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Public Relations at PEPSICO: Guest Lecture with John Humphreys

On Thursday April 30th, students of the International Business School of Hochschule Fresenius had the opportunity to participate in an online guest talk from John Humphreys, Corporate Communications Manager at PepsiCo UK. What does a typical day in a corporate communications department of a global company look like? What issues does a PR Manager have to stay on top of? How does PepsiCo make sure they’re up to date on the latest developments?


The lecture was designed to take advantage of current online teaching by specifically inviting a guest speaker from abroad and around 38 participants followed the guest talk from home. John Humphreys is a corporate affairs specialist with more than 15 years of experience in PR and communications. A graduate from the University of Kent in Industrial Relations, he holds a post-graduate diploma in Marketing Communications from the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing. Starting his career as a radio journalist and news editor, he established and ran the UK’s first centralized commercial radio news hub before moving into PR and communications in 2004. He has worked in both agency and in-house roles ever since.


John Humphreys stated that all business, regardless of industry and size, would need some form of corporate communications. He began by highlighting the difference between the areas of Public Relations and Advertising, commenting that many people aren’t aware of the distinction.

The participants gained insight into how advertising focuses on controlled messages, where the company is paying for the advertising space, and Public Relations is about the reputation of the organization and involves two-way engagement with stakeholders via different platforms. For critical or controversial issues, it is important to get everyone on the same page. “Be consistent in your core message across all departments”, Humphreys summed up his advice. Mr. Humphreys also stressed the importance of storytelling in PR as a necessary communication tool to engage different target groups.


Working in the PR department at PepsiCo can be very varied. John Humphreys gave an example of the different projects he dealt with one specific day: he worked on a promotional deal for PepsiCo UK involving the Spice Girls; addressed sustainability issues via the launch of a new recycling scheme; and oversaw the release of a scientific handbook for farmers offering advice on how to grow oats.


The guest lecture concluded with a live Q&A session between John Humphreys and the students, with questions covering the global working environment at PepsiCo and some of their specific PR issues.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis some International Business School students have been unable to travel to Germany and are taking part in online sessions from India, Panama, Colombia, and Italy. As John Humphreys remarked: “We’re in difficult times, but it’s in challenging times where you learn the most. You can learn more in one week during a crisis than in one year on routine work.”