In2Summit: Starbucks, Indeed.com Tackle Building Advocacy From Within
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In2Summit: Starbucks, Indeed.com Tackle Building Advocacy From Within

Starbucks' Corey DuBrowa talks about finding the “fragile balance” between being a performance-driven company and one that prioritizes humanity.

Aarti Shah

In2Summit: Starbucks, Indeed.com Tackle Building Advocacy From Within

SAN FRANCISCO — Building advocacy from the inside out was the underlying theme during the afternoon keynote at the In2 Innovation Summit featuring Starbucks’ head of global communications Corey DuBrowa and Indeed.com’s global marketing lead Mary Ellen Dugan.

Starbucks’ DuBrowa talk was framed around the idea that “culture trumps strategy”  —  the philosophy of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. DuBrowa drew upon two topical examples of culture thriving and failing: the story of the Target employee helping a teenage customer learn how to put on a tie and Comcast’s massive fumble when a customer was called an expletive by an employee. He also showed a video of a Starbucks employee teaching an autistic teenager how to order a beverage.

“We are a $17 billion company that does our business $5 at a time,” DuBrowa said. “There are probably very few other businesses so dependent on human values and making sure that our people feel supported.”  

He pointed out that Starbucks’ employees — or partners, as they are called internally — are dominated by college students or those who aspire to higher education. This culminated in Starbucks offering to pay a portion of college tuition for employees, which was announced last year.

More than two-thirds of the Starbucks’ customers say the connection with the “people in the store” drives loyalty to the brand. This is ultimately driven by Starbucks’ mindset of “sharing its success” with partners. For instance, DuBrowa said, the company spends the same amount per year on employee health care that it does on purchasing the coffee commodity for its stores worldwide.

“What is the role and responsibility of a for-profit, public company?” DuBrowa asked. The answer, he said, is finding the “fragile balance” between being a performance-driven company and one that prioritizes humanity.

For instance, this year Starbucks hosted townhall forums led by CEO Schultz in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York following encounters with police.

Indeed.com’s Dugan was hired by the online job site to launch the company’s first global branding initiative in 2013. She walked attendees through the process of building the initiative internally and then bringing the ideas to external audiences.

“For the first time in my career, I was going to come in and define brand,” said Dugan. She spoke to her “personal mantra” of brand = business that boils down to marketing ultimately being about driving business.

Dugan identified three factors that would drive the marketing campaign: the passion for the brand, the technology that drives the platform and transforming the company’s massive store of data to insights. After hiring PR, advertising and marketing firms, Indeed developed the tagline “How the world works” in 2014 for the campaign.

“There was not one discipline that was going to make or lose the brand — we were in it together,” Dugan said.

PR took the mindset that Indeed.com was a “challenger brand” and promoted Indeed.com’s point-of-view with media and educating journalists that Indeed.com can draw upon ten years worth of data on hiring. An example of the integrated nature of the effort, the PR firm was invited on-set for the television commercial shoot to conduct interviews and promote the spot online.  

Hotwire CEO Brendon Craigie followed Dugan’s talk with a fireside chat. Craigie asked Dugan about reaching two audiences: the job seekers and employers.

“The reality is, work is so personal...we found in the communications, we didn’t have to segment content because people want data about their industry,” Dugan said. “People were happy to share information about an industry or what’s happening in their city. These were ‘safe zones.’”

Indeed.com had “very little” social footprint prior to the campaign. The company’s research showed that data-driven stories were most likely to be shared online.

“People are intrigued by data - they like to tell you their industry is better or more attractive; they like to tell you their city is best for looking for a job,” Dugan said.

"Embrace the test and learn attitude. It's exciting to have failure be an option," she told attendees.  

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