Tactical Tips for Storytelling in the Digital Age

Shama TV: Episode 35

Shama sits down with Tim Goudie, Social Media Director, Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company to discuss storytelling in the digital age.


Click here for the full transcript!

Shama: Hey, guys. Welcome to Shama TV. We are shooting from the Dallas Digital Summit and I have with us today a very special guest, Tim Goudie, who is Director of Social Media for Global Sustainability Initiatives with the Coca-Cola Company. Tim was a speaker here today, so thank you so much for being with us.

Tim: You are very welcome, thank you.

Shama: Tim, I’m so excited to speak with you because you have a big initiative, right? Which is you have to tell the stories of all the good stuff that Coca-Cola does. The thing is, you guys have lots of stories, you do lots of projects, so really was hoping we could have a conversation around storytelling and best practices. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned using social media as platforms to tell your stories?

Tim: It’s actually a fascinating journey that over the last two years we have systematically gone about an intuitive and a learning journey on how to best share and spread our sustainability story. What we did about two years ago is we actually pitched an idea internally to our leadership team and said, “If we invested this amount of money we could guarantee you that we reach a certain number of consumers.” The idea that we pitched is let’s use social media as a dedicated media channel. We didn’t have a lot of money. We were like a little bunch of entrepreneurs as a start-up within the company. We pitched to perhaps a couple of angel investors, if you can use that analogy, and we got a very positive response.

Our mandate was, “All right, go ahead and share and spread the story.” What we would do and how we went about it in the beginning is the stories are not from us. We actually reach out to the countries around the world, to the Coca-Cola offices in many, many different places. Because there were so many different types of initiatives going on around the world, we first of all did some homework. We have a small group within the company called the hub and they do all our social media listening and they employed a company by the name of NetBase and they did the social media listening for us. That homework told us where we, as a company, had permission to speak, around which topics, which areas were of greater interest to consumers and which were not really of interest or perhaps we didn’t even have permission to talk.

As we did that, we found, for example, that our women’s empowerment initiative called 5 by 20 where we want to empower 5 million women by the year 2020, was the number 1 story that was of interest to our consumers across the board. What we did is, we started gathering stories like that and pushing them out through paid social media. We chose Facebook and we chose Twitter. Why? Because we could target. We could target deliberately by country, by city, by demographic and by interest profile. As we pushed those out, we started discovering consumers are really interested in the topic and provided them a little link at the bottom of every post to take them to Coca-Cola Journey. What we did is, we partnered with our Public Affairs and Communications, or PR Department, to say, “Look, we’re going to provide a link. Can you help write a story in partnership with us,” and has a longer video, perhaps a deeper story. We drove traffic across from social media to Journey.

Imagine, you’ve got 1 campaign, 5 by 20, women’s empowerment. You’ve got a consumer voice branded and you’ve got a stakeholder voice over here slightly more informative, the PR Department we’re doing anyway. By combining forces, we were driving traffic from social media across to Coca-Cola Journey. That allowed consumers to have a deeper, richer, more immersive experience.

One of the keys to the success is actually partnering internally with our PR Department. They were happy because we were driving traffic across to their website and we were happy because we were discovering a different type of consumer that otherwise would not have gone to Coca-Cola Journey. When they arrived here they were spending a longer amount of time, they had a lower bounce rate and they would start to explore the website and go, “Oh, we didn’t know Coca-Cola was doing this with water in Africa or helping women in India,” so they would spend a longer period of time. It was a win-win for both parties.

Shama: A couple of things that I’m taking from this as you’re sharing. The listening part, how many organizations jump in, when you talk to clients, tell you something, you have to listen, you have to see. You made such a good point about where do you have permission to speak, where’s the interest? It’s not just about what does Coca-Cola care about? What does your audience care about? Where’s that kind of match?

Tim: Absolutely critical.

Shama: It’s not just, “Here’s what we want to announce,” but that’s great, so you found that women empowerment area where you had a lot of interest, you honed in and then it sounds like really partnering, right? Within internally and even externally to make sure that all the pieces play well together. I’m a big fan of integration as the audience will tell you, so I think that’s great. It’s great that you tied it back to the metrics. If this audience is coming, how much time are they spending on the site? Are they leaving very quickly? No, the bounce rate’s lower, they’re engaging, they’re becoming a more immersed audience, they’re really being part of that customer journey, right?

Tim: Yeah.

Shama: Taking that step further. That’s fantastic. Is there anything in this whole journey that surprised you, Tim? That you didn’t expect with social media that just caught you off guard?

Tim: One of the things that we were pretty anxious about is what our detractors might say. We’re talking about the good that we do. We’re talking about how we are providing fresh, clean drinking water in Africa. We’re putting up these what we call a shop in a box. It’s called EKOCENTER. It has solar power, it provides wi-fi, they actually sell product, they provide fresh, clean drinking water and power. There are a number of these across the world, Asia, Africa. What would our detractor’s reaction be to that?
One of the initiatives that did surprise us was it was World Water Week and we were pushing out messages about how we’re providing fresh, clean drinking water. For some reason, that topic seems to attract a lot of detractors.

Shama: Interesting.

Tim: They start beating us up on this. The thing we noticed, because we targeted South Africa, UK, Canada, US, we found that the people in Africa were actually defending the Coca-Cola Company in these responses. The detractors would say something and all of a sudden we’d find people from Africa defending us saying, “Well, we actually live in Africa and we are recipients of what Coca-Cola is doing, so just lay off.” That really surprised us.

Shama: Yeah, so these advocates were just fantastic.

Tim: They became our advocates and that really surprised us. It was good to know that we have people defending us in situations where we actually are trying to spread the word.

Shama: Proactively built that.

Tim: Yeah.

Shama: That’s fantastic. Thanks so much for joining us, Tim. Appreciate it. I hope that you guys had some good takeaways from this. Feel free to subscribe. Be sure to tune-in because we’ve got lots more content coming your way. Thanks again, Tim.

Tim: Thank you so much.


–Episode Links–

Coca-Cola 5 by 20

Coca-Cola Journey


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