Tag Archives: corporate blogging

REVIEW: The FedEx Blog

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(NOTE: Updated for accuracy following comment by Matt Ceniceros from FedEx. Thanks, Matt!)

Every now and again, I like to conduct a brief review of a corporate blogging initiative to see how companies are advancing their social media strategies. This week, I’m taking a look at the FedEx blog network. Hopefully we can all learn a few lessons from what the company is doing right and where there’s room for improvement.

URL: http://citizenshipblog.fedex.designcdt.com/

First post: January 8, 2008

Four sub-categories:
Community & Disaster Relief
Economics & Access
Environment & Efficiency
People & Workplace

Pros:

The blog is updated several times a week with content provided by FedEx employees around the world. You’ll even find posts from the company’s CEO and its presidents.

Every post is tagged with keywords describing the content, and there is a weighted tag cloud on the sidebar so you can quickly see what topics are written about with the most frequency.

The sidebar also features links to the company’s Twitter profile and a badge showing they are part of the Alltop community, two signs of a larger social media strategy.

Since its inception, the blog has served as a place of conversation on a plethora of topics. There are posts about some of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, personal posts from employees that have helped with important strategic work, and even sad news, like that of the plane crash in Tokyo that claimed the lives of its crew. Overall, the content is extremely well rounded and a superb example of enforcing the global citizenship message.

Cons:

I’m a bit unsure if all posts are truly authored by the people to whom they’re accredited. Some of the posts strike a more personal tone that fits well with a blog format, while others feel overly formal. For example, the post about the free resume printing day was authored by FedEx Office CEO Brian Phillips, but there’s not one personal sentiment in there to suggest that the post is from him. It just doesn’t feel authentic. In particular, this post has just over 1,000 views and only 4 comments, all of which go unanswered. Since this was such a large, successful promotion in the US, one would expect more attention here, particularly since if the post was truly from the company’s CEO.

Overall, the blog has very few external links, even when there are clear opportunities to do so (i.e. linking to the home pages of the charities they discuss, the news stories they reference or the companies they post about).

The archives are sorted chronologically, but only by year and not by topic, making them difficult to search.

There are many instances of executives just re-posting press releases without adding any substantive commentary. It’s important to remember that a corporate blog is not a clearing house for marketing materials, but a place for honest conversation.

While the audience is supposedly people interested in “the issues related to FedEx”, the blog seems to cater to a largely internal audience judging by its content. That’s fine, but it’s still unclear who the target audience for this initiative is.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a really strong effort on the part of FedEx, and I’d recommend corporate bloggers review the blog (especially the well written, clear guidelines, for some best practices. While its not perfect, the areas I found for improvement seem like pretty easy fixes.

What do you think? Have you ever visited the FedEx blog as a customer? Share your feedback below.

Social Media Interview: Tyson Foods’ Ed Nicholson

Ed Nicholson Tyson Foods is trying some exciting engagement tactics with its initial foray into social media.

In the first post I read on the company’s blog, Hunger Relief , Tyson offered to donate 100 pounds of food to a food bank in Austin, TX for every comment left. They filled the truck in less than 6 hours and the post has more than 650 comments to date.

What an innovative way to raise awareness about Tyson’s philanthropic efforts! But more important, the company was giving its community a way to make a real world impact through social media participation.

I wanted to learn more about Tyson’s social media initiatives, so I contacted Ed Nicholson, Director of Community and Public Relations at Tyson Foods.

Ed was gracious enough to answer my questions about the company’s blog, its Twitter presence, how he measures ROI and more. He even has a bit of advice on how you can sell social media to management:

How did Tyson get started using social media?

I’m a big believer in social media, and have long been a personal user.  I was integrating some of my work here in Tyson into my personal social media activity. For example, posting updates on my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts and mentioning my work in my LinkedIn profile .

We added limited social media functionality to our hunger relief website when we put it online in December of  2007.  We assessed the usefulness, usability and strategic effectiveness of the site in Q2 of 2008, and did a re-design, which went online in July of 2008. The re-design took the social media functionality a step farther.  I also set up a Tyson Foods Twitter account in August of 2008, to separate the brand communications from my personal Twitter stream.

How did you decide what topics to focus on in your social media outreach?
I help direct the hunger relief efforts for the company.  As a communications professional and one of the most avid social media users in the company, it was a natural extension of what I do.

What percentage of a typical day do you dedicate to social media related activities?
Between 30% and 50%.

Who is Tyson’s audience for its social media initiatives?
We’re currently focused on building community among those who are interested in the issue of hunger (our primary philanthropic focus).  So we’re working with some of our partners in the issue–Feeding America and their member food banks, and Share Our Strength and their stakeholder network–to engaged them in what we’re doing with online communications.

Additionally, we want a broader audience–anyone and everyone–to be aware that Tyson is engaged in corporate social responsibility activity.

Ultimately, I can envision social media being used to build and nurture relationships–in very targeted ways–across our broad spectrum of stakeholders: Customers and consumers,  operations community members and key influencers in those communities, livestock producers and contract chicken producers, vendors and suppliers, potential employees and (most important) our own current employees.

Do you offer any training or rules for employees who want to participate?
As of now, engagement has been from within my direct circle of influence, and I’ve provided that training myself.

Which platform (blog, Twitter, etc.) has moved the needle the most for Tyson? Why?
It’s the combination of our blog and Twitter.  The blog does a number of things: It illustrates the depth and breadth of our engagement, articulating where we are and what we’re doing as a company.  It also serves as a platform for our stakeholders in the hunger relief community–food banks, the national organizations, and other advocates–to communicate their key messages. We know that if we’re going to be accepted by the hunger relief community as authentically engaged, we’re going to have to do more than blow our own horn.

And on a  tactical level, it brings together text, images and video.  While you can only do so much with 140 characters, Twitter has the capacity to be (if it’s not already) the most powerful viral tool available.  The efforts wherein we’ve engaged Twitter networks have driven more traffic to our site than anything else we’ve done.  Twitter also allows the relationships among those in its networks to be built in a slower, more complex way-much more like interpersonal relationships.  Both the blog and Twitter work together well.

How does Tyson measure success?
In a very broad sense, by the amount of engagement we’re seeing: The people with whom we’re building relationships and engaging in conversation.   I personally believe social media attract a greater concentration of the people Seth Godin refers to as "sneezers"–people who have the credibility, the networks and the capacity to spread stories far and wide.  I want to see our company engaged with these people.

We had a couple of experiments in which we integrated some in-kind giving (food donations) with a specific call to action using social media in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Austin .  We posted hunger statistics on our blog about those communities then offered in-kind donations to local food banks for comments indicating the blog entries had been read. We collaborated with established social media networks in those communities in the effort.  In Austin, it was the Social Media Club and 501 Tech Club , and in the Bay Area, it was a consortium of bloggers already engaged with the food banks there.

In addition to blogging, along with our partners in the effort, we reached out to Twitter networks and measured the "reach" of those who re-tweeted our key messages.  For example, in the Austin effort, we had 105 re-tweets with an aggregated follower base of more than 40,000.  When you consider that the messages reaching this audience are much more concentrated and brand-rich, and that they’re being spread among people for whom trust, credibility and authenticity are critical,  I believe you can place a lot more value on them than what most in the PR industry like to refer to as "impressions."

Any tips for other community managers trying to "sell" social media to their management teams?
Probably nothing you haven’t heard before from people much smarter: Be strategic.  Align your social media strategies and tactics to existing goals and objectives, then measure and show how they contributed.  Be able to report how other companies–especially competitors–are effectively using the tools.  Develop and implement a plan to get management themselves directly engaged–you don’t really comprehend and appreciate it until you participate.

If you have any additional questions for Ed about Tyson’s blog or social media efforts, please share them below.

The Corporate Blog – 10 Community Building Tips

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You can continue your social media education without leaving your desk (or cube, or office, or favorite coffee shop).

On September 17, I’ll be leading an IABC webinar titled “The Corporate Blog: Ten Community Building Tips.”

I recently recorded a podcast with Neville Hobson to share a bit about what participants can expect to learn.

If you were to listen in, what types of questions about corporate blogging would you like to have answered? Share your thoughts below and I’ll try and incorporate as many of the comments as possible!

40+ Topics for Corporate Bloggers

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While I was on a bit of a social media vacation last week, Mashable published my post on 40+ Topics for Corporate Bloggers. I started it off by saying that there will be times that you have to contribute a post for your company’s blog and you just don’t have one idea that inspires you to start a conversation.

It’s difficult to blog on behalf of your company, even if you love what you do. For one, you’re representing your company in a public way.  That’s scary, especially if you haven’t done so before. Also, you have to find topics that don’t compromise your company’s corporate blogging policy but still provide value to readers. Of course, some of the most exciting things you’re working on might not be ready to be shared publicly. So what the heck do you write about?

The Drama 2.0 blog took issue with my list, saying that a canned list of topics lacks authenticity and that “forcing” a blogger to write on a topic that doesn’t inspire them actually hurts the conversation. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

The value of lists like this is that they provide a resource for corporate bloggers to turn to when they just can’t think of something to write. I’ve been there before, and I find lists like this one from Chris Brogan are helpful in sparking a new post idea or topic. That’s probably why they are so popular. We all approach blog writing from different perspectives, even if we begin with similar ideas.

The conclusion of my post is the same one that I’ll end with here:

Remember, what makes a good corporate blog post is the passion of the writer. Find the topics that you are most interested in and help your readers to feel that same type of excitement.

How To Leverage Social Media For Business

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My post on Mashable today discusses how businesses can begin using social media for community building and conversations. Obviously it’s impossible to construct a plan based on a single post, but I hope there are some good ideas mixed up in there to get the juices flowing.

After the tutorial was published, I shared the link with my Twitter community, asking them for their thoughts. Several people responded:

  • @MSGiro said, “I’d also toss in be prepared for the good and bad yet don’t fear the bad. Embrace and learn from it.”
  • @PaullYoung said, “Good outline mate, solid for the newbs. Go offline is always handy, but not essential. Good concise writing!”
  • @RobertCollins said, “I’ve found capturing 3 things our client’s exec staff are passionate about & sharing gets them to listen and engage faster.”

Thanks for all this feedback. That’s the part of social media that I enjoy most: the ability to bat ideas like this back and fourth in near real time with people I respect all over the world.

There’s a lot more that probably deserves to be covered as part of this topic, so I’ll try to do so here over the next few days.

Bill Marriot and CEO Blogs

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At the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) conference this week, Bill Marriott was honored as the 2008 EXCEL Award Winner. I figured he’d reference the irony of speaking at the Hilton in his first sentence, but he waited until his second.

This was one of the speeches I was most looking forward to. Bill is in his late seventies and one of only a handful of CEO bloggers in his peer group. And since he’s not in the tech indstury, it’s even more remarkable.

Here are some quick notes from Bill’s remarks:

  • Bill doesn’t type his posts, but he records them and they are transcribed
  • The blog has received over 500K visits since January 2007, and according to Bill, generated nearly $4 million in hotel sales (NOTE: he was asked how he was able to track this and played the old man card, claiming he didn’t understand the technology)
  • His most popular post to date was this one on tipping

And a couple of choice quotes:

I would recommend blogging to any CEO. It’s worth it.

Whether we like it [social media] or not, we have to get on board.

Stories are the things that people remember.

What seems to make Bill a great blogger is his passion for his company and his ability to spin a good yarn. Reading these posts feel very authentic. But not every CEO has this gift, nor the same type of hands on approach to running a company as he has. Bill travels to 300 Marriot properties a year, which provides lots of fodder for colorful stories and blog topics.

Now I guess we can debate a bit about whether Bill’s blog is a true blog or not. He doesn’t actually type the posts  himself, as I mentioned above. I’m sure they are edited a bit as well. And he has the submitted comments printed out once in a while for his review, but he certainly doesn’t maintain this dialogue on his own. But he makes no attempt to hide it, and I appreciate the transparency.

I don’t thing that it makes sense for every CEO to blog. In fact, I would probably say that most shouldn’t. Engaging in a conversation of this nature is important, but it takes a certain type of individual to communicate well on this platform. It’s not for everyone, but there are certainly those within every organization that are more adept at it than others. Embrace them!

Having heard him speak, the blog feels very authentic. Mr. Marriot has been in this business his whole life. He’s passionate about the people that work for him, and he’s got a team that helps him share this vision using a new platform. Whether or not he actually types the posts seems a bit nitpicky all things considered. At least when I’m reading his stories, I know what I’m getting.