Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) is a company dedicated to the production and B2B distribution of The Cola-Cola Company in different European territories. Perhaps it is not a well-known name for the average consumer, but we are talking about a multinational that in Spain has more than 4,000 employees and seven manufacturing and bottling plants for the most popular soft drinks in the country.
There is little to add about the global media presence of the parent brand, but precisely for that reason, and especially in the last decade, CCEP’s great challenge has been to try to differentiate itself and start developing its own recognisable voice in the market, counting on its own employees for that purpose. In a company where “the love for the brand, the innovation of the organisation and the corporate culture allow having practically a zero rotation rate”, the objective of the communication teams was to transfer this reality to digital media as well.
From Brand Ambassadors to Storymakers
In 2013, the need to provide their employees with the tools and resources required to respond adequately to exposure in different media meant the CCEP began to develop its first specific brand ambassadors program, named Ambassadors. At that time it was not yet evident to most brands, but CCEP was already firmly grounding and empowering its most important asset when it came to strengthening its brand advocacy: its own employees. Ambassadors connected with their values and identified themselves publicly as an active part of the company.
In 2019, given the need to strengthen the digital presence of most of its Ambassadors and internal spokespersons, Good Rebels developed a training and employee voice programme with CCEP that took advantage of its ability to transfer its experience, corporate achievements and the vision of its corporate culture to social networks. We wanted to create a team truly committed to the company that would lead the way in digital presence for the rest of their peers. At the same time, it needed to show transparently and sincerely “what it means to be part of CCEP”, a truly fascinating brand for its workers but practically invisible at the level of external notoriety. To achieve this, it was necessary to share a common goal and provide them with tools to tell all those great stories in the social environment and help increase their visibility.
This is how Storymakers was born.
How did we create the first Storymakers?
When developing digital brand advocacy or employee voice projects, at Good Rebels we work on a specific framework based on eight pillars that we consider fundamental. Over several months, we helped the CCEP team define the following models:
- Relational model – What would the relationship between the Storymakers and the rest of the organisation be like? What could we expect from them that others do not have and what obligations should they fulfill?
- Training model – What would our relationship with the Storymakers be like, and where would we communicate with them on an ongoing basis in order to provide them with training and content of interest?
- Dynamisation and content strategy model – How would we maintain momentum with them over so many months and through what kind of conversations? What content could we use to energise them, to provide them with ideas and corporate assets aimed at telling their stories in the best possible way?
- Experiential model – What would the experiences or emotional incentives be with which we would surprise our Storymakers and make them feel special during the course of the project?
- Data model – How would we measure the project’s average value objective? What would be the key metrics when defining optimisation points in the future?
- Capture model – What we could do to find our Storymakers within the organisation? What would be the quantitative and qualitative selection criteria?
- Dissemination model – How would we communicate the project internally and give it visibility through the different corporate channels? What would we post in our digital spaces and how would we promote it?
- Scalability model – How could we make the project grow on several levels? In the increased number of ambassadors, in decentralisation and scalability by assuming new responsibilities from within, in the possibility of taking good practices to other countries or territories?
In the case of CCEP, the main objective of the project was clear: to have its employees share more and higher quality content in social networks. To do this, it was especially important that we could first build a “movement” that would really make them feel special.
With that intention in mind, the concept of Storymakers was devised: a term that incorporates a familiar naming in the digital context (“Stories”) and that is associated with a certain epic component, which acts as a stimulus to enhance its activity. We worked hard to highlight the Storymakers not as spokespersons for the brand, but as a community with a special and self-managed sense of belonging, capable of transmitting the essence and values of the Coca-Cola brand – one of the most notorious and recognised in the world – through its social publications.
Selecting and activating our first Storymakers
The first step we had to take in order to start the project was to get to know the ins and outs of the organization. We sat down with CCEP’s Communication teams and soaked up their internal culture: areas and departments, procedures, organisation charts, employee profiles, etc.
In a first diagnosis, we realized that employees were reluctant to speak in public about the company for fear of not living up to expectations. When we talk about loved brands, it is common to find ourselves afraid of exposing the brand to criticism or attack, so employees opt for discretion or anonymity rather than showing their feelings of attachment to the brand or culture. For this reason, it was key to design a training and capacity building strategy to make the co-worker aware that talking about the company is never harmful in the long term, no matter how many difficulties he or she may encounter in the external environment.
The next step was to define the recruitment model for selecting the first 200 brand ambassadors. We were aware of the importance of fine-tuning and matching the selection criteria, as the first brand champions – usually those employees most likely to contribute positively to the organisation’s projects – would have the responsibility of having a knock-on effect on future ambassadors.
To select them, a combination of quantitative and qualitative parameters was used, considering factors such as geographical distribution, frequency of publication in social networks, the presence of CCEP-related content in publications, the degree of involvement in corporate projects or affinity with the organisation’s values. All of this was carried out based on an analysis of networks, social listening and social scrapping.
“It was important to highlight in the proposal to the future Storymaker the feeling of belonging, attachment and natural commitment to the project”.
Once the selection process had been completed, we used various internal communication tools (newsletters, customised forms, etc.) to segment different messages and contact potential candidates to become Storymakers.
Employees should not perceive the evangelising mission as an additional workload or as a stressful responsibility. Nor as an imposition. If someone did not feel qualified or motivated enough, another candidate would simply be chosen. For this reason, in addition to a good pre-selection work, it was important to highlight in the proposal to the future Storymaker the feeling of belonging, attachment and natural commitment to the project, beyond any inherent benefit in it.
This allowed us to rule out economic incentives or any kind of compensation, because in any advocacy project monetary compensation hinders development and growth at two levels: scalability (recruiting many more ambassadors in the future) and self-management or decentralisation (independent operation of the organisation in the future).
However, we would work on the emotional rewards: those Storymakers who are most active would gain visibility in official social networks or internal communication channels, receive special training courses, be candidates for medals, participate in events and celebrations, and perhaps even gain public recognition within the organisation.
A meeting place for everyone at Redline: a CCEP platform
But what to do with the 200 newly recruited Storymakers? The most important thing was not to let a second of inaction go by: losing momentum and connection with your brand ambassadors (by delaying the points of interaction with them too much) means cooling down the relationship, which is usually the main reason for the failure of any Advocacy project.
The first step was to start a training process, supported by three phases: we explained in virtual and face-to-face sessions the general objectives of the project, what its mission as Storymakers would be, and what collaborative flows would be used in the process. Then, we distributed content ideation manuals and digital guidelines, so that they could face the most common situations. Finally, we produced a series of manuals of good practices, treatment of personal branding, and corporate momentum.
But the training wasn’t enough. In order to strengthen and boost the launch of the project, it was necessary to give it its own character, to turn it into a movement associated with a brand within the CCEP itself. To this end, we provided it with a manifesto, generated branded assets from ‘Storymakers’ and organised an internal presentation event, with which we sought to give an emotional start to the project.
At this point, we were missing an essential element. Beyond the initial event, how could we guarantee a digital and virtual meeting with the collaborators that would guarantee an always-on relationship? We needed a tool on which to deploy all the internal communication actions and where we could feed content to our storymakers several times a day.
Redline – a platform for interaction and internal distribution of content, with a feed distributed among different thematic channels and developed on Sociabble technology – would be the daily meeting point for Storymakers. Under the guise of a social wall, CCEP employees would find stories, publications, initiatives, rankings, directories, etc. Redline would also be a space for daily dynamisation, in which to include training resources (tips, challenges, links to webinars, etc.) designed to encourage and improve the quality of publications or to resolve doubts.
The present and future of Storymakers
Within weeks of the project’s launch, CCEP’s Storymakers were beginning to develop on the Redline platform and launching content on social networks on an ongoing basis. Their increased brand engagement was already evident:
- They improved their ratio of opening newsletters and other internal communication material compared by more than 20 percent to the rest of the employees.
- They used the training content twice as much as the rest of the employees.
- Among other things, the Storymakers helped CCEP achieve the highest participation rate in Spain among all the employee activations it carried out in Europe throughout 2019.
Looking ahead, the goal is to double or triple the number of Storymakers and make them a truly effective and profitable asset for CCEP in launching its messages in digital media on a massive scale. To do this, the project will have to grow in autonomy – the employees themselves will encourage and moderate the participation of their colleagues – and win-win scenarios will be generated as the frequency and quality of their publications improves.
The one ingredient that cannot be missing from the recipe to keep the product going will be to keep the ambassadors’ motivation alive: by making them feel important, relevant and with a purpose: to show that Coca-Cola European Partners – with the permission of The Coca-Cola Company – also has a lot to do out there.
And all that remains is for their Storymakers to start telling the story.