Coca-Cola manufactures a memo to the media

Posted on 8 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

Heard of Coca-Cola Enterprises Ltd? You will have by the end of December, says TM's editor

Not The Coca-Cola Company, this is one of the UK’s biggest soft drinks bottling companies. It has a national media campaign running through December with ads in the Financial Times, The Times, the London Evening Standard, trade magazines The Grocer and International Retail News, and the regional press.

Why? Yes, there’s some advertising here for the ubiquitous fizzy drink, and Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is owned by The Coca-Cola Company. Is it a recruitment drive? The company is well-staffed with over 4,500 employees.

The chief rationale for the campaign seems to be far less mercenary than a straight plug for Coke. Running these ads – picture-heavy showing the smiling faces of lots of employees – is an exercise in public relations through the broadsheets: “General Public, we are CCE. This is what we do, we do it well, we do it across the country – How do you do?” How refreshing from a manufacturer.

CCE employs around 4,650 people in Britain and has seven manufacturing sites nationwide, plus several regional offices and depots. It makes, sells and distributes Coca-Cola products, as well as soft drinks for other brand owners. It sold 228 million cases of Coca-Cola in 2008 and owns 150 delivery trucks, distributing to 85,000 customers.

And in June the company was pipped to the award for Best Partnership between Business and Innovation at the Institution for Mechanical Engineering’s MX Awards, winning a highly commended award. It has a very thorough corporate social responsibility programme, working closely with the local community and puts about 6,000 schoolchildren a year through its factories on site vists. There is a lot to say about the firm.

Here is an example of a manufacturer getting into the national and regional press and getting itself known, telling the public its story, where the story is a good one. Bravo. Can we see more please? Leyland Trucks, a £885m turnover company (2008), purveyors of a highly successful lean programme and overall winners of the MX Awards’ manufacturer of the year award, take note. Hozelock, market-leading garden equipment maker who increased its business by 14.8% and won this magazine’s The Manufacturer of the Year Award 2009, are you looking? OK these companies do not have seven factories UK-wide, but they are random examples of the type of company who could sing more about their own successes.

This is not a thinly veiled appeal to spend your hard earned profits on print advertising in trade magazines – and CCE’s campaign will have cost them handsomely – rather a call to look at these mainstream methods for self-promotion. Be proud to be a manufacturer and tell the world about yourself.

Column inches
It was gratifying to see that, in the same issue of the Standard, five stories in the business section were about manufacturing companies – including stories on Renishaw, Aston Martin, Cadbury and VT Group – as well as another ad for Invensys, a multi-discipline technology company that has a manufacturing division.

Manufacturers are getting back into the spotlight. Part of this is a natural effect of recovery – for example, Renishaw announced it was able to pay Christmas bonuses to staff having cut basic pay by 20% in February. But the Standard’s Monday coverage was not an isolated event and the media is paying attention to manufacturing more and more.

Manufacturing often complains it gets a negative press. Part of the solution is to engage more with the press and work with them to tell good news stories as well as report on redundancies, bankruptcies and takeovers. I don’t buy the theory that journalists have it in for non-sexy, more grungy ends of the economy far from the bright lights of the City.

To improve manufacturing’s self-image, we need to see more media campaigns like Coca-Cola Enterprises’s. If you are a proud company that does great things, tell people. Good stories should make newspaper pages on their own merits. But if there has to be a price to pay, you have to ask if your story is worth it.

Will Stirling