Coca-Cola and Its Public Relations Strategy


To become globally renowned and have its brand turned into a household name, producing high-quality goods and services is not enough. Apart from excelling in the manufacturing and quality management departments and creating a tremendous competitive advantage that will place it on the global map, an organization also needs a massive public campaign that will cement its name in the public’s memory. Therefore, public relations must be seen as an area that is vital for making a company not only succeed in the global economy but also stay relevant, competitive, and profitable for a significant amount of time in it. Coca-Cola, Inc. is one of the best-known examples of the described scenario.

Public Opinion

In order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Coca-Cola needs to shape the public opinion of its brand, naming it as family-friendly and oriented at as broad an audience as possible. As a result, most of the current PR strategies used by Coca-Cola center mostly around the focus on improving its competitive advantage and, therefore, relying on word of mouth as the approach that helps to create the required impression of the brand (Wood et al., 2020). Although the chosen way of building people’s loyalty is quite conducive to creating greater transparency and forging trust between the company and its buyers, it still does not allow the firm to maintain the required level of presence in the modern media (Wood et al., 2020). As a result, even for a brand as large as one Coca-Cola, there is a threat of gradually fading into obscurity (Wood et al., 2020). Therefore, the current framework for building PR at Coca-Cola needs an urgent update.

Social Media

The specified approach to the use of modern social media has partially affected Coca-Cola’s public relationships. As the cases below indicate, the company’s restraint in its responses to criticism and any type of feedback, including negative ones, has been reducing the levels of trust in the organization (Serodio et al., 2020). Although Coca-Cola obviously seeks to represent itself as an organization that prefers to be judged by its actions rather than by its words, the lack of initiative in engaging in a dialogue with its community is bound to affect Coca-Cola’s PR to a large extent (Serodio et al., 2020). To prevent rumors from circulating in media and people reading their own ideas into the short messages that the organization decides to publish, Coca-Cola must become more proactive in its use of social media for manifesting its message and goals.

Managing a Crisis

However, no matter how smoothly the PR process is run and how impeccable the developed strategies are, an organization will face a crisis sooner or later, which is why building preparedness and securing a proper risk management strategy are vital steps for a company of a scale as large as that one of Coca-Cola. The organization’s current PR crisis management approach mostly involves providing a quick response and addressing the complaints as directly and effectively as possible (Suciu, 2021).

In fact, it has been the firm’s main strategy in handling PR issues since the company’s conception, as a comparison between a recent issue and a misstep made several decades ago shows (Suciu, 2021). Delving into each case will show that each time, Coca-Cola’s ability to accept its mistake and work promptly to address the situation has saved the company’s reputation, helping it to retain its customers. However, the lack of communication on social media and clarifications of the company’s actions may be interpreted as the absence of remorse or transparency within the company, which is why Coca-Cola should work further on how it represents itself on social media.

The first case of a PR disaster that Coca-Cola had to face dates as back to the 1980s when the company decided to change its formula and introduce extra sweetness to its product by adding corn syrup. According to the existing records of the specified instance, the backlash was immediate and uncompromising, leading to a resulting drop in sales, as well as numerous customers boycotting the company (Haoues, 2015).

As a result, the company shortly recognized its misstep and announced that it would return to the original flavor as soon as possible (Haoues, 2015). What one must make note of in this case is the speed with which Coca-Cola responded to the issue, as well as the medium that it chose. Specifically, Coca-Cola used mass media, namely, the press, in which the results of its press conference and, particularly, the decision to abandon the new flavor, were cited (Haoues, 2015). Therefore, the propensity toward acknowledging the problem formally and working publically to amend the issue lies at the core of Coca-Cola’s PR approach.

To understand the evolution of Coca-Cola’s approach to PR and, particularly, the management of PR disasters, one should also look at a more recent blunder that the organization is claimed to have produced. It was made aware that in January, Coca-Cola supplied water to Texas areas where people had been deprived of drinking water for days (Suciu, 2021). However, it was shortly revealed that Coca-Cola had chosen Dasani, the brand that has been notorious for its quite peculiar taste (Suciu, 2021). To complicate the matter, Dasani was also involved in a scandal when it was revealed that it contained an increased amount of bromate in it (Suciu, 2021).

As a result, what appeared to be a gesture of goodwill quickly became mocked and seen as a PR stunt, with Coca-Cola becoming notorious due to vastly negative responses across social media (Suciu, 2021). The specified crisis has been quite severe, with significantly larger repercussions than that one of the 1980s, due to the uncontrollable rise in negative responses across modern social media (Haoues, 2015). Remarkably, Coca-Cola demonstrated the same poise and restraint in its response as it did in the 1980s situation, offering little response to the harshness that its actions have caused (Suciu, 2021). However, the described developments in the company’s approach toward crisis management can be considered a step in the wrong direction.

Namely, the fact that Coca-Cola has not offered any response on social media could have been interpreted in a plethora of negative ways by Coca-Cola’s potential customers and business partners. While creating a measured and composed response in the described situation, where Coca-Cola was accused of not being helpful enough, would be rather difficult, it would still be more reasonable than keeping silent and allowing rumors to float around social media. Therefore, it is highly advisable for Coca-Cola to revisit its approach to building a PR crisis management system by providing more detailed feedback to the global community and especially to its target audiences.

Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo: Public Relations Campaigns

To demonstrate the flaws in Coca-Cola’s current approach to PR, it will be reasonable to take a glimpse at how one of its stronger competitors, PepsiCo, manages similar issues. namely, in contrast to Coca-Cola, which has been maintaining an in-name-only presence on social media, PepsiCo has been utilizing the available networking tools to a much larger extent (Himelboim & Golan, 2019).

According to the available evidence, PepsiCo has been using social networks extensively to build a communication channel that helps it to keep the dialogue with its target customers (Himelboim & Golan, 2019). Although PepsiCo has also seen several crises over the past decade, thus, its reputation being placed under a threat. However, in contrast to Coca-Cola, which preferred to introduce an appropriate action before making it public PepsiCo has been focusing extensively on how its actions are reflected upon and represented in special media (Himelboim & Golan, 2019). As a result, PepsiCo has been facing significantly fewer and immeasurably less drastic consequences in terms of the public backlash compared to Coca-Cola.

For instance, the company’s PR failures are rarely classified as scandals or fiascos, with the exception of very few notable cases. Among the most recent ones, the involvement in the lawsuit for continuing to use plastic despite it having been defined as a major pollutant could be named (Himelboim & Golan, 2019). However, since both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have been entangled in the case, the ripples that it has sent have been equally negative for both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola (Suay, 2020). Therefore, PepsiCo’s PR strategy could be defined as more sustainable than that one of Coca-Cola.


Despite being rooted in proper ethical standards and the willingness to meet the needs of all of its major stakeholders, the current PR strategy used by Coca-Cola lacks efficacy due to poor media presence. The company currently prefers to be judged by its actions rather than by its words, which is a noble and admirable idea, yet it is entirely inapplicable to the current market setting. In order to succeed at its PR strategy and shield itself from the risks that possible negative publicity may cause, Coca-Cola will need to employ a more robust approach to creating a social media presence. Specifically, the company must update its social network followers of the decisions made within the corporate setting regarding various social issues, the firm’s stance on current concerns, and especially the company’s decisions in regard to its products.

Thus, customers will feel valued and recognize that their voices are heard, which will help Coca-Cola to reach a new level of public recognition. Thus, the company will be able to improve its PR significantly. Additionally, it is vital for Coca-Cola not only to address its mistakes by acting accordingly to amend the situation but also to provide clarifications n social media regarding the issue and the course of action taken. By acknowledging the mistake and offering public apologies, Coca-Cola will show its commitment to its target audiences and its willingness to contribute to global well-being. Therefore, it is highly desirable for Coca-Cola to reinforce its presence on social media by publishing regular feedback and updates concerning the changes occurring in its environment and the problems that people might have with its products or services. Thus, Coca-Cola will be able to restore its PR and return to dominating the market.


Haoues, R. (2015). 30 years ago today, Coca-Cola made its worst mistake. CBC News. Web.

Himelboim, I., & Golan, G. J. (2019). A social networks approach to viral advertising: The role of primary, contextual, and low influencers. Social Media+ Society, 5(3), 1-13. Web.

Serodio, P., Ruskin, G., McKee, M., & Stuckler, D. (2020). Evaluating Coca-Cola’s attempts to influence public health ‘in their own words’: Analysis of Coca-Cola emails with public health academics leading the Global Energy Balance Network. Public Health Nutrition, 23(14), 2647-2653.

Suay, F. (2020). Integrated marketing communications. The Coca-Cola Spain IMC model. Revista de Estudios Empresariales. Segunda Época, 2, 18-31.

Suciu, P. (2021). Coca-Cola’s good deed may have become a PR disaster on social media. Forbes. Web.

Wood, B., Ruskin, G., & Sacks, G. (2020). Targeting children and their mothers, building allies and marginalising opposition: an analysis of two Coca-Cola public relations requests for proposals. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(1), 12.

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