Many companies and corporations across the country are abuzz about diversity and inclusion. Pamela Cook helps to make sure that Birmingham-based Coca-Cola UNITED — the second-largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the third-largest bottler of Coke products in the United States — walks the walk. She serves as Director of Multicultural Marketing & Community Affairs for the company’s Central Region, which includes Alabama, the Panhandle of Florida, the Tennessee Valley area, and parts of southwest Georgia. As part of her job, Pamela also cultivates Coca-Cola UNITED’s partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs. Even when she’s not at work, Pamela keeps busy serving the Birmingham community by volunteering with several organizations. We’re honored to introduce our latest FACE of Birmingham, Pamela Cook.
You’ve served in your current role at Coca-Cola UNITED since 2018 and have been with the company since 2014. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love that no two days are the same. Every day is its own adventure. I love how marketing continues to evolve. And I enjoy the people — I like what the company stands for.
Is there anything you’ve seen companies get wrong when it comes to diversity and inclusion or multi-cultural marketing? What are you doing to make sure Coca-Cola UNITED doesn’t make these mistakes?
Each company has to take that journey for themselves, so I can’t speak to what they’re doing wrong. But inside our organization, we took a very proactive approach, and we started a diversity and inclusion council. In June, during our Diversity & Inclusion Week, we held a number of events across our company including “Join the Conversation,” where our CEO and vice presidents were having difficult talks about race and gender equality. We traveled with a film crew to capture stories from our associates about diversity and asked them to tell us about their families and how they grew up. We hosted Friendship Day and had cookouts at all of our locations. It was all about learning more about the people you go to work with every day.
Part of your job focuses on nurturing partnerships between Coca-Cola UNITED and HBCUs. What are some of the things your company does to serves these schools?
One of the partnerships is our Pay It Forward program. It’s an internship for students. They learn how the Coke gets from the warehouse to the stores and the marketing that goes into it. We line them up with professionals inside our organization whose jobs match their majors or their areas of interest, or we introduce them to a new opportunity they hadn’t even thought about. They spend time with our executive leadership. How many college students get to sit down and have lunch with a CEO of a company and then take selfies for the rest of the day with them? We give them $1,000 for their time with us, because what student doesn’t need a little bit of money in their pocket when they go back to school?
Why do you feel these partnerships are important?
It’s just the right thing to do. We want to give back to the communities — to the consumers — who buy our products. We make a point to reinvest in the communities that we live, work, and serve in, and HBCU communities are a part of that. Our schools are so much more than half-time, homecoming, and classics. HBCUs birth game changers, thought leaders, CEOs, scientists, doctors – there’s so much talent inside of an HBCU. It’s my privilege to be their champion inside of our organization and to work with amazing students, educators, and presidents.
You’re a native of Huntsville, Alabama, but you’ve been in Birmingham for more than 20 years. What do you love most about the Magic City?
I’ve met some really amazing people on my journey here. I like that it’s a city that’s big enough to be active but small enough to still have a great sense of community. There’s so much potential here. I’ve seen a lot of change in the city, and I want to see it continue to grow and expand.
Tell us more about some of the community service that you do.
I participated for years with Project Homeless Connect. It’s such a great way to give back to the community. In just a few hours, you can help somebody on their journey. I’m serving now on the board for Red Mountain Theatre Company. I love theater, and I always want other people to experience theater. The arts mean so much to our daily lives. We don’t realize how much of a role it plays in our living, thinking, being, and our sense of community. I also have the great pleasure of working on the upcoming World Games. I’m really excited about that and what it will mean for our city. It’s that once-in-a-lifetime activity. Our city is going to be spotlighted in ways that it never has been.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Amazon Prime and I have been in a toxic relationship. I’ve been shopping a lot. During the pandemic, I started getting more into self-care. So, I’m making time to go get a facial or a massage. Or I will go for a walk and leave the technology at home and listen to nature. I also fell in love with exercise. I started working with a trainer at Train & Burn.
What was your last best meal at a BHM restaurant?
The chicken and waffles at Yo’ Mama’s.
What is your favorite hidden gem in BHM?
Cayo Coco. It’s a rum bar, and it’s like stepping into Cuba. They have fabulous food and marvelous drinks, and they’re environmentally friendly.
Where did you go on your last vacation?
I went to Sandestin for a few days earlier this year. That’s one of my favorite places to drive away to. My last international trip before the shutdown was to Barbados. That’s a great country to go visit.
What’s on your bedside table?
The Alchemist – I like to reread that from time to time.
What is your go-to birthday present to give?
I like to give something meaningful. I want to give them something they wouldn’t buy themselves. It’s never a gift card.
What’s the best advice you can give?
Surround yourself with people who are where you want to be, and they will absolutely pull you up.
Name three things you can’t live without.
Peanut M&Ms, my big comfy chair at home, and people.
Thank you, Pamela! All photography by J&M Photography and Design.
To meet more inspiring Birmingham women, visit our FACES archives.