Title: Chief of global digital communications (former)
Company: Ford Motor Co
Size: $69.19bn market capitalisation; 181,000 employees
STORYTELLING: Everything that’s old is new again
When Scott Monty became chief of global digital communications at Ford Motor Co in 2008, the economic crisis was clobbering the car business. New car sales plummeted 28% between 2007 and 2009, and the venerable carmaker was looking for a way forward.
Traditional marketing techniques were connecting with fewer buyers, but newfangled digital-era communication misfires were sometimes causing confusion and even cynicism, he says. He believed that emerging social technologies could help Ford both boost car sales and work more effectively, but convincing his colleagues to embrace them would require evidence. After all, the company had been established before landline telephones had become fixtures in homes.
Mr Monty, who left Ford in May 2014 and recently joined Shift Communications as executive vice-president of strategy, had to be inventive. Looking for a fresh way to introduce the 2009 Ford Fiesta, he conjured up a campaign to engage the public as storytellers. The company gave new Fiestas to 100 people who were active on social websites and asked each of them to produce a video a month. Their dramatic, personal testimonials reached millions of consumers via Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and the blogosphere. (The company ran a similar campaign in 2013 that tapped into the same community, while also expanding to celebrities and new participants.)
Meanwhile, inside Ford, Mr Monty used an internal social network to encourage employees to share ideas and solve problems. For instance, orchestrating introductions to online “influencers” was eating up weeks of time as well as tens of thousands of dollars in ad agency fees. So, Mr Monty “put the question to the network: Can anyone combine a Google map with a calendar system?” That request was unusual in 2009, so he was surprised when six replies came back in minutes on a Friday. On Monday, an IT guy handed him a USB stick with the code for mashing up digital maps and calendars.
The network had proved its power. Social business initiatives that emphasise old human values that fortify connections, such as trust, openness and people working together toward the common good, will prevail.
The cutting-edge world of social business is not exactly where Mr Monty expected to end up. He studied Classics in college, and, though ancient texts might seem remote from modern social tools, old works taught Mr Monty much of what matters today. He believes social business should take its cue from the Roman writer and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, who wrote: “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words.”
Every modern social platform has a distinctive culture shaped by its users’ thoughts, feelings and words. Marketers seeking to persuade must first tune in to each environment and offer tailored messages that consumers will embrace, he says. Equally important, managers looking to inspire must use social tools to listen, empower and win staff buy-in in ways that move the company forward.
“Greater transparency, shared vision or a clearly stated goal creates a sense of trust,” Mr Monty says. “I think that’s been lacking in many brands of the last decade or so.”