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Since taking charge of Coca Cola's communications function in 2017, Bea Perez has ushered in a more engaging era for the soft drinks giant's public relations efforts, at a time when it is under scrutiny like never before. More recently, she’s implemented flexible Fridays among her team, encouraging everyone not to schedule meetings and to log off earlier than usual to focus on family, wellbeing and priorities outside of work.
Having served as chief sustainability officer since 2011, Perez understands the challenges better than most, but remains tested by Coca-Cola's continued ability to make headlines when comments are taken out of context.
Perez’s career with Coca-Cola spans more than two decades, and since May 2017 has included the iconic company’s communications responsibilities. Perez leads an integrated team across public affairs and communications, sustainability and partnerships. In this role, she aligns a diverse portfolio of work against critical business objectives to support brands, communities, consumers and partners worldwide.
She continues to oversee the company’s sports and entertainment assets including partnerships with the Olympics, Special Olympics and FIFA, as well as leading strategic and operational efforts for the company’s retail, licensing and attractions assets. Reducing the company’s environmental impact has risen to the forefront under Perez’s watch, with the goal of recycling the equivalent of every bottle or can sold worldwide by 2030.
Perez served as the company’s first chief sustainability officer from 2011, developing and leading progress against global sustainability commitments, with a focus on water stewardship and women’s economic empowerment. Before this, she was CMO for Coca-Cola North America, where she built brands by developing some of its most historic relationships, including with American Idol and NASCAR.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR’s direct impact on business performance
Earned media, compelling social media conversation and consumer engagement drives word-of-mouth buzz that can translate into business growth. One example is Coca-Cola Creations, a global innovation platform for Coca-Cola that offers valuable consumer experiences, introduces new flavors and authentically connects with audiences through music, gaming and other cultural moments. The brand PR work coupled with exceptional marketing behind our Coca-Cola Creations platform has been an engagement driver; this year, Kantar named Coca-Cola as one of the top 10 most valuable brands – a first in eight years.
What are the communications industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead
Generative AI and navigating the ever-changing landscape – including media, social, geo-political, technological. We must adapt, remain agile and deliver on our strategies.
What have you most admired about the communications industry over the past year, and what has disappointed you?
The communications industry has embraced new technology and innovations. AI is a great example, and I have been impressed with the speed and use of the new technology to drive effectiveness and efficiency in our work.
What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?
Our global music platform, Coke Studio, is a great example of a 360 communications campaign that has strong earned coverage. The platform sits at the intersection of passion point (music) and experience for the consumer, creating real value. In 2008, Coke Studio was launched as a TV series in Pakistan featuring established and emerging artists from various genres collaborating in live studio recording sessions. The show gained a loyal following and then expanded into an international music franchise with spinoff editions in India, the Philippines, Africa and the Middle East. In 2022, Coke Studio expanded into a global music platform. In 2023, we are elevating Coke Studio even further by partnering with 19 artists and making their unique musical creations available through our Coke Studio Digital Hub and Coke Studio AR Record Store.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness over the past year?
I prioritize quality family time as well as time dedicated to think, read, exercise and sleep.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through the past year or provided inspiration?
I'm a big fan of Axios and the smart brevity concept. It is always a quick a valuable way to stay up to date on the news. For inspiration and fun, I listen to Smartless – it is always an interesting conversation on culture with wit and humor at the core.
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
I would be a university professor teaching how business can and does play a role in enabling society to thrive.
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