Many of you know that I don’t generally blog for a brand. I don’t often do sponsored posts or product reviews. I make my living through corporate sponsorships of events and conferences. So when I do have the opportunity to blog about a brand, I am pretty picky.
When I first started blogging and still owned the Central Florida Top 5, the idea of utilizing an online influencer was a new concept. Companies didn’t really know how to work with bloggers. General Motors reached out to me to do some campaigns for Chevrolet, and so each month I got a new car to drive around. Chevrolet was a good company to work with, but because sponsored content was so new, there was often a struggle between the PR department and the dealers in regards to proving my worth. In fact, with the changing of personnel the campaigns were eventually eliminated, but that was actually okay because you have probably heard me say, “I’m just not a car enthusiast.”
Fast forward several years to when Audrey G. approached me about Ford sponsoring my annual Florida Blogger & Social Media Conference. She saw it as a good opportunity to connect with bloggers, which is one of the main things we try to faclitate at #FLBlogCon.
Audrey and her colleagues, along with Blakely V. from Your Southern Ford Dealers, were my first introduction to the company and every interaction since has reinforced why I now choose to blog about Ford.
Having gone to Ford HQ in Dearborn, Michigan and having worked with Ford corporate in Orlando, San Francisco and now Los Angeles, I have discovered something I didn’t realize was quite possible for a company that has over 224,000 employees in 90 plants worldwide. There is a distinctly defined company culture that is so thoughtfully developed and fiercely protected that it is almost as tangible as the blue oval on which it is built.
When I attend these media events at the auto shows, Ford does a great job of wining and dining us and showing us a fun time, like the other night at Jimmy Kimmel. Some journalists wink and say it’s a big sales job so we write favorable things about the cars, and, yes, it probably is but over the years I’ve actually come to view it a bit differently. I not only see many of the same journalists and bloggers each time I go, but I also see the same Ford personnel who smile and greet us, ask about our work, make sure our needs are cared for, and eat dinner with us while getting to know us as people. There is a top-down dedication to establishing relationships with us and I’ve never seen it falter at any level.
Take Ford CEO Mark Fields, for example. At the Detroit Auto Show he is “in demand” by literally hundreds of journalists all clamoring for a soundbite, and so his time is carefully calculated. When a small group of bloggers (me included) couldn’t get close enough to him, Ford quickly and quietly arranged for Mark to come back and talk to just our group. Unrushed, he answered all our questions and made us feel like there was no other place he wanted to be other than happily chatting with our group of bloggers.
And take Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s Vice President and President of Lincoln. Ford arranged for a reveal of the new Lincoln MKZ in an intimate atmosphere where only about 15 influencers were present. Kumar himself welcomed us and we got to ask all sorts of questions. Here’s a quick video I put together of the night:
And while that was a nice experience, the cooler fact was that as we were driven back to hotel afterwards to have dinner, Kumar followed right behind to eat with us.
Over the years I’ve learned much more about Ford’s cars than I ever really wanted to. (Remember I’m just not a car enthusiast; they should get my husband @SwimmerJoe here instead!) But fortunately my disinterest in car specs does not matter.
When dealing with Ford I’ve attended sessions on how the designers of the Ford Fiesta imagined a woman named Antonella as the driver. Antonella was an attractive 28-year old woman who lived in Rome. Her life was focused on friends and fun, clubbing and parties. And only after imagining this driver, did they set out to design her dream car.
I’ve listened to how Ford’s engineers focused on the most common stressers on a driver (stop and go traffic, parallel parking, etc.) and then they worked to find solutions to alleviate those stresses: stop/start technology, parking-assistance technology.
Just as every Ford worker I’ve met has a laser-like focus on making sure I am happy with my time spent here with them, so do the designers and engineers have that same “customer-centric” focus.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Ford, though, is that they seem like so much more than a car company to me. So many of my conversations with them don’t involve horsepower or braking systems but instead have an outward look at the rest of the world.
I’ve sat through sessions on how Ford has partnered with Coca Cola to develop a plastic made from plants, so it is biodegradable. I’ve learned what Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, does to connect his company with Millenials.
I’ve experienced virtual reality via an Oculus Rift. I’ve heard Ben & Jerry’s talk about customer trust and listened to Steve Wozniak talk about pushing the boundaries of innovation.
I’ve checked out the concept electric bikes Ford is considering developing and visited their Research and Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley.
And I got to see one of the largest living roofs in the world at the Ford Rouge Factory, while learning how Ford is teaching other companies to install living roofs, too.
I’ve sat fascinated to discover the Ford Endeavor carried wifi to isolated, rural areas of India so doctors could deliver prenatal care. And I have been amazed listening to a discussion of Frankenstein when talking about driverless vehicles.
You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to embrace their thinking and their passion.
Ford is a company that truly emphasizes respect for not only drivers but for the world those drivers live in. This is why I choose to blog about Ford.
And here’s some of the experience I had at this year’s LA Auto Show – thanks, Ford, for a nice time!