A former chairman of The Coca-Cola Company who was nicknamed “Mr. Anonymous” once said, "you should get caught in the act of doing good."

Coca-Cola has long history of using creative marketing and advertising to promote our products. But when it comes to talking about who we are as a company, the deep roots we have in local communities, the people at the heart of our business and the variety of beverages we make, we haven’t been as talkative.

When we started asking people what they know about us, our research showed they knew very little beyond our flagship brand, Coca-Cola, and a few other products… but they wanted to know more. Perhaps it was time to change how we talk about ourselves.

We put together a cross-functional team, helmed by a talented leader in Caren Pasquale Seckler, to do the homework and help us figure out if we should tell our story, and how to do it. We asked people in local communities, our own employees, our bottling partners and the people who drink our beverages every day what they wanted to know. 

As a member of that team, I learned three things. And while these apply to the work we’re doing now, they really are applicable to any business.

1)    If people want to know your story, you need to tell it. How will they know anything about you if you don’t speak up? And if you don’t tell it, someone will do it for you, so you have to step outside your comfort zone and share. But telling your story isn’t enough. You have to listen, too.

2)    Regardless of how big you are, you should always go back to your local roots. At one point every company started small, and it’s those local ties that will always connect you back to the communities where the people who buy your products live, work and play.

3)    People are at the center of any company, large or small. While you may have the world’s best-known brand, the most valuable asset you have is your people. Every day they represent your business to the world.

Based on these insights, we created a new nationwide storytelling effort which brings to life the people, products and character of the Coca-Cola system through the voices and faces of employees from every corner of the country.

We’re sharing our stories because we want people to know that at Coca-Cola, we sell more than 800 different great-tasting beverages for all occasions, help create jobs, empower local economies, and work to minimize our impact on the environment.

We want them to know that people are at the heart of our business. We’re a family that includes Coca-Cola USA and 68 independently-owned U.S. bottlers who collectively employ more than 90,000 people across every corner of the country who passionately serve the local communities they call home.

We want to tell them about the increasingly local nature of our business. As The Coca-Cola Company USA wraps up a decade-long process to return ownership of local bottling and distribution operations to independent company partners across America, our commitment to strengthening local communities takes on an even greater significance.

We want them to understand how we’re working to become a total beverage company by diversifying and building our portfolio of more than 100 brands and 800 beverages, offering more smaller-sized packages and growing our business while reducing the sugar in our beverages.

Simply put, we want people across America to get to know Coca-Cola in a whole new way and to understand how deeply we care about our local communities. So we’re telling our story.

We’re just beginning this journey and we hope people will be part of it. Join us by checking out #CocaColaRenew. There you’ll meet Toni, who’s worked for Coca-Cola in New Orleans for 45 years. Junior is a former pro basketball player who once asked his local bottler for a product donation to support a basketball summer camp and is now a Coca-Cola bottler himself. You’ll learn how Coca-Cola ensures the water it uses is sustainable and how it helps replenish at-risk water resources with partner organizations across the U.S. We also tell the story of how support for an Atlanta foundation has helped transform an at-risk housing project into a vibrant community with a charter school which will graduate its first-ever senior class. And we highlight Coca-Cola Scholar Cara, the recipient of a scholarship from Coke who recently was crowned Miss America.

While #CocaColaRenew is about sharing stories, it’s also about listening to and learning from the people who touch our business every day. As our film says, thank you for listening – we’re listening, too.

Matt Echols is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola North America