I had the privilege of being invited as media to attend the third annual Further With Ford conference in Detroit, Michigan. As a sponsor of FLBlogCon, Ford has become a near and dear company to me, although I currently do not own a Ford car. (Maybe my next car?)
Full disclosure: Ford flew us in and paid for all expenses on this trip. They also did an excellent job of creating excitement as this was not a Ford “sales job” or a pep rally for how great the Ford Company is; instead Further With Ford is actually a complete conference discussing the future trends of technology, branding, and the client-consumer-fan relationship.
One of the most important sessions I attended was about a brand building trust with its fan base and, more importantly, keeping that trust. The panelists:
Each panelists discussed how vital it was for their company to have the trust of their customers, as well as the pitfalls that can happen if that trust were to be lost. The longer I sat in the audience listening, the more I realized that every point they were making applied equally to bloggers.
The real quote by Ford’s Jim Farley was actually, “Your employees are the ones who are watching you closest in regards to accountability.” It is the ones who interact with you most, who depend on you for your services, that will be the quickest to point out when you have betrayed their trust. Boy, does that ever apply to your blog’s readership or what? Be accountable to your readers. They are what matters most.
This accountability flows right into Ben & Jerry’s Rob Michalak’s point that you will make mistakes. (Everyone does.) However, if you have fostered your readers’ trust, then they believe in you to make amends. Own up, apologize, and then make it right.
Warby Parker’s Anjali Kumar was my favorite speaker in this session, partly because of her company’s unique and innovative approach to doing business. Instead of just handling customer service complaints via email or a tweet, they decided to create short customized video responses via YouTube, giving that personalized face-to-face attention. (Guess what? Those videos not only were a welcome response, but then they were shared by the recipients, spreading the reputation of Warby Parker as a company that cares even further!) As a blogger, can’t we connect with our fans in more unique ways than just blog posts, comment replies, and tweets? Think about it!
And finally, perhaps the most important lesson was again from Rob Michalak: “If you are going to stand for something, then stand for something… even if it makes you unpopular.” How many times as a blogger have you stressed about how a reader might take something you have written? Did you say it carefully enough to avoid those angry responses? Did you worry about the fringe freaking out or staying true to your own voice that your readership trusts? Be authentic and be consistent. Believe in yourself.
Curious about the Further With Ford conference? Just search for #fordtrends on Twitter to read more.