04 April 2014 Elon University Student Wins 2014 Page Society Case Study Competition

NEW YORK, NY – A case study examining how the Coca-Cola Company confronted public health concerns related to obesity won the Grand Prize at the Arthur W. Page Society's 2014 Case Study in Corporate Communications, sponsored by the Page Society and the Institute for Public Relations (IPR). The competition awards students whose entries compellingly explore a case wherein corporate communications is undertaken effectively as a critical management function.

The winning case study, “ Are All Calories Created Equal? An Analysis of the Coca-Cola Company's Communication in the Fight Against Obesity," was authored by Heather Harder, a student of the School of Communications at Elon University in North Carolina and current national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Her paper examined the growing obesity epidemic in the United States and how Coca-Cola responded with its Coming Together campaign. With health experts claiming that regular and diet soft drinks can lead to obesity, Coca-Cola has been challenged to communicate the message that its products can fit into a healthy lifestyle. Heather's report takes a critical look at how Coca-Cola balances social responsibility with promoting products that many claim contribute to obesity. Her faculty advisor on the project was Lucinda Austin. Heather was honored last night at a dinner hosted by the Page Society during its annual Spring Seminar conference, at which over 250 senior corporate communicators gather each year. She was awarded $5,000 as the grand prize winner.

“This competition is an invaluable way to recognize students who make a significant contribution understanding corporate communications as an executive management function," said Roger Bolton, President of the Arthur W. Page Society. “Our mission as an organization is to advance the leadership role of the CCO within the enterprise, and that happens largely by fostering understanding of the critical importance of communications to an organization's success. With that in mind, Heather's case stood out to our judges, who had to choose from nearly 40 excellent entries. I congratulate Heather and all the other prize winners."

In addition to the overall grand prize, the competition awards winners in the categories of Communications Schools and Business Schools. This year's winners represented the University of Notre Dame, DePaul University and Quinnipiac University. This is the Page Society's 13 th Annual Case Study Competition, which is aimed at strengthening awareness of communications and corporate reputation issues among business, communications and journalism students.

“With this annual competition we not only recognize exceptional students, but we also help to advance our industry's understanding of how strategic communication can and should be practiced in order to effectively manage and protect corporate reputation," said Frank Ovaitt, President and CEO of IPR. “I could not be more pleased with the exceptional quality of this year's entries and I congratulate Heather and her fellow winners on this recognition of their excellent work."

The competition is judged by a panel that represents the corporate, agency and academic sectors. The panel is composed of Page Society members as well as members of Page Up, a new membership organization for senior-level members of Page members' staffs who have the potential to ascend to a CCO or other Page Society-qualifying role. The entries are evaluated on the basis of their relevance and timelines, the significance of the problem examined, and the effective use of the Page Principles – which the Page Society embraces as foundational guidance for public relations practitioners.

Below is a complete list of winners:

Grand Prize:
Title: Are All Calories Created Equal? An Analysis of the Coca-Cola Company's Communication in the Fight Against Obesity
Author: Heather Harder, Elon University School of Communications
Faculty Advisor: Lucinda Austin

First Prize, Communications School

Title:The Need for Cultural Intelligence: An Analysis of Asiana Airlines' Response to the Crash Landing of Flight 214

Authors: Dionne Gomez & Erin Reed, DePaul University

Faculty Advisor: Matt Ragas

First Prize, Business School Firing the Founder: A Men's Wearhouse Identity Crisis

Author: Kristen Piotrowski, DePaul University, Kellstadt Graduate School of Business

Faculty Advisor: Matt Ragas

Second Prize, Communication School Tainted Yogurt: An Analysis of Chobani's Mold Crisis

Authors: Joanna Scott & Catherine Schuler, DePaul University, College of Communication

Faculty Advisor: Matt Ragas

Second Prize, Business School Bank of America Debit Card Fee: Corporate Strategy vs. Consumer Perception

Authors: Jessica Bonanno, Jason Guindon, Patrick Riley & Jonathan Stevens, University of Notre Dame, Fanning Center for Business Communication

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Scofield O'Rourke

Third Prize, Communication School #Social Strong: The Effect of Social Media on the Boston Marathon Bombings

Author: Lexie Broytman, Quinnipiac University

Faculty Advisor: Alexander Laskin

Third Prize, Business School Progressive Insurance: Paying a Lawyer to Defend Your Sister's Killer

Authors: Ryan Heatherman & Llze Swanepoel, University of Notre Dame, Fanning Center for Business Communication

Faculty Advisor: Dr. James Scofield O'Rourke

For links to this year's winning entries, please visit our Case Study Competition page.