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					                Coors Case Study

Gabe Alvarez-Millard, Maya Beshara. Jackie Keating

                  Ithaca College
1. Problems that Richard Should Focus On

       Coors has a wide range of problems to deal with, but Shirley Richard needs to

focus on how to create the best image possible for the company while also

confronting the fact that it has a poor history of public and media relations. As the

director of corporate communications, the main issues she should focus on are

convincing the Coors brothers to consider the 60 Minutes interview, properly

preparing them for the interview if they choose to participate, publicly addressing

the concerns of the AFL-CIO and portraying the positives of the company, and using

the 60 Minutes opportunity to propel the public perception of Coors from a closed-

door company always on the defensive to an honest, proactive, and media-friendly


                                      60 Minutes

       Richard’s first challenge is to convince the Coors brothers, who have a

history of putting limited efforts into communication and who are skeptical of

allowing Allan Maraynes of 60 Minutes into the facility, that they need to consider

taking an active role in the 60 Minutes story before they allow any claims by the

AFL-CIO to go unchallenged. The program gets an enormous amount of attention,

and as a result it is heavily influential on public opinion. Refusing to participate in

the story would not only leave Coors defenseless, but also reinforce their image of

being a private and inaccessible company.

       Should Coors decide to take a proactive role, Richard needs to ensure that the

company is prepared for the interview. This would involve conducting research on

60 Minutes (specifically Mike Wallace, who is known for his intense interviews),
coming up with sample questions to ask the Coors brothers, and videotaping mock

interviews with them so that they have a better perception of how they appear and

what they need to improve to be more confident. In addition, if the company decides

to let 60 Minutes into the facility, Richard will need to consider what will be

displayed and how to prepare employees for the camera presence.

                                   Organized Labor

       The AFL-CIO is lead by David Sickler, who is a past employee at Coors. His

exposure of lie detector tests about personal questions and the company’s practice

of searching entire departments for suspected drug use gave Coors very negative

public attention. The boycott in 1977 demonstrated how far organized labor was

willing to go, and how much they could hurt the company. Therefore, Richard needs

to focus her attention on how to confront organized labor, and how to publicly

address Sickler’s accusations in a way that will regain the company’s credibility. In

addition, an effort needs to be made to portray the satisfied portion of the Coors

workforce, rather than simply defending negative accusations.

                        Corporate Communications at Coors

       Finally, the overall problem for Richard is that Coors has practiced nothing

but inadequate corporate communications. She needs to rectify the poor

relationship with the press, the constant conflict with organized labor, and the lack

of public relations. Becoming an open door company may be one solution, but much

more needs to be done in terms of media relations.

2. Research Richard Should be Conducting

                                      60 Minutes
       Should Coors participate in the 60 Minutes story, the first research that

Richard should do is on the program, Mike Wallace’s interview style, and Alan

Marayne’s production style. These are all critical areas that will affects Coors image

on national television, so they need to be prepared to work with the show. She

should also be in contact with people from the program to discuss interview style,

the information they will be seeking, and what the producers should expect if Coors

decides to let them in their facility. Finally, she should look into the impacts of other

interviews on 60 Minutes, and analyze how subjects could have better prepared for

the stories.

                     Corporate Relations with Organized Labor

       Since the main reason for Coors’ low sales and negative public image is due

to the constant conflict with organized labor, Richard should be researching how

other similar companies deal with those issues. Richard cannot control the

company’s practices that upset organized labor, but she can work to improve the

relationship with organized labor and investigate more effective ways of addressing

their concerns without drawing so much publicity to the labor strikes. Since Coors is

clearly having difficulties with this relationship, she should look into better ways to

deal with this as a communicator.

                         Previous Media Relations at Coors

      Given the lack of communication efforts that were made by Coors in the past,

Richard should closely examine the media relations attempts that were made, and

analyze the effects of those relations. This would also be an opportunity to examine

the “image building” campaign of 1979, in which company managers were
instructed (through training sessions) to confront reporters with charm and

humility. It is important to see if this training was effective, and how it could be

improved upon or expanded with the ultimate goal of bettering the company’s

relationship with the media.

                             Current Conditions of Coors

      Since one way of building trust with the media is to expose the internal

functions of Coors, Richard should conduct research into the specific positive

aspects of Coors’ culture. This would include interviews with employees who have

had a positive experience with the company, polls and surveys of employee

satisfaction that could potentially demonstrate that only a small portion of the

population is dissatisfied, and feedback from managers regarding their relationship

with employees and what is being done to improve the workplace.

3. Communication Richard Should Emphasize

                               The 60 Minutes Interview

       Shirley Richard believes that the AFL-CIO is supporting a minority of the

Coors workforce, with the majority being satisfied. The satisfaction of the majority

of the workforce will be something that the Coors brothers will have to emphasize

during their interviews. With the data she has collected from her polls of the Coors

company, the brothers will be able to cite a scientific measurement that reinforces

their statements about the satisfaction of the Coors workforce. With the Coors

brothers participating in this interview, they have a large opportunity to portray

themselves as caring humans to a large audience, by using relatable terms and body

language. If Richard can instruct the brothers on how best to communicate their
sympathies and similarities to the average worker, there will be much less that

needs to be said in order for Coors to show that it cares about its employees.

       Another main speaking point the Coors brothers will have to address during

their interview is the hiring policy of the Coors company. Coors has been criticized

in the past for using discriminatory hiring techniques that put women and ethnic

minorities at a disadvantage. However, in 1972 the Coors company launched a

program that would increase the amount of these underrepresented people in the

Coors workforce, and as of 1981 the program was still running. Richard must

instruct the brothers to stress that Coors hires only on the basis of relevant

qualifications, and additionally that the company has realized the disparity of racial

and sexual representation within their labor and is using this program to rectify it.

       One of the philosophies that drives Coors’ relations to worker unions is that

with proper management, unions aren’t necessary. This is a belief that would put

Coors’ admittedly poor treatment of labor unions in a new light: the company isn’t

ignoring the needs of its workers by refusing to cooperate with unions, they are

trying to solve disputes and address issues within their own culture. If the Coors

brothers stress that the care the Coors company gives to its employees is focused

more internally, this would not only explain their abrasion with unions but also why

the judgments of organizations like the AFL-CIO are incorrect. These organizations

haven’t gotten the inside perspective, and thus haven’t seen the areas that Coors is

really directing its accommodations and resources.

                             Circumventing 60 Minutes
       If the Coors brothers refuse to cooperate with 60 Minutes, the story will still

run and their refusal to cooperate will initially put a negative perspective of Coors in

the minds of the 60 Minutes viewers. Coors will have to counter this by first

communicating everything that has been mentioned in question three through other

media: this can include reporters that Coors is confident will tell the story they want

to be told, public events where messages can be communicated to a large audience,

or advertisements that portray Coors as an employee-friendly corporation. In

addition to communicating what was omitted by not appearing in 60 Minutes, the

company will also have to explain why the brothers chose not to participate.

       Bill Coors is a very conservative leader and believes in free business. A

respectable decision for a company to make when dealing with interior turmoil is

that it can handle its own problems privately without calling unnecessary attention

to them, which could delay and exacerbate the problem. This is a view that will have

to be communicated should the Coors brothers choose not to sit down with Mike

Wallace. The point of this will be to show that Coors is a resolute company that does

not compromise on its values of independence and free business, showing that the

company was not hiding from anything by refusing to “air its dirty laundry”. With

the fact that the majority of the Coors workplace is not dissatisfied already

communicated, Richard also has the opportunity to deny the large-scale problem

that 60 Minutes believes exists within the company. With no problem to speak of,

Richard can communicate that it is in the company’s best interests to avoid

allocating resources as precious as the time of its CEOs to issues and propaganda

that are not founded in truth. However, Richard should also be careful not to avoid
any visible, pressing questions that may have come up during the interview.

Anything that the public believes it needs to know about the company should be

exposed, and Richard has the opportunity to do this with her own team rather than

playing by the rules of investigative journalism. The transparency of Coors is vital to

counteract the opinion that Coors is avoiding the interview in order to keep its

secrets safe. However, avoiding the interview creates an unnecessary amount of

“excuse communication” to be done, and is not the best option.

Richard should encourage the Coors brothers to take part in the interview with Mike

Wallace. Wallace has a history of in-depth, non-biased reporting that would

ameliorate the Coors company of its poor public image if indeed the majority of the

workforce is satisfied. The leadership of Coors will also benefit from a more human

representation, which is something a live interview can present far more easily than

press releases.

4. A Decision on the Interview

                     Shirley Richard: Encourage the Interview

       With the large amount of credibility and massive viewership that 60 Minutes

enjoys, it is the perfect venue for the Coors brothers to begin changing the public

image of their company. On top of the positive opportunities that 60 Minutes is

providing, Richard must also consider the suspicion that is bound to arise in 60

Minutes viewers and business enthusiasts should the brothers not appear in the

show. “No comment” historically has translated into “Yes, we’re doing what we’re

accused of, but we don’t have to tell you”. With this approach to media relations, the

Coors company will take a potentially beneficial situation and make it detrimental.
Not only would the media and its viewers be dissatisfied, but the labor unions and

the AFL-CIO will have much more fuel for their rhetoric that Coors does not care

about its employees. With a chance to speak freely about the Coors values and

employee treatment, the Coors brothers may be able to persuade a large amount of

their resentful workforce that they are indeed acting in their best interests. When a

new stallion runs through the corral, you can let it trample you or hop up on it and

wrassle into your control.

5. Suggestions for improving media relations

  Coors has struggled in facing the media, and their “no comment” approach does

not help. There are several ways Coors can improve media relations. A few of these

methods include the division of the Communication Media Branch, researching

other companies’ media relations, and anticipating media attention and trends that

gain attention. Other methods include a media transparency program, better press

relations, and media competency training for CEOs, VPs, and managers.

     In 1978, John McCarty, the Vice President for corporate public affairs,

established a staff of corporate communication officers. The staff was divided into

four branches: corporate communication, community affairs, economics affairs, and

legislative affairs. This division tackled their media relations problems by working

on their image through a campaign in 1979, which targeted minorities, a response to

the labor’s accusations against the company. The campaign used the phrase “At

Coors, people make the difference”. Another way they dealt with the media was to

have Coors executives participate in a training course that aimed to help them

overcome their distrust of the media. These are some of the only efforts that have
already been made, and taking them a step further and adding new strategies would

greatly help Coors’ media relations.

      Coors should establish a division of communication media, which would

include internal and external communications. Internally, the branch would aid

executives in meetings and in making decisions that will affect the public. They will

help work on the issues that the media has criticized in the past and continue to

work towards an open communication workplace so that Coors’ image is not

tarnished by complaining employees or unhappy workers. The external

communications sector will deal directly with the media about the improvements

that Coors has made and address any questions posed by the public. They will help

CEOs and managers prepare for interviews as well as conduct the necessary

research for these interviews. They will give the executive a short briefing about the

reporter conducting the interview, prepare them with a few questions the

interviewer may ask, and look into past interviews the reporter has given to better

prepare for the interview. Additionally, the employees of the branch will teach

executives to keep ideas short and to the point.

      The next strategy to improve media relations is to anticipate media attention.

It’s important to track every publication about Coors. This is because even a short

story can set off a series of other articles. If the media pays attention to the ongoing

Coors story, then they will continue to find out as much as they can in order to feed

the public more information. To monitor this activity, constant research on Coors’

prominence in the news must take place. Coors can look at other companies who

received similar amounts of media attention for similar reasons to gain ideas of how
to manage their relations with the media.

     Another strategy Coors can use is to put themselves out in the spotlight. This

means sponsoring more events, asking the public for feedback about their product,

and being an outgoing and more open company. Annual meetings with the press and

tours of the facility would be a good idea for Coors so that skeptical consumers or

members of the media can first handedly experience what goes on behind Coors’

doors. If Coors believes that they have nothing to hide and that unions solely tarnish

their image, then opening their doors to the public would be a way to become on

good terms with the media.

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