Mark Thomas, broadcaster and investigative journalist, has just had his latest Dispatches investigation aired on C4. The subject this time is Coca-Cola, global multinational, with one of the most recognised brands on the planet. Always within an arms reach of desire, in almost every country on earth, Coke is the real thing, known by billions from the age of 3 to 103.
From that viewpoint, it's an easy target. Operating in so many countries, it's always going to be exposed to varying standards of corporate responsibility. Child labour, death squads operating against union members on company property, chemical contamination and water theft, tonight's rap sheet is long and serious.
At this point, I need to admit I'm a fan of Mark Thomas. Given my commercial/capitalist existence, and central/right wing clients, I'm sure the feeling would be one way, but I do admire and respect his tenacity and focus.
As you would expect Coke didn't fare well in the programme, and as it developed, I did wonder how the PR team in Atlanta would handle the fallout. In the end, they issued a statement saying that just because allegations were repeated, it didn't mean they were true, and they urged consumers to visit the company website for the real facts.
Who to believe? Like everything in life, apart from a zebra crossing and a grand piano, nothing is black and white, just varying degrees of grey. Interesting for me here is the battle between marketing and PR. One pumping the red and white message across the globe, the other ducking and diving to deal with TV shows like Dispatches. One trying to generate a desired consumer response, one trying to minimise the effect of an undesired consumer response.
Few organisations have a seamless link between PR and Marketing, but in this digital age of rapid and fluid consumer communication, it's only getting more not less important. Synergy between the 2 functions needs to become a focus, but are the disciplines getting closer or not right now? Any evidence out there?