official, SVP Carl

Ware, to retract his resignation and accept a top position could be seen

as a step in the right direction. Ware, by all accounts, is extremely

mindful of the company’s image (as witnessed by his role heading a

diversity council formed in the wake of the discrimination suit).



But it’s obvious that a single appointment cannot reverse the tide of

troubles the company has recently faced. And it doesn’t help that Coke’s

PR minions stonewalled reporters seeking comment on Ware’s possible

elevation to a top post.



Ultimately, the task of reviving Coke’s image will fall at Daft’s feet,

as his predecessor, M. Douglas Ivester, had little grasp of the import

of PR. During the contamination scare, Ivester almost had to be forced

into making a statement several days after the controversy broke. Plus,

when asked about vending machines that would vary the price of a soda

depending on the outside temperature, he answered more like a clinician

than a CEO: ’Coca-Cola is a product whose utility varies from moment to

moment. In a final summer championship ... the utility of a cold

Coca-Cola is very high.’



If Daft can’t avoid such cold corporate-speak, Coke might soon find

itself thirsting for its days as a premier brand



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