Coke's Mattia hones in on corporate reputation

ATLANTA: Tom Mattia, who became SVP and director of worldwide public affairs and communications at Coca-Cola three and a half months ago, has created a raft of new posts, including director of corporate reputation and director of the new digital communications group.

ATLANTA: Tom Mattia, who became SVP and director of worldwide public affairs and communications at Coca-Cola three and a half months ago, has created a raft of new posts, including director of corporate reputation and director of the new digital communications group.

Mattia characterized the moves as a "restructuring of the team against emerging needs." There are currently 90 people in the worldwide public affairs and communications group in Atlanta, New York, and DC.

Mattia said the corporate reputation position, which reports to him, will serve to improve both external and internal communications. Coke is currently interviewing candidates for the job.

"We've created a whole new function around corporate reputation to bring together corporate social responsibility pieces, foundational giving pieces, community action pieces, and environmental pieces so people understand all the good we do," Mattia said. "It will also develop a relationship with the folks doing company brand work to buff up the reputational platform of the company."

Mattia believes that corporate reputation, as a functional piece, will be the most important vector in Coke's public affairs and communications efforts over the next few years.

"People invite us into their lives a billion-and-a-half times a day," he said. "Each is a one-time invitation and doesn't mean it will be issued again, so you have to work hard to make sure you're the type of enterprise... people want in their lives."

Mattia is also creating an executive communications group that will promulgate speeches for Coke's executive committee and take a more "strategic approach" to using the company's executives for PR.

"They'll plan out a year and decide where executives need to be, what they need to be saying, and what issues they need to address," Mattia said.

The company has been dealing with issues around childhood obesity, labor, and water - all hot topics that have forced the Coke brand out of schools and universities in recent months. Mattia said well-informed employees are better armed to counter negative perceptions of the company.

"We want to get our people information," he added. "It's not that they aren't getting it now, but [we want to] give them more, make them feel more a part of the business, and understand the issues we're addressing."

To that end, he has created a digital communications group to more efficiently inform staff about company activities. Mattia said his ultimate goal is for both internal and external communications to be at the table together. He said Coke has made headway toward this, but still has room to improve.

"I think in the past Coke employees did not get information ahead of the outside world. Our commitment is that our people will always have information first and with more detail whenever possible," Mattia said. "If we get the 50,000 people of Coke [corporate] and the 1 million people in the Coke system all understanding, engaged, and energized, think of how powerful that is in the marketplace.

"They need to understand what we're doing on nutrition so they can talk about obesity and what we're doing around water stewardship so they can talk about environmental issues - so they can speak for themselves and the company," he added.

Mattia said he'd like that strategy to reach beyond headquarters - to distributors and delivery workers who are not employed by Coke.

"If we can get our internal communications working effectively enough to reach that truck driver... then we'll have done our job," he said. "We have a ways to go, but that's our target."

Mattia replaced Clyde Tuggle, who is now president of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Coke's current global PR agencies include Burson-Marsteller, Kekst & Company, and Weber Shandwick.

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