ATLANTA: Coca-Cola has merged its corporate and North America communications functions as part of the continued integration of its domestic operating units. According to Bill Marks, who has run the US PR team since December of 2000, "This is part of an overall effort to more centralize media relations."
Fallout from this action includes a staff reduction of seven positions, including Marks' resignation. He said the departmental integration reduced his roles and responsibilities. This month, Marks will return to GCI, the firm from which he was originally recruited by the beverage giant, as EVP (see story, p. 3).
Dan Schafer, PR chief of Coke's Minute Maid unit in Houston, will now run the North America media relations team out of the Atlanta headquarters. His staff and the corporate communications team will occupy the same floor for the first time.
In the past, Coca-Cola's media relations on issues of brand marketing were handled vertically by each product group, with relevant messages to the financial and global media handled out of the corporate offices.
A source inside the operation said that Coke's external PR was heavily siloed with little coordination across media groups. The consolidation was described as an effort to more closely manage the influence that news about Coke's North America business has on the rest of its operations.