Starbucks; The Third Place on a Third Rail Issue: An Analysis of Starbucks’ Race Together Initiative

Submited by: Megan Cauley, Chelsea Michael, Lizmarie Orengo

School: DePaul University College of Communication

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Matt Ragas

When Starbucks launched its Race Together initiative in spring 2015 in response to racial issues in the United States, it was met with backlash. The public was confused as to why a company would get close to this sensitive social issue, and many considered the initiative a failure. However, Starbucks doubled-down and expanded its commitment to the issue. This case study examines how Starbucks attempted to alleviate racial unrest through a broad platform. Although the launch was not well received, Starbucks' determination in addressing racial tensions demonstrates the corporation's belief in using its resources and scale to influence social change.

Note: Teaching notes will be made available to faculty upon request.

2016 Case Study Competition

Page, in alliance with the Institute for Public Relations, conducts an annual competition for the writing of original case studies by students enrolled in a school of business, communication or journalism and who are pursuing a degree that is focused on corporate communications and the practice of public relations. The objectives of the competition are to introduce practical applications of the core principles that define corporate communication as a critical function of management to educators, teachers and students, and encourage research that contributes to the profession's body of knowledge and provide practical suggestions for improving the corporate communications function. Student authors of winning entries and their faculty advisors are awarded cash prizes and recognized by the nation's leading corporate communications executives.

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The grand prize winner receives the Jack Koten Case Study Award, named in honor of John A. "Jack" Koten, one of the founding members of the Arthur W. Page Society and its first president. The winning students are invited to the annual Awards Ceremony held each year at the Page Society's Spring Seminar in New York.