November 23, 2008
UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, we've created a site that has much of this comprehensive information on it. You can find it at The Ford Story. It would be great if you could check it out & share it.
It's been a rough week. And for someone who is new to the auto industry, this is truly a test.
I don't usually talk directly about my work unless it's something truly worth sharing. As such, I'd like you to indulge me a little here, because there's some important information that I would like to share.
Throughout the past week, I've been engaging directly with people on Twitter and where possible on blog posts. Because I was at the L.A. Auto Show, my exposure to all of the conversation wasn't as broad as it might have been.
And at Ford, our social media efforts are just in their nascency. My colleagues at GM have a pretty strong team in place, while I'm just one guy doing what I can. Since Ford doesn't yet have a robust public platform in the social media space, it's largely been a matter of individual engagement. And for much of the week, it's been like fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun.
So I'm resorting to my blog to share what I know and what my own perspective is, and hopefully, with your cooperation, to help the ailing U.S. auto industry in the process. While I'm supportive of the whole industry, my views will naturally be skewed to Ford, because it's the topic I'm most familiar with and loyal to. So, let's begin at the beginning.
Spring 2008 When I interviewed with Ford, it was at an exciting time: Ford has just announced a first-quarter profit, its first in a long time, on the way to CEO Alan Mulally's plan to make the company profitable by 2009. One of the reasons I took the job was because of the innovation and exciting product developments that I discovered as part of the hiring process. [Aside: It was enough to make me move from Boston to Detroit - and believe me, I had a healthy dose of East Coast snobbery that didn't think to highly of Detroit. I obviously learned enough to overcome that.]
But now, we stand in a much different place, after gas prices spiked, the commodity markets doubled, the housing crunch hit, and the credit markets dried up. All of those negatively impacted the auto industry and they happened in less than one fiscal quarter. It was a rapid and stunning downturn that no one could have predicted.
Could I ever have guessed that the industry and the economy would have stalled? Hardly. Yet I remain incredibly optimistic about Ford's future and commitment to making great cars that people want and value.
My goal here is not to get into a semantic discussion about how a Chapter 11 filing might look (or the possibility of a Chapter 7 liquidation), or to debate supply and demand economics; nor is it to pick apart any public relations gaffes that may have occurred; nor is it to point fingers and try to lay the blame squarely at any one of the myriad players in this tragic drama.
My hope is that you'll read on and take in some of the information I'm going to share. In the end, you'll have to make up your own mind. But I'm asking you to do it in an informed way, rather than making an emotionally-charged knee-jerk reaction to what's going on in Detroit and Washington.
And in addition to reading, watching and listening to the content I'm sharing, I sincerely ask you to do this:
Some time, in the near future, get out there, visit a local Ford | Lincoln | Mercury dealership and actually try out one of our latest vehicles and decide for yourself. Drive One.
Advances at Ford Let me share with you a few facts about Ford which you may not be aware of. Many of them are centered around our Drive One campaign: Drive Safe. Drive Green. Drive Quality. Drive Smart. And we're making progress in every area.
Ford's CEO, Alan Mulally is just 2 years on the job. He was recruited from Boeing and is highly respected (and wholly likable). It is his vision for ONE Ford - a truly global company - that is driving much of the transformation that is currently under way.
Ford's vehicle mix was about 70% trucks & SUVs (largely because we were giving people exactly what they demanded in times of cheap gas); we have restructured to produce 60% cars & crossovers.
We're changing over some of our truck & SUV manufacturing facilities to become car plants, with the flexible manufacturing capability; that is, if we need to change from car to truck or back again, it can be done in a matter of hours rather than a matter of months.
We're using our successful European & South American manufacturing models to bring the more of those outstanding small cars to the United States.
We're committed to being best-in-class or among the best-in-class in fuel economy in every vehicle we produce.
We've doubled the number of hybrids we offer - these include the Ford Escape Hybrid, the most fuel-efficient SUV in the world; and the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which will beat the Toyota Camry hybrid by at least 6 mpg.
We're launching the Eco-Boost engine, which will scale across most of our fleet, increasing fuel economy by up to 20% and reducing CO2 emissions by up to 15%
None of Ford's vehicles require premium gasoline.
We're actively testing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEV), hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and more. We won't release new products until we know that we have the capacity to produce them in a way that people can afford them.
Ford is committed to affordable fuel economy for millions of people
We're environmentally friendly in many, many aspects of our business. It not only includes the vehicles we make, but the before and after effects as well. For example:
We're using soy in creating seat cushions
Replacing petroleum-based manufactured parts with plant-based polyol in (thus reducing our carbon footprint
Aside from the remarkable developments being made daily at Ford, there's another aspect to this that concerns me. Throughout all of this turmoil, I think we're forgetting that there have been sacrifices made on all sides:
The UAW - much vilified in many circles - has made concessions and continues to be willing to work with management on progress. This is no longer a "we vs. them" mentality, from what I've seen.
In early 2008, Ford made a 15% cut to its workforce (white collar and blue collar) and another 10% will be cut in January 2009.
No one - no one - will receive bonuses in 2008, nor will they receive raises in 2009
Ford's Chairman, Bill Ford, has not taken a salary since 2005, and he has pledged not to take one until the company returns to profitability.
UPDATED: Furthermore, Bill Ford has not received any dividends since the company stopped giving them; and any bonuses he received he donated to charity - specifically Ford scholarships for college-bound high school graduates.
Personally, I have seen and met most, if not all, of the executive team at Ford, and I can strongly vouch for them being hardworking, decent people who honestly want the best for the company, our customers, and every employee. I'm a pretty good judge of character, and I wouldn't be so loyal to Ford if I didn't completely believe in this team and the leadership.
Finally, I'd like to leave you with a thought about America being there for the U.S. auto industry. Let's not forget that in tougher times, the auto industry has always been there for the country. In World War II, factories were converted into airplane and ship manufacturing facilities, forgoing automotive manufacturing. Just after September 11, all of the auto companies offered 0% financing to the American public, to get us through the difficult economic times.
What is America doing for the auto industry today?
What You Can Do to Help Here are a few suggestions I've got where we might be able to band together. If you have others, please leave a comment below.
1. Share what you discover I've established a Delicious page for the U.S. Auto Industry; if you see any articles, videos, audio files or anything related to the support or the industry, please tag it "for:US_Auto_Industry" in your Delicious account and I'll add it to the list.
Oh, and perhaps you'd care to Digg/Stumble/etc. this post.
3. Educate yourself As I noted above, there's a stunning lack of knowledge or understanding about the complexities of the auto industry and what affects it. I don't profess to be completely aware of all of it myself. But if you'd like to read a few articles that dispel some of the myths, you can start with these:
It shouldn't be news to you if you're a student of social media. But it's something I said - probably even more forcefully - to a whole room of agencies and advertisers at the Social Ad Summit a couple of months ago.
Let's face it: no one is on a social network to read ads. They're there to connect with friends and share interests.
Reachable, but protective Slightly surprising was that email and direct mail were bigger influencers on their purchasing habits than social networks. Why? Because these are expected marketing channels. But they indicated that SMS, private messages and social networks are considered verboten for advertising. If there isn't at least implied permission, don't even bother showing up with your marketing message.
In other words, just because this media-savvy group is using a particular tool or form of communication doesn't mean it's okay for you to intrude, Mr. & Ms. Marketer.
If you have an opportunity, I recommend heading over to the Exact Target web site and downloading the October 28, 2008 white paper Messaging Behaviors, Preferences and Personas. There are some fascinating observations there about the habits of a number of personas: wired, retirees, teens, young homemakers, college students, and established pros.
Are there unwritten rules of engagement that you operate by in your preferred communications channels? Let me know.
At Ford, Scott heads up the social media function and holds the title Global Digital &
Multimedia Communications Manager. He is a strategic advisor on all social media activities across the company, from blogger
relations to marketing support, customer service to internal communications and more, as social media is being integrated into many
facets of Ford business.
Prior to joining Ford, Scott served as Consigliere for crayon
and spent a number of years with PJA Advertising + Marketing, a
boutique BtoB agency specializing in health sciences & high tech.
In addition to his professional responsibilities, Scott is an active blogger and podcaster. He writes about the intersection of
advertising, marketing and PR at ScottMonty.com and
also writes The Baker Street Blog and cohosts I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, two literary undertakings. Scott
has been featured in hundreds of news and business publications in print and on the web, in nearly dozens of books, and on a variety of
mainstream media, including NBC, NPR, CNN and The Wall Street Journal. Scott is a recognized thought leader in the social media industry and
frequently speaks at industry events.
Scott received his Master's in Medical Science from Boston University's School of Medicine concurrently with his MBA from BU's
Graduate School of Management. He lives in the greater Detroit area with his wife and two young sons, golfs all too infrequently, and
has a hidden talent for voice over work.
Scott speaks on social media at events, seminars and conferences around the world. His topic generally focuses on corporate use of social media, becoming an online spokesperson, and specifically on the progress that Ford has made in the recent past. If you're interested in booking Scott to speak at your event, please click here to submit a speaking request for Ford-related purposes or email me at speaking [AT] this site's URL (if you know what I mean) to send a general email request.. Scott's bio and headshot can be found in the "About Scott" tab above.
I'm Scott. I'm the global head of social media for Ford Motor Company. This is my personal blog, where I share my perspectives on business, technology, communications, marketing and the vast changes in the industry that impact leadership. This blog contains my personal views. My bio is available here and my headshots can be found here.