Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in PR Week.
For the past year,
In December 2010, our Chairman and CEO, Muhtar Kent, challenged our global communications team to resurrect Journey, an internal, print magazine that was published from 1985-1996 (fun fact: our current Chief Communications Officer, Clyde Tuggle, was once Journey’s editor). In the pre-holiday brainstorm that followed, the team aligned quickly on the principle that rich storytelling is the foundation of communications, and that our lack of publishing capability was a weakness. It was in that first meeting that we decided to replace the corporate website with a content-driven hub that would serve as consumer-facing magazine.
Over the next few months, the team developed the core of our content strategy, a 50/50 blend of Coke-themed and un-branded content on topics Coca-Cola believes it is leading, and we planned the editorial to be visually rich and weighty. With a solid idea of what we would publish, we then needed the buy in of stakeholders across the Coke system. So we started to sell.
Unprecedented Executive Support
No company had ever replaced their corporate website with a magazine before, and it took months for some internal stakeholders to become comfortable breaking with traditional corporate web design. Our corporate site was used as a digital filing cabinet for so long that doing away with whole sections took convincing (in all, we scrapped nearly 1,000 pages, several hundred of which had not received a single visitor in a year).
But we did have one enormous advantage: resolute executive sponsorship. This meant that we didn’t waste valuable time on selling the concept, just figuring out the mechanics of pulling it off. Crucially, our leadership team recognized that Project Journey could be crippled if it was subject to year-over-year budget haggling. To secure predictable financing and a multi-year commitment, our Chief Communications Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chief Technology Officer jointly presented Project Journey to our Operating Committee. They made a five-year commitment and we were in business.
A New Way of Working
With the clock counting down to Nov. 12, 2012, we had about seven months to build a daily publishing team from scratch. Our growing digital team worked across the Coke system to develop our first global editorial process, first set of legal guidelines for content publishing, common standards for user-generated content, and first content data program. And we hired journalists – three of them within the first six months.
In July 2012, Project Journey was named
Coca-Cola Journey launched on Nov. 12, 2012. By that
time, the roadmap already included more than 25 updates that would roll out by
the end of Q1 2013. In January, we kicked off the build of our first
international site, the German
The End of the Beginning
By June 2013, the data showed consistent patterns in content performance. Branded stories tended to perform more strongly than unbranded ones, and reader response to marketing, innovation, careers, and history content was stellar. We shifted the content strategy to focus on more Coke stories, and concentrate on content that is fun, bright, and brilliant.
On Nov. 12, 2013, we launched a redesign of the home page to further emphasize stories and finalize the shift to magazine format. And every month, we continue to closely monitor data and do more of what works, and eliminate what does not.
The journey of
Ashley Brown is group director, digital communications and social media at