coke 8-pack lessons from coca-cola's website publishing model Hammock’s current Idea Email focuses on the approach the Coca-Cola Company has taken to radically pivot away from what most companies do with their corporate websites. Traditionally considered little more than a brochure website and repository for press releases and administrative content, Coke has transformed the site into an ever-changing and engaging “publishing model” site called Journey.

Here are some of the lessons learned from the first six months of the new approach, according to Coca-Cola executives, including Ashley Callahan, Coca-Cola manager of digital and social media communications, who made a presentation about Journey at last week’s Custom Content Council Conference. We also added some observations from our analysis of the site.

little coca cola can A publishing approach for a corporate website requires senior-management commitment.

The re-thinking of what the site could become started with a challenge from Muhtar A. Kent, chairman and chief executive, who charged the digital media team to find a way to bring back the company’s former employee magazine, Journey.

little coca-cola icon The legal department doesn’t have to be the enemy of engaging content.

Work with the designated lawyer on developing a framework and processes that don’t require approval of every story. The senior manager of a publishing model website should be able to recognize “when something needs to be run by legal.” (From Hammock: However, if all the content sounds like it was written collaboratively by a PR executive and lawyer, you’ll never reach your goal of publishing “engaging” content.)

little coca-cola can A publishing model does away with the need to create many “micro-sites”

Coca-Cola has already discovered that the vast majority of the sponsorship, philanthropic and corporate events activities that previously required the creation of a microsite (a site consisting of a few pages describing or promoting a one-time event or topic), fit nicely within the framework of Journey. The time and energy and resources required for such one-off projects now stays focused on improving Journey.

little coca-cola can For a global brand, a publishing approach framework and technology can be replicated in other markets.

Coca-Cola’s network of national and regional subsidiaries provides an instant international news bureau. And Journey provides a publishing approach and technology framework that can be easily replicated by those subsidiaries who choose to make use of it. Likewise, the Coca-Cola Company has plans to roll out versions of Journey in different languages.

little coca-cola can Engaging content can be found whever your products, customers or employees can be found.

(Hammock observation) You may wonder where a company can find sources of content that aren’t merely press releases or promotional in nature. Visit the Coca-Cola site and you’ll find content created by the organizations and non-profits they sponsor or related to helpful tips for those seeking to find a job at Coca-Cola, or anywhere.

little coca-cola can Don’t be afraid of taking on controversial topics that relate to the company.

(Hammock observation) A company as big a Coca-Cola finds itself under attack every day. While having a corporate website using a publishing model does NOT mean a company should use it to “manage” such controversies, such a platform provides a more effective means than issuing press releases to respond to breaking news. Note how Coca-Cola is publishing a steady stream of content labeled “Opinion” from a wide variety of sources on a wide range of topics. Such a practice is establishing the foundation for Journey to serve as credible source of the Coca-Cola Company’s point of view on public policy issues or news events.

little coca-cola canNever stop trying new ways to be more engaging.

Journey is a constant experiment. Customers and employees of Coke have made suggestions that led to new features. Some things the publishing team have tried have met with yawns.

little coca-cola can You don’t have to be as gigantic as Coke to use the publishing model–but it does require a major commitment

(Hammock observation) While a publishing model website requires a steady stream of fresh and engaging content, it doesn’t necessarily require the resources of a company the size of Coca-Cola. A portion of the content found on the site comes from sources who are eager to have their message reach the growing audience of Journey. However, don’t think this is an approach you can take “on the cheap.” For it to work, the site must be a high priority and must deliver on the promise of a publishing approach.