How Ford Motor Company moved from content provider to content creator
Why Ford of Europe’s Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Mark Truby, a former newspaper business editor, worries about whether his company’s content is worthy of reading aloud over the breakfast table and how the launch of a new car in Germany with just 300 media present became the number one trending subject on Twitter and was watched in full by more than 360,000 people around the world. Ahead of #SMWF this June we wanted to find out more from the man himself:
1) Mark your focus is very much about creating content and storytelling but how do you manage that? What do you need to consider?
“Over the past four years we have moved from a Ford of Europe communications team focused primarily on media relations and servicing the automotive press to a team focused first and foremost on constant storytelling to a broad spectrum of media and audiences. This was a major strategic shift and required new skills and resources.
We created a content team with writers, photographers, videographers, graphic artists – people with strong backgrounds in print, broadcast and digital journalism. We augmented our Ford team with new talent on the agency side to help us tell more compelling stories and reach new audiences – such as tech, design and lifestyle press, as well as bloggers and digital influencers.”
2) What are the key elements to consider when creating any content or story for Ford and what can other businesses learn from your approach?
“We try to keep it simple and ask ourselves a few questions. Is the story interesting enough that a news editor would just have to have it for their newspaper, TV broadcast or website? Would the average person find it interesting enough to read or view, and share online? Would a husband read it aloud across the breakfast table to his wife, for example?
You have to be really honest with yourself on these questions or you will waste time and effort on the low-value stories. If a story passes those first hurdles, then we ask whether the story – once read or watched – could truly improve our corporate reputation or raise someone’s opinion of our vehicles and technologies. We have all read a story or seen a feature on TV that forever changed our perception of a person, company or organization. We quote it to friends or share it on Twitter.
This is the power of great storytelling whether you are creating it yourself or working with journalists. So, simple rules but a difficult task. It takes a lot of creativity and hard work to create content that is entertaining, interesting and meaningful.”
3) How can you reach new audiences most effectively through social media and how is this different to the traditional days of PR?
“Certainly online video, infographics and other forms of digital storytelling are amazing tools. The same rules apply — entertaining, interesting and meaningful – but when you get it right the payoff can be huge. That dialogue and feedback you receive from social is very valuable.
Key for me is authentic storytelling rather than lists and click-bait. Look at the way the Star Wars film franchise is engaging with their fans ahead of the next movie. It’s really exciting and that’s what we are trying to do with something like the upcoming launch of the new Ford Mustang. We are starting to better utilize listening tools online to understand where and what conversation is happening and what content people are viewing and engaging with related to Ford. We are building relations with digital influential to help tell our story. Our approach is to bring them inside Ford and trust them to tell the story with their own unique point of view and authentic voice.”
4) You talk about making events more global through livestreams and social media but how do you best manage that and what do you need to be aware of?
“We recently unveiled our new Ford Focus RS. It’s a 320+-horsepower, all-wheel drive performance car with a lot of fans around the world. We held the event in Cologne, Germany, but we considered it a global event. We hired a producer with live TV experience to produce the show. We worked with rally racing and internet star Ken Block to do a spectacular driving entrance and create teaser videos. The event was livestreamed around the world and more than 360,000 people watched the full 40 minute event.
We also issued many shorter videos of the cool driving sequences that received millions of views. Ken Block – who has millions of followers on social media – helped us share these assets. So the 300 media who attended in person got everything they needed to write stories and shoot videos of the launch of the Focus RS. At the same time, we were able to make it a global digital unveiling. On the day of the event #FocusRS was at one point the No 1 trending topic on Twitter globally.”
5) At #SMWF this June what do you think will be the challenge most concerning delegates in the world of social media and digital marketing currently?
“We are all trying to crack the same code — how to truly engage with the world and your audiences through social and digital media. It’s a fun, ever-changing landscape but the challenge of finding your distinctive, authentic voice and creating truly compelling content is huge.
Mark Truby will be taking part in a panel debate at #SMWF at London’s Vinopolis this June 8-9 looking at the impact of social media on traditional PR. Ensure you hear more about how to create compelling content and storytelling by booking your place at the show.