Voices of Chrysler, An Interview With Editor Jackie Headapohl

08/10/2007

Biz Blog Profiles! is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and the arts are using blogs to support their marketing goals.

Get Ready For The Next Hundred Years Chrysler_logo_2 is the theme of Chrysler's new advertising campaign. Chrysler itself is revving up by launching a social media initiative including Voices of Chrysler - a multi author blog, vlogs distributed on YouTube and podcasts. 

Jackie Headapohl, Editor of Voices of Chrysler kindly agreed to give the Diva Marketing community an understanding of the back-story, the now-story and the future-story. In the post early this week I asked if you had any questions and Jackie graciously addressed those too.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Chrysler’s step into an open social media conversation (as opposed to the media only Firehouse blog) sends a strong signal that business at Chrysler will not be business as usual. How will the culture of blogs and social media complement the culture of the “new” Chrysler?

Jackie Headapohl: The culture of The New Chrysler is the same as the old one—scrappy, innovative, risk-taking.  The people that work here are passionate and love the car culture. We wanted to start out fresh by opening a conversation with our customers, also passionate people who love our products and cars in general. If we win some new customers over, too, that will be great! Also, even though we’re now a privately held company, we want the world to know that communication remains a high priority.

The blog provides transparency between the company and our key stakeholders: employees and customers.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How will the culture of blogs and social media influence and support Chrysler’s master marketing plan?

Jackie Headapohl: Chrysler’s been using blogs and social media on a limited basis for the past few years to better connect with the marketplace. Voices of Chrysler is an extension of that. And while our past blogging efforts were mainly tied to specific marketing programs, Voices of Chrysler is an open-ended strategy to communicate with the public; it’s not really tied to a marketing effort.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Participating in a conversation – on a blog or over a cup of coffee – often times means that opposing views may occur. I noticed that Voices of Chrysler is allowing “negative comments.” Understanding that a conversation is responsive communication how will Chrysler ensure that the concerns of its community, as well as, the positive feedback and ideas are heard?

Voices of Chrysler Reader Comment: “I think blogs like these are an excellent idea. They make customers feel like the company is actually listening to them and cares about their opinion.”

Jackie Headapohl: We feel we can learn from open and honest feedback—good or bad. Currently, we’re trying to respond to comments by posting blog entries that address the concerns/interests we see coming in. Comments that come in with specific, personal issues are being forwarded to our Customer Assistance Center for resolution. Eventually, you can expect to see blog posters responding in real time for a two-way conversation.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  The blogosphere is community where people do exchange ideas. Will Chrysler bloggers participate in conversations outside of Voices? In other words, will we find Chrysler bloggers commenting on relevant posts on other blogs?

Jackie Headapohl: I think as our posters become more accustomed to life in the blogosphere we’ll start to see that happening. We have a lot of car nuts here, and there are many fantastic enthusiast blogs out there they’d probably enjoy participating in.

Toby/Diva Marketing: In addition to “text blogs” you’re including videos and there is a link to a podcast feed. How will you use each of these “channels” to support your social media strategy? Will the type of information and “speakers” be different?

Jackie Headapohl:  Text and photos will be our main methods of communicating since those are the fastest ways of getting our messages across. Podcasts are definitely on the menu, as well, and will be used for interviews that don't necessarily have strong visuals associated with the subject matter. “Speakers” could be anyone who has something interesting to share. We think video is best for pointing out product features and giving our readers the ability to experience events vicariously they didn't have the opportunity to attend—product reveals at auto shows for example.

Toby/Diva Marketing: I noticed that videos produced by Chrysler are housed on YouTube. Why did Chrysler choose to use YouTube as a distribution channel instead serving in-house?

Jackie Headapohl: YouTube serves our purposes two ways. First, it’s free. Second, it exposes our videos to a huge global audience.  A lot of the folks who view videos on YouTube might not necessarily surf auto-specific sites, and we’d miss them.  However, we are building an in-house video hosting system, which will come on line soon. But we’ll continue to post video to YouTube, as well.

Toby/Diva Marketing: It seems as though your blog authors are one-time authors. Since there is not a bio page I can't tell if these are what might be called "guest bloggers."

Jackie Headapohl: You're correct that these are guest bloggers. We plan to have a calendar search feature, but it's not available yet. We're going to be adding enhancements in the very near future, including a space for a bio.

Toby/Diva Marketing: There is much discussion about the importance of the “M word” measurement when it comes to defining success of a social media strategy. Those analytics may not follow traditional website metrics or even internet metrics. Has Chrysler defined what “success” is and those key factors that you’ll be watching?

Jackie Headapohl: We’ll be watching several things. For us, a constant flow of comments since the blog’s launch is an early success.  It shows there was a pent-up demand by the public to communicate with us. Going forward, our success will be measured by the number and quality of the comments, links from other blogs and websites, how well the blog is received in the blogosphere, and of course, traffic.  We also will measure the success of this blog the same as we do the blog, TheFirehouse.biz, (our media blog launched two years ago), by how Chrysler is portrayed in the media and if our messages are being picked up in their stories.

Questions From Diva Marketing’s Community

Thanks for your questions and/or inspiration for questions: Lewis Green, TIffany Monhollon, Geoff Livingston, Jody DeVere, Shel Holtz

Diva Marketing: I was very interested in their approach of having employees from throughout the company contribute to the blog. She said one of the best things about that aspect was that it helped build many different audience segments because different people identified with the personalities and jobs of the different authors. I wonder how deep Chrysler will get into this or if it will be mainly VPs.

Jackie Headapohl: Of course everyone is interested in hearing what the “bigwigs” have to say, but no, it will not mainly be VPs—only when appropriate. We have posts lined up from our production workers, engineers, dealers, etc. Each person on the Voices of Chrysler has a unique perspective and opinion. I think people will enjoy the variety.

Diva Marketing: With American automobile manufacturers losing market share at race car speeds how will social media be used to gain share of market?

Jackie Headapohl: Before I answer, I first want to say that one thing we hope to accomplish with the blog is to eliminate misconceptions, like the one in your question. For example, Chrysler’s market share has remained relatively flat over the past five years, fluctuating between 11 and 13 percent (hardly racecar speed).

Now for your question: I think social media helps to build relationships with customers, especially younger people who find it a comfortable way to communicate. I think people have more respect for companies that reach out to them and try to build relationships using a medium they’re comfortable with. I don’t know if that will translate to market share gain or not. But Voices of Chrysler should help put to bed the complaint from customers that auto companies aren’t interested in what they have to say. Chrysler wants their input. We’re listening and responding.

Diva Marketing: I would like to know how they see their blog differentiating itself from GM Fastlane or other auto manufacturing blogs like the new Kia blog.

Jackie Headapohl: Those are both great blogs. Fastlane, of course, is written mainly by GM’s product czar Bob Lutz, while Kia’s blog contains a lot of press releases. With Voices of Chrysler, you get to hear from many different kinds of people, and we won’t be posting press releases—only first-person accounts.

Diva Marketing:  The topics are fairly broad—not unexpected for a brand new corporate blog launched to coincide with the launch of a new company. What is the long-range strategy for Voices of Chrysler? 

Jackie Headapohl: Right now, that strategy is a work in progress. We expect to learn as we go and evolve. We’re not looking at Voices of Chrysler as a means to an end, but rather as a tool to keep us in touch with our customers. Besides, what’s wrong with using a broad brush on the blog? Chrysler is a vast and wonderful enterprise with so many varied interests and concerns. It would be unfair to limit our subject matter to a few narrow areas. The blog is called Voices of Chrysler for a reason. We’ve got a lot of voices to listen to.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s end with your take on blogs and social media. What would you tell Fortune 500 brands who are considering stepping into social media?

I would tell them that it’s intensely satisfying to hear what’s on the minds of your customers with no filter involved. I would also add that it can sometimes be a little unsettling to see those opinions onscreen in black and white. Most companies pride themselves on being in control of  their “key messages,” and a blog takes that control away and leaves it in the hands of your customers.

However, if you respect your customers and your goal is to serve them and meet their demands, then blogging is a great.

Read More: Ed Garsten, Editor of Chrysler's Firehouse blog tells why Chrysler launched a media focused blog in a Diva Marketing Biz Blog Profile Interview.

Trackbacks

Trackback url:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b4b169e200e393397f9c8834

Comments

Toby,

Great interview and I loved the way Jackie responded to your questions. Although I do take issue with her answer to American automobile manufacturers losing market share. Chrysler is a relatively small representative in the marketplace relative to other American brands. And the fact is, American automobile manufacturers in the past 30 years have gone from dominating the automobile marketplace to now trailing foreign imports. That is the kind of market share decline that does not bode well for the industry's future.

Posted by: Lewis Green on Aug 10, 2007 2:05:57 PM

Great interview! I'm glad to hear that this will be a "whole company" perspective. Thanks for such a great read.

Posted by: Tiffany on Aug 10, 2007 2:29:41 PM

Lewis -

You're right about the decline in market share for U.S.-based brands, of course. I was only trying to point out that at Chrysler, our marketshare has stayed fairly steady. I agree that American maufacturers will have to adapt in order to compete with the imports.

Posted by: Jackie Headapohl on Aug 10, 2007 5:45:20 PM

Toby,

Excellent post. A warm welcome to Jackie Headapohl, Editor of Voices of Chrysler to the automotive blogging community!

Jody DeVere
President
www.askpatty.com
www.carblabber.com

Posted by: Jody DeVere on Aug 13, 2007 6:27:06 PM

Good posting -- I am interested to see how Chrysler is going to differentiate its blog from GM's FYI blog that Christopher Barger
Director, GM Global Communications Technology, says "is going to serve as our more “corporate” blog where we discuss other issues" not discussed in Fast Lane.

Posted by: Dan Greenfield on Aug 14, 2007 5:32:40 PM

Post a comment