Social Media & Storytelling: An Interview With Tim Goudie, Coca-Cola

In the second of a series of interviews with speakers leading up to ClickZ Live New York, this Q&A with Tim Goudie from The Coca-Cola Company gives us a sneak peek at what he’ll be wowing delegates with during his day-one keynote address.

ClickZ (CZ): Tell us a bit about your role at The Coca Cola-Company and how you’re tasked with using digital media to enhance the brand.

Tim Goudie (TG): I work in the Global Sustainability Group at The Coca-Cola Company, and I’m tasked with helping to share and spread our sustainability stories. These sustainability stories are based on campaigns and initiatives that Coke started investing in a long time ago and has been involved in for many years. For example, as part of the Women’s Empowerment 5by20 Program, the company trains women in rural areas to run their own businesses as part of our value chain. Their activities range from distributing our product to recycling packaging. These stories have substance, depth, and history, but they haven’t been told. Although Coke’s been supporting the communities in which they operate for many years, this work hasn’t been made known. Now, with social media, there’s an opportunity to tell these stories and that’s where I come into the picture.

CZ: We hear a lot about storytelling through digital, but can you distill what many may see as a bit of a generic term and explain what it actually means?

TG: With regard to digital, we use paid social media as a dedicated media channel to share and spread our sustainability stories. As far as storytelling goes, we see it as sharing authentic stories about real people and how Coke is positively impacting the lives of people around the world. Because these stories are authentic, they resonate with consumers and are much more effective than just plain facts and figures. We believe that content on social media should be engaging, inspiring and motivating to people. It must be told in a way that consumers can relate to rather than in “corporate speak.” Stories about ordinary people enable us to connect with consumers on a much deeper level, and so they become more interested in our message.

To tell our stories, we use mainly video. Video is one of the fastest-growing forms of communication in the social media space. And video suitable for mobile devices is now expected by younger generations.

CZ: Can you give us some examples of how your work is having a positive effect on the brand and consumers, and outline some of the strategies and tactics you’ve used to achieve this?

TG: Without disclosing exact numbers, we have more than doubled consumer net sentiment around the topics of the Coca-Cola brand and sustainability year on year. At the same time, we’ve reduced negative posts by more than two-thirds. Amongst consumers, there has been a significant improvement in the perception of Coca-Cola and the sustainability work we do, which has a direct impact on company trust and brand love. One of the differences in our 2014 approach versus previous years is that we set the topics of discussion on social media by sharing our stories about wellbeing, women, and water — and how we’re doing good around the world in those areas. In 2013, we didn’t proactively tell our stories but simply reacted to consumer topics. In other words, they were dictating the topic of the day.

CZ: With the lines between paid media and social interaction becoming somewhat blurred, what results are you seeing from organic activity and is your paid social media activity paying off, if so, how?

TG: We may not like the fact that we can no longer reach our fans for free on social media, but paid social media gives us the ability to target consumers more accurately than ever before. With paid social media, we’re able to reach people who are positively predisposed to our sustainability messages. In turn, this leads to consumers sharing our content with friends because they’re stories that are interesting and relevant to them. As a result, we’re getting unusually high engagement rates and a significantly increased amount of earned media.

CZ: If smaller brands and companies want to hang their hat on a cause and be known for more than just what they sell, where do your suggest they start?

TG: I suggest they start with authenticity. Whatever campaign they want to support, they must be in it for the long haul, and it should be an integrated part of their business or their brands. It should be a relevant and a natural extension of their business. Consumers quickly detect “green washing” or superficial, insincere sustainability initiatives.

To communicate to consumers about their sustainability activities, companies should start small and target the right consumers with the right message. If they get this part right, these consumers will help spread the stories for them.

CZ: What will be the main three takeaways from your keynote speech at ClickZ Live in New York?

TG:

  1. They will discover what makes a story connect with consumers.
  2. They will find out how to leverage paid social media and maximize this channel for their companies.
  3. They will learn how to build a strategy to influence topics of conversation that helps drive increases in brand love and company trust.

Tim Goudie will be kicking off ClickZ Live on Tuesday, March 31 with his keynote presentation entitled, “Sustainability, Storytelling & Social Media.”

Get your ticket to ClickZ Live New York by registering here! Early-bird rates available until February 20.

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