When I was invited to the Conversations with Coca-Cola conference in Atlanta, GA, I was torn. It was set to take place during my family’s summer vacation in Atlanta, GA. We were heading there anyway, but I was hesitant to leave my family while on holiday. On the other hand, I was intrigued. Coca-Cola is a brand that I have known all my life and one that I highly respect. Here they were inviting me to a conference, along with other bloggers who I know and value. However, as you know, here on the Culture Mom, I don’t often push products, particularly food and drink, and I was curious about their expectations and how I would fulfill them. Although I have to admit, I was instantly interested and I gently let my husband know that I would be taking a few days out of our vacation to attend.
And you know what? I made exactly the right decision. My family had a great time hanging out with my mother. They went shopping, they went swimming, they relaxed, they enjoyed the city I was born and raised in. It was a city they know very well and they thrived without me for those two days. It even gave them time to miss me.
And me? I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was invited to spend time with a company that supports, promotes and understands the issues that are most important to me: women, advocacy, smart marketing, branding, health, sustainability and living positively. We did talk about Coca-Cola and the brands that it supports but only in relations to our lives. It was nourishing, supportive and left me with so much to think about in terms of my brand, where I’m going and how I can form meaningful relationships with brands like Coca-Cola. They have paved the way as a brilliant example of how a company can build meaningful ties with bloggers like me. They connected with me in a way I hadn’t expected by appealing to my interests and passions. It’s so smart.
Katherine Stone was our key note speaker. She’s someone I have watched closely in this space as the editor and founder of the leading blog on postpartum depression, Post Partum Progress. At every conference I’ve attended in the past year, she has won awards for her efforts in Social Good and she has served as an inspiration in that area. It’s an area that I want to expand upon and I was eager to hear her tips on expanding my platform. One tip that stands out in her presentation was this:
Start claiming who you are and recognize what you are not.
I have a platform. It started here on this blog but it has several extensions. She also said to “create your arsenal and update it continually” by finding opportunities that are aligned with your goals. I definitely left her presentation armed with ammunition and a list of possibilities buzzing in my mind.
But it didn’t stop there. We spent another hour working on vision boards – thinking about where we see our blogs and brands going and getting it all down visually. It was basically a collage of cut outs from magazines – pictures and quotes – that resonated with me. I found the process very cathartic and thought-provoking, as well as presenting our findings with the group out loud. Yep, that’s me below. I got a bit emotional.
Later that day, we heard from a panel on “Women in the Work Place”. I was anxious for this session because if you read my blog (I was so impressed that my contact at Coca-Cola had read and appreciated my “I Don’t Know How She Does It” series that I focused on early this year), you’ll know that work/balance is very important to me and is something that I’ve struggled with since I had kids. The women on the panel were women from within the Coca-Cola organization, from Eileen Thanner, VP Commerical Capabilities, Bridget McCarthy, VP, Cross-Franchise Brands Commercialization and Lauventria Robinson, VP, Diversity Business Development (don’t you love her title?). These are women who love being mothers (McCarthy is not a mom) and love their jobs. They agreed that women are really good leaders and collaborators and thrive in environments where they are supported. They suggested keeping work and family life separate and to take time to enjoy your accomplishments, both in the work place and at home. As a mom who quit her full-time job when my kids were very young, I found their determination and passion for their jobs both impressive. It’s something that I want to have again. They suggested that focus, commitment and good childcare will help any mom with the transition. All common sense, but great to see in action and very inspiring.
As for Coca-Cola, they have a number of programs in place to inspire their female employees. Its 5×20 program is an ambitious effort to bring five million women entrepreneurs living in the developing world into its business by 2020. They celebrate women as moms and as women. Don’t you love the sound of that?
The rest of the conference was just as inspiring. We went on a personal tour of the World of Coca-Cola. We heard from the folks at Wendy’s about their healthy initiatives. We learned how to make healthy lunches for our kids and heard about Coca-Cola’s advocacy and sustainability initiatives. Their most recent initiative is LivePositively.com, where you can vote for your favorite park that you would like to see Coca Cola help revitalize and more. You should check it out. And on top of it all, I got to hang out with the other writers and staff at Coca-Cola, women I was happy to meet and get to know over the course of the few days.
The other bloggers invited were: Jamie Reeves from BlondeMomBlog.com, Jen Houck from OneMomsWorld.com, Jennifer Gerlock from HipAsIWannaBe.com, Jessica Shyba from MommasGoneCity.com, Jodi Grundig from MomsFavoriteStuff.com, K. Elizabeth McCoy from YUMMommy.blogspot.com, Lauren Jimeson from AMommyInTheCity.com, LeeAnn Hinken from TheLifeofRylie.com, Meghan Cooper from JaMonkey.com, Rebecca Levey from BeccaRama.com, Sarah Visbeek from SarahViz.com, Stacie Connerty from TheDivineMissMommy.com, Stefanie Fauquet from MommyMusings.com and Toni Patton from JustStopScreaming.com.
Am I glad I went and took time out of my family vacation? You bet. It was revitalizing. I walked away with so many areas to focus on in my work: community, social good, engagement. And a new partner to boot.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Coca-Cola at this conference and my expenses were paid, but I was not required to post. I really wanted to share my experience as it was truly unique.