PR Lessons from Starbucks CEO

Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by Wendy Alpine

PR Lessons from Starbucks CEO By Wendy AlpineStarbucks is a company that seems to be always reinventing itself.

Their latest announcement was that they’re providing free tuition for employees who want to pursue a college education. The news earned them a good bit of publicity, including Jon Stewart interviewing CEO Howard Schultz on The Daily Show. (A few days later the good news turned less rosy after it was reported that Starbucks is not footing the whole bill. The deal is the college is offering reduced tuition and students will need to apply for financial aid, although some juniors and seniors will be reimbursed.)

While the media tried to downplay Starbucks’ altruism, the bottom line is that the company offers a tuition assistance program, while many companies don’t. And they do seem to care about their employees.

But what’s this have to do with PR, you’re probably thinking.

Today, it’s not only about getting the media to write about your company, but it’s also about creating a “great, enduring company,” as Schultz explained in the interview. Here’s what he said:

“Because of social media and the fact that there’s such transparency, the consumer today knows everything, and they are making decisions not only on what things sell, and features and benefits, but your values and your sense of purpose, and if you don’t do the right thing, they’re gonna reject you.”

The takeaway is that Starbucks is not just a coffee company, but a business with a larger purpose and strong values. And PR is not just about promoting a company’s products, but it’s also about showcasing the company’s personality and what it represents.

Zappos is another company focused on company culture and values. In a recent Inc.com article, Tony Hsieh talks about how his company shares the process of “creating core values–whatever they may be–and living by them.” He goes on to say, “Research has shown that it actually doesn’t matter what your values are. What matters is that you have them and align your entire organization around them.”

Schultz said his company stands for “embracing humanity.” What are your company’s values and sense of purpose? Thinking about that can build your brand and burnish your company’s image.

Wendy Alpine of www.alpinepr.com
Wendy Alpine
wendy@alpinepr.com
www.alpinepr.com
Phone: 404-641-6170
Fax: 404-806-5316

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