Adolph Coors Company (B)
The following is the complete transcript of a speech given by Shirley Richard, director of corporate communications, at the International Association of Business Communicators annual conference on May 12, 1983.
The winds of change are blowing, and as we progress into the information age, investigative journalism is something which will affect all of us—either as consumers, members of special interest groups, business persons, or members of the general public. Organizations—and especially businesses—will be forced in the years ahead to deal with investigative reporters in an open and forthright manner. Adolph Coors Company, the nation's sixth largest brewer, has changed its news media policy from being a "no comment" company to a company with an open door policy. The purpose of this address is to discuss a case history involving Coors and "60 Minutes." There are certain ways you know when it's a bad day....One of these is when "60 Minutes" calls.
Identification of the Problem/Opportunity
Since 1977 Coors had been the victim of a vicious labor-related boycott designed by AFLCIO officials to put Coors out of business. Mike Wallace has gained a reputation as television's major exponent of adversary journalism and had been accused on occasion of not reporting all the facts (particularly with regard to business). There was concern about the news angle "60 Minutes" could take because Coors had a reputation for being a conservative company that took controversial political stances. In addition, Joe Coors for many years had been a supporter of Ronald Reagan and was a member of Reagan's "kitchen cabinet." Because of the unemployment situation in America, Reagan's policies were being seriously questioned. Joe Coors was also reported to have been responsible for the appointments of controversial James Watt (former Secretary of the Interior) and Anne Gorsuch (former EPA administrator). Furthermore, Coors required a preemployment polygraph of all employees, which was an emotional issue with many segments of the general public.
This case was prepared by Professor Paul A. Argenti, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Do not reproduce without written permission. © 2001 Trustees of Dartmouth College. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact the Tuck School of Business at 603-646-3176.
Adolph Coors Company (B)
Awareness levels about boycott issues were low in states where Coors was not sold (thirty states). Since Coors was considering a major expansion into the Southeast, there was a risk of raising awareness about negative corporate issues The AFL-CIO boycott against Coors appeared to be working. Awareness levels of boycottrelated issues throughout the marketing area were high. Formal research performed in 1981 showed that Coors's corporate image had slipped badly. A comprehensive public relations program was in effect to combat the problem, but progress being made to change attitudes was slow. The facts were on Coors's side. The labor-related boycott was based largely on falsehoods. An open-door policy with "60 Minutes" could result in helping set the record straight. Morale among distributors and employees was eroding because they believed Coors's management was not doing enough to combat the boycott. If "60 Minutes" decided to do a feature about Coors, it could be disastrous for Coors not to participate. After considering the facts, Joe and Bill Coors made a decision to open Coors's doors to "60 Minutes" and conduct an interview with Mike Wallace.
Planning for the Interview
Beer consumers, potential beer consumers, and opinion leaders with neutral or slightly negative attitudes toward Coors who would comprise a portion of the "60 Minutes" audience of twenty-plus million households. Employees and independent Coors distributors.
Objectives: Turn a potentially negative report into a positive...