One of the questions I am frequently asked by brands and PR reps is how to utilize online influencers. I’ve worked with many companies throughout the years and no brand engages influencers more or better than the Ford Motor Company.
First off, you’ve got to start local. Here in Florida, the combined dealer group, Your Southern Ford Dealers, holds and sponsors several events throughout the year to connect with influencers. They also frequently set up local bloggers with a loaner vehicle to drive for a week in order to experience the Ford cars firsthand. I recently wrote about an afternoon my husband Joe and I spent in a Ford Edge.
So why would Ford loan cars to bloggers who don’t know much about cars? Shouldn’t it be Consumer Reports or Car and Driver Magazine doing these types of reviews? Well, those journals are still reviewing the cars, but imagine how much Ford has increased their reach by engaging the readers of mommy bloggers, fitbloggers, fashion bloggers, and more!
Ford realized this untapped potential when their former global head of social media, Scott Monty, began the blogger outreach in 2008, but he was insistent bloggers sound like they usually sound when they review a car. Monty often told the story of asking a regional fleet manager to make a car available to a mom blogger. “Does she know how to write a car review?” the manager asked. Monty responded with, “I certainly hope not. Her readers wouldn’t know what happened to her if she did.”
By treating online influencers as if they were traditional journalists but allowing them to deliver the message in their own unique way, a brand shows an immense respect for bloggers and their craft.
*Major Bonus Points to Ford*
When I get back home from a media event, my mind is usually a blur. I have typically taken hundreds of photographs and quite a bit of video, but the details of the products may have gotten lost. By duplicating their messaging on these sites, Ford allows me to go back and reference the information correctly.
For example, Ford recently announced the new Ford Pass app, and here’s what I found online about it:
Don’t give me pamphlets or fliers to hang on to (and waste paper!) but give me the link to find it online!
As I said above, it all starts at the local level, where Ford has several people dedicated to engaging local influencers and identifying bloggers who are a good fit for their brand. Ford and Your Southern Ford dealer have PR peeps reaching out personally – via email, social networks, and in person. And you know what? They read our posts, like our videos, comment on our Instagrams, and come back to us again and again to develop a real working relationship.
It then starts to go up the corporate ladder for the bloggers who provide quality content. At these national and international events, I get a chance to talk with Angie Kozleski, Ford’s global marketing and digital communications director, and have a drink with members of her team.
And when they recently reference an item from my last blog post, I nearly dropped my drink that they had actually read and remembered it!
Whether inviting local influencers to a holiday lunch in Winter Park in December or taking national influencers on a cross-country trip from Canada to New Mexico, Ford places an emphasis on creating unique experiences for its influencers throughout the year. Several bloggers from the Orlando area recently took that cross-country journey in the new 2016 Ford Platinum Explorer. After signing the car, the bloggers went on to document the trip in their own ways, including the elusive Orlando King Cobra.
Take a look at the different ways these local bloggers wrote about their experience:
I have been to both the Detroit Auto Show as well as the LA Auto Show for Ford, and both times I was part of a group of influencers (both traditional and new media) the company brings in. They don’t tell us what to write, and we’re free to roam the floors checking out the other hot cars and brands as we see fit.
However, as I made my way about both shows during the media days, I was struck with how empty the other car companies spaces were. *Ghost Towns*
With very few exceptions, there was absolutely nobody there except for stick-thin car models wearing painful-looking high heels (and who looked terribly bored) and the car company’s upper management. Occasionally a film crew would come in to do a quick blurb on a car, or a journalist might grab a few photos and interview a specs guy, but really it was very quiet.
Compare that with everything Ford had going on in their space at this year’s NAIAS:
By bringing in the influencers and providing the cars, the hands-on activities, special presentations, simulators, and more, they created the buzz we were all tweeting, posting, and talking about.
Ford is a car company, but as I wrote in this post here, they have moved way beyond just automobiles. In fact they now consider themselves a car and mobility company — helping people move yet stay connected like never before. So it should come as no surprise that Ford does some very unexpected events for its influencers. In Los Angeles they took us back stage at the Jimmy Kimmel Show, where the new Ford Escape was revealed. This time, they held a private dinner for us at Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play.
Click to enlarge each photo:
We even got a chance to kick a field goal– this 17-second video shows why I am clearly not a professional football player!
Nobody does press conferences like Ford Motor Company. Bring on the razzle and dazzle and star power of Ryan Seacrest:
Ford is cars, yes, but they go to great lengths to connect with people on many different levels… aka giving us many things to write about no matter our blogging genre!
Ford utilizes not only email and social to keep its influencers in the loop, but they rolled out a text messaging program, and throughout the press days, I received timely reminders, information, photos, and ready-made tweets. Plus the abundance of wifi at the show was critical to keep me posting and even being able to stream live on our weekly live stream show:
So if you want to work with online influencers, become the type of brand that makes bloggers want to work with you. It is because of Ford’s dedication to creating these experiences for influencers that we choose to create awesome content for their brand.