“From the Backseat: Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?”

Hats off to Ford and Maggie Fox at Social Media Group for making an exciting press release. It is another example of the changing evolution of the traditional news release. My question from the backseat is: “Are we there yet?”

When I was a kid, I used to love going to the car show at the State Fair. My favorite part was climbing into the cars, playing with the knobs and pretending I was driving my little brother. Running around the showroom floor, I would grab as many promo books and posters as possible. At home, I’d put the poster up or look at the glossy pictures or the stats in the promo books. Yes, sometimes I’d even cut out some of the pictures and make collages (hell, that Geo Metro looked pretty hot when I was 10!) My friends would come over and we would talk about the cars, but, after a while, the books would eventually end up in the trash.

I love the Ford Focus release. I am excited that we are finally shaking things up a bit. The release has tons of high-def pictures of the interior and exterior, as well as videos of the cars in motion. There are also bullet-pointed stats. It looks nice. You can post the pics and videos on your preferred social network and maybe mash it up. The kid in me loves it, but, ultimately, it feels like a multimedia version of the marketing schwag from the car show.

It’s nice to see big companies embracing change. It’s a learning experience for all of us. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the elements that were executed well and then look at how the release could have been beefed up.

First off, kudos for the Flickr pics and YouTube videos. Pluses for allowing these to also be embedded and distributed. To me, what really stands out is the video of the UCLA students playing with the cell phone/music player integration feature found in the new car. While obviously edited, it didn’t feel overly produced. Also, Ford gets a lot of respect for disclosing that these students were Ford “ambassadors.” Finally, the ability to bookmark the release in del.icio.us and add an RSS feed gives this release the feel of a sporty, fully-loaded SMNR, but something is missing.

I feel the Social Media News Release is not just a tool for content sharing, it’s about facilitating discussion. The ability to share content is one aspect. Ability to easily find content is another. For me, however, the ultimate goal is to create an exchange of ideas, opening up, and sharing between the company and the consumer to build increasing discussion around the product/brand. This release, to me, looks like a one-sided conversation.

On her blog, Maggie Fox at Social Media Group tells us:

“…with this implementation we were aiming for simply a way of sharing content with people who wanted it in formats they could use, all conveniently located in one place. Period. We didn’t include the ability to comment or trackback because not every interaction has to be a full-on conversation, sometimes sharing and enabling are enough.”

I know the fear that Maggie talks about. It’s scary to open up the conversation because you might not always like what comes out. The discussion is happening whether we like it or not. How are some ways that Ford could have used this release to create a voice that gives back to it’s consumers in a way that shapes the conversation?

My first idea hearkens back to the DVD era. Remember the value-add on DVDs? Besides the great audio/visual, it was also the Behind-the-scenes footage. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Ford had some videos made by the engineers or designers that lead us through the whole development process? I would share that with my friends and I think any tech/engineer/design geek would love it, too. What if they blogged during development? What about user submitted questions to the development team with digg-like voting? Or Twitter?! OMG!!

Ford has a massive following. Just doing a quick search on Facebook yields 500 hits with a handful of really significant user groups. What if Ford had harnessed the power of the user groups? They are already discussing Ford. It’s nice that Ford has it’s own (sponsored) group with a significant following. Wouldn’t it be cool if the Ford release linked to the Facebook group?!

Finally, what about blogger outreach? Remember those UCLA kids in the videos? What if real bloggers and vloggers were invited to try out the car and it’s features? [Oops, Trumped. Maggie Fox posted this comment today. However, the addition of a link to a del.icio.us page with coverage would help see what others are writing.] What about man on the street videos testing things out?

So that’s my take on the Ford Release. What do you think? Brian Solis and Todd Defren posted their joint “State-of-the-SMNR” slash response here. Stuart Henshall posts his here. You can also read more from Maggie Fox here.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

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6 Comments

Filed under It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Rants, SMNR

6 responses to ““From the Backseat: Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?”

  1. henshall

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the link. I agree completely with your desire to facilitate the conversation. My beef is with the one-way approach this takes.

    It’s not hard to aggregate content up. That’s the first step in listening. It does have to start with the client. That’s where I believe the education must start. It easy to sell the client on.. you should be doing more with social media… It is hard to sell them on participating. Without participation it remains a 1.0 activity. Take a look at the Jeep 2.0 campaign. Let me know if you see anything 2.0 about it.

    Cheers
    Stuart

  2. Hi Stuart:

    Thanks for your comment. I think we are in agreement. The point of my post was that, although pretty, the Ford release doesn’t quite meet the mark.

    By “aggregate content up,” I think you are referring to tagging and bookmarking, more or less what Todd Defren and Brian Solis refer to as “breadcrumbs that ultimately aggregate the resulting conversations in one convenient spot”. For me, this is both an important measurement tool and a way to help consumers find information easily. With that said, I am inclined to agree more with Kami Huyse’s idea that the SMR is a way to increase word of mouth .

    My example of the behind-the-scenes videos in the above piece are a way in which Ford could use the SMR to increase discussion behind the product. In its current state, the Ford Focus SMR, to me, is the multimedia equivalent to the marketing book you can get at a car show. It can be easily forgotten. If we developed compelling content in the SMR, it could initiate sustainable consumer discussion.

    In terms of listening, I think that is one of the most significant elements in a social media campaign. Consumer responses to a press release = plus. Company Rep responding thoughtfully to the comment = even bigger plus. Utilizing a Facebook group to facilitate this discussion and enabling comments, wall, etc = two check pluses. Publishing your SMR on the company’s (updated) blog = two check plus pluses. If you are talking about blogger relations, I am writing a piece on that, but it wasn’t my intended scope for this piece.

    In regards to the Jeep 2.0, again, it’s really pretty and has several elements of social media, but it misses the point. GM Europe’s SMR is a heck of a lot closer to what I envision.

    I think we are only beginning to discuss the changes in PR. Blogs and comments help us, as a community, exchange ideas and collaborate. I hope I’m not over-simplifying you,Brian, Todd and Kami.

    Chris

  3. Pingback: stuart henshall » links for 2007-10-19

  4. Thanks for the support and link love for the 08 Focus SMPR.

    I am a strategist on the team at Social Media Group that created this program. Although I don’t speak for Maggie, I’m sure she would agree that there was no “fear” in the decision surrounding comments on the SMPR.

    Maggie explains why, pure and simple in the quote you posted.

    I would add that comments are enabled on flickr and youtube. A few conversations have sparked in those venues. As expected, they typically revolve around the car, not the medium they got the assets from.

    The conversation that continues regarding the format of the SMPR, surrounds fact that this does not allow conversation. I can’t help but smile at the irony a little 😉

    To that end, I wonder how many comments (if enabled) on the SMPR would be about the SMPR format, instead of the topic of Ford Focus, Ford Sync or other things automotive?

    For my 2cents… In these early days, “emerging media is the message” conversations are served well in the PR/Marketing blog sphere. I’m sure the format will iron itself out as we pundits continue to debate the nomenclature and degree of enablement.

    In the meantime, please join us, and other Ford enthusiast in the automotive forums, the blogsphere, Flickr, Facebook and other social networks as we continue to talk cars!

  5. Hey Collin:

    Thanks for your comment. It’s great hearing from all sides of the discussion, and I do commend you guys for trying something different!

    Chris

  6. Pingback: “Preview: NewComm Forum 2008″ « socialTNT

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