Interview with Heather Morgan Shott of Meredith's Mixing Bowl Social Network Community


New social networking communities seem to be on every virtual corner these days. Marketers understand that social media can be a powerful strategy that supports niche or segmentation marketing. However, when brands build out communities it's obviously a business decision that has incurred significant resources - including dollars.

I wondered how do they integrate marketing objectives, while ensuring that the "social" aspects,  the heart and soul of the community, are authentically and transparently developed and nurtured? When Chris Kieff offered the opportunity to interview one of his Ripple6 client's from Meredith Corporation's recently launched Mixing Bowl, a food and recipe community - I said yes!

Mixing bowl About Mixing Bowl

Editors touch every piece of content that exists on our branded sites. We post recipes after they’ve been triple-tested in our kitchens, write how-to articles, and so on. We don’t run Mixing Bowl that way because we want it to be a site created by home cooks for home cooks.

I’m (Heather Morgan Shott) very present on Mixing Bowl (my username is CoolCookie), and my profile page states that I’m a Mixing Bowl editor, but I’d never censor conversation or edit content. I’m there to answer questions as well as contribute to the community just like a typical member would by posting my own recipes, sharing my opinions, and joining groups. From a business point of view, Ripple6 offers advertisers access to a very sophisticated and extensive analytics system.

Heather morgan shott  About Heather Morgan Shott

I'm the Senior Food Group Manager for the Better Homes and Gardens Network, which includes five websites. On Mixing Bowl, I mix it up like any member might--but if there’s a functionality problem I’ll address it.

For example, we had some members who were unhappy with the way in which our contest application worked when we first launched the site. Entries were randomized so members started having problems finding the recipes they wanted to vote for once lots of recipes were entered. They started posting their complaints on the site, and we responded very quickly by tweaking the system so that the entries were static.

Suddenly ‘thank you CoolCookie’ threads started to pop up. Of course lots of people worked to resolve that issue, but I’m the person that the community knows is listening to them, because I’ve established a very visible presence on the site. When I’m not working, I’m cooking, restaurant hopping, drinking wine, shopping, or hanging out with my husband. We live in New York City.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Mixing Bowl is not only a new social media community but a new brand for Meredith. That said, Meredith’s reach with women is wide and established. How did you use those assets to help build membership and promote the site?

We’ve been working with all of our magazines and websites to promote Mixing Bowl. American Baby, Fitness, Family Circle, and Better Homes and Gardens, for example, have all created groups that tie to specific departments in their magazines. Ladies Home Journal features questions and answers from Knowledge Bowl in each issue. We have another magazine that will be sponsoring a contest on Mixing Bowl this summer. Online, we’ve been promoting Mixing Bowl in newsletters. We’ve got lots more to come; this just marks our very early efforts.

Toby/Diva Marketing: There are other social networks that focus on food and recipes. What is Mixing Bowl’s point of difference? Why would I want to join and spend time on Mixing Bowl versus another community?

Heather Morgan Shott: By filling out your profile, Mixing Bowl can deliver a totally customized experience just for you. For example, if you check off quick and easy, desserts, and cooking for kids as your interests, we'll bubble up all the recipes and groups that mesh with those interests. So we’re offering a vastly different experience than you get on other sites where you log in and see everything that everyone else does, and you literally have to wade through hundreds of pages of information to find what’s relevant to your life.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The quality of online peer-to-peer relationships builds over time. How is Mixing Bowl encouraging and nurturing “community” among with its members?

Heather Morgan Shott:I’m dazzled by so many of the people in our community, and I meet new, amazing members every day. When we launched Mixing Bowl, we tried to start things on the right note by inviting some incredible content creators, such as past winners of cooking contests and bloggers, to get in the mix early on. None of them were professional cooks but they all had a certain level of expertise in cooking or baking, so we knew they’d be able to provide high-quality content. We also knew that they had the kind of passion and enthusiasm that we wanted to foster on Mixing Bowl.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Mixing Bowl is a very rich platform, built by Ripple6, that offers multiple ways for people to contribute their favorite recipes and as we love to say, “Join the conversation.” At this early stage in its development which areas or groups are getting the most activity? 

Heather Morgan Shott: There’s no question about it, our community loves to bake. We have an extremely rich Ethnic category, with 16 groups covering a range of different cuisines (Chinese, Colombian, Mexican, French, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Parsi, Persian, Polynesian, Puertorrican, and so on); in this category many of the group leaders are actually based overseas, so they’re posting truly authentic recipes. We’re also seeing tremendous growth in areas that we’d expect—quick and easy, healthy recipes, desserts, and entertaining.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Has that surprised you?

Heather Morgan Shott: So far just what we hoped would happen has happened. Our goal was to engage home cooks who specialized in specific topics. What better way to learn how to cook Indian food than from someone based in Mumbai? Who better to get baking pointers from than an owner of a boutique bakery?  Who knows picky eaters better than moms raising kids who are picky eaters? These are real people with real solutions and inspiring ideas.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Since this is part of Meredith’s business strategy can you tell us what constitutes success?

Heather Morgan Shott: Our goal is to continue to grow membership on We’re extremely pleased with where we are right now, and we will continue to work to develop an even richer and more robust community.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How concerned is Meredith with, let’s call it “traditional website metrics?”

Heather Morgan Shott: Page views and unique visitors are extremely important, but our top goal is bringing in new members.

Toby/Diva Marketing: I was watching a video where Dan Hickey, Vice President, Digital Conten, discussed marketers (advertisers) participating within the community to add value. Can you give us some current examples and tell us how Mixing Bowl ensuring transparency?

Heather Morgan Shott: Toby, we’re still working on this. We haven’t really rolled anything out yet… We're cooking up some great stuff, and I can't wait to tell you about those efforts once we've rolled them out. Check back with me in a month or two.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Understanding that the site has been live only a few months, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned at the start-up of this venture?

Heather Morgan Shott: In a community, it’s extremely important to be involved, to mix it up with your members. It doesn’t work to just build a community and then abandon it. You need to listen to what they’re saying and you need to respond quickly. You need to show you care, or they’ll go somewhere else. It’s also critical to be flexible and be willing to change something that isn’t working.

Toby/Diva Marketing: At its heart, or in your heart, what is your vision for Mixing Bowl on a long-term basis?

Heather Morgan Shott: We want to become the largest community food site out there. We’d love for it to be the number one destination for everyone who loves to swap recipes and join cooking groups. And we’d love to continue to draw in more members from overseas so that we truly become a place for cooks from around the world to connect.

Heather Morgan Shott On Social Media
It’s thrilling, and I can’t imagine life without it. Oftentimes content isn’t all that exciting until people actually start talking about it – and that’s why social media platforms like Mixing Bowl, Twitter, and Facebook have become so central to our lives. They enable us to take one thought or idea and connect about it with hundreds of others, regardless of where those people are in the world. We gain multiple perspectives, oftentimes from people whose views are vastly different from ours, and in turn our own thoughts and ideas become much richer.

More About Social Network Communities From Diva Marketing

Diva Marketing Talks, BlogTalkRadio, with Liz Strauss & Nancy White

Interview with Nancy White

Biz Blog Profile Series: Dell with - Richard Binhammer AKA RichardAtDell


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

Richardatdell About Richard Binhammer

After a career in politics and government relations in Canada, I moved to the United States to pursue a broader communications career. In the late 1990s I consulted to Dell and helped win a Silver Anvil for the company. I went on to NYC consulting in communications, winding my way back to Dell as part of the public affairs team.

Today, I am part of Dell’s Conversations, Communities and Communications team with responsibilities for listening and learning online. Basically, I listen to bloggers and engage in conversations about Dell.

If you really want to get to know me, join me on Facebook or subscribe to my blog, Around The Web With Richard at Dell, in your RSS reader.

About Dell

From my perspective, Dell is a phenomenal company and has been ever since I first met the people at Dell, Michael Dell and was a consultant to them back in the 1995 – 1998 period. 

It delivers great technology connecting people around the world.  It’s a young company, just 20 years old, so its still eager to learn.  And it does. That’s the hallmark of an interesting, growing company with growth opportunities. 

In addition, the premises underpinning the direct business model, known for efficiency and mass customization, are also fundamental to real and realized customer relationships (even with a retail component) and I believe that is still revolutionary in the marketplace…frankly contributing to some of what we do online and forging ahead. Direct To Dell Conversations With Dell

Toby/Diva Marketing: I took this from your blog - “I get to visit blogs, listen learn and converse.” For people who want to be involved with social media you might have one of the most enviable jobs on the planet. How did your job evolve?

RichardatDell: I was part of Dell’s public affairs team involved with building out our presence and involvements in communities around the world. I was then asked to go out and interact with bloggers and online, I suppose because we thought of this a community and conversations with communities. In August of 2006, my colleague John Pope and I started listening and engaging online in conversations

Toby/Diva Marketing: How involved are you really in the space?

RichardatDell: Not quite sure what you mean?  John and I visit 100s and 1000s of blogs per week, participate on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, I have a blog…all part of listening and learning from customers, helping solve technical issues and joining conversations about Dell everyday.  I spend at least 50% of my day online, conversing … good and bad

Toby/Diva Marketing: You have a halo of celebrity. Do you find people want to be your “friend” or “follower” (on Twitter) because you are Richard a very cool dude or because you are Richard from Dell? Does it matter to you?

RichardatDell: I don’t think there is a halo to what I do.  It’s what any professional communicator should do…listen and learn…then interact to listen and learn some more. And, it is not just RichardatDELL.  There is a team of us at Dell, all committed to listening and engaging in real conversations online. We believe social media really is a new frontier and that we can make an impact….we make mistakes and screw up too….so no halo…please.

At one point I always asked people on Facebook, why we should be friends, if I didn’t know them. I find that interesting and puts some rationale around “connecting”.  Im sort of out of that habit these days.

I hope people want to follow me because they think we (all of us at Dell together) are doing interesting and good work.  I also like to believe that we are also really making a huge global business human … I think that is cool.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s cut to the chase .. does Dell really think that a blog and some conversation with bloggers will counter what some people have termed “Dell Hell?”

RichardatDell: Yes we do believe in the power of online conversations and communities. This is not about countering or changing some artifact or image…its about connecting with people and our customers.

Toby/Diva Marketing: On a high level, what is Dell’s social media direction?

RichardatDell: Keep going growing learning and get better. Experiment some more and keep going.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few of Dell’s innovative programs?

RichardatDell: Ideastorm gets lots of attention. I think our technical support and blog outreach activity is innovative and I don’t see others doing it … but I am biased too 

Toby/Diva Marketing: In terms of departments or functions, who “owns” social media at Dell?

RichardatDell: No one “owns” social media, except I suspect the customers and communities … everyone should engage with social media as a means to connect and build lasting and valuable connections … brand loyalty and lust

Toby/Diva Marketing: Does Dell have “success measurements” in place? And if so what are those metrics that determine success?

RichardatDell: We know there are on average 4000 conversations about us everyday. We know we have seen a decline in negative commentary from nearly 50 % to around 20%. However, we are working to move from traditional measurements of awareness and share of voice to conversations, communities and connections and how those can be valued … hard work and constantly fine tuning all kinds of metrics

Toby/Diva Marketing: Are social media tactics integrated into a master marketing plan? If so how do other initiatives support  Dell’s social media programs? On the flip side - how do social media tactics support other strategies?

RichardatDell: Increasingly social media and marketing are viewed as integrated or need to be. I think is fair to say that our CMO very much sees the world that way and hence the whole move to design DaVinci. Frankly, as a communicator, after 18 months in this field, social media should be a part of any company’s public relations (two words not practice profession or pr).

Toby/Diva Marketing: Recently Target created quite a buzz when it told the world that it would not respond to “non traditional media?” How does Dell perceive bloggers in relationship to the traditional media?

RichardatDell: I don’t think we distinguish anymore between a blogger and mainstream media.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few lessons learned for companies that are considering entering this space?

RichardatDell: Be honest, transparent, your self, and don’t worry about this control BS you hear about … how can participation with people who are interested in you, your products and services or business be wrong? And some people will never like you, so get over it

Toby/Diva Marketing: Where does Dell go from here in terms of continuing the innovation track it has taken in social media?

RichardatDell: Twitter, more blogs, more “interactive and social” things on … we will see where our customers want to go …

Toby/Diva Marketing: Richard Binhammer’s view on social media marketing

RichardatDell: I think I’ve said enough and would like to hear more from your readers and friends

Where Are They Early Business Bloggers?


When Diva Marketing launched in the spring of 2004 business blogs were barely a blip on most people's radar. To help marketers understand why organizations were beginning to view blogs as a business tool, how to sell-in to management and most importantly to pass along critical lessons learned, in 2005 I launched the Biz Blog Profile Series where people who were doing "it" shared their experiences.

Fast forward to 2008 and blogs are just one tactic in an over-flowing social media tool box that are now used by Fortune 100 companies, small business and not for profits.

Recently Alex Brown and I had an interesting email volley. Alex was one of the first people I interviewed for the Biz Blog Series. He had the innovative idea of turning the Wharton Admissions blog in a portal which has since become the go-to place for how to get into B School.  Inspired by Alex, I thought wouldn't it be fun to  take a look at "Where Are The Early Business Bloggers Now?"

Seemed appropriate to start with Alex. I think it's fair to stay that social media has not only changed Alex's life but impacted thousands of people and horses too!

Alex_brown_2 Background: I now manage which is a horse racing web-site that focuses on horse welfare.  Our mission statement (something we needed to create once we became a large community) focuses on ending horse slaughter, and rescuing horses that are in the slaughter pipeline. To date we have rescued more than 2,000 horses headed for slaughter raising close to $850,000 in doing so (not bad for an organization that does not exist ?) used to be and gained traction on the internet as we followed Barbaro's fight for life after his accident in the Preakness Stakes.

Basically I was in the right place at the right time and chose to blog about Barbaro with all the access anyone would need.  We gained a large community quickly.  Along the way I had to add a discussion board as the community grew too large to be managed simply by a blog.  Subsequently I also created a wiki to manage additional content:

We are now working with others in the anti-slaughter community to put together Americans Against Horse Slaughter, two days of lobbying in DC, March 4 and 5.  We are gaining momentum and hoping to end horse slaughter once and for all.  I have committed to this project to the extent I no longer teach at the University of Delaware (Internet Marketing) nor work at the Wharton School (MBA Admissions).  My business card now reads: Horses.

What were your success?
I think as a community we can be proud of what we have accomplished.  2,000 horses have been saved to date, we have helped gain some ground on horse slaughter legislation.  It is wonderful to be doing something you can be truly passionate about and something that combines all my interests (Internet Marketing: which I began teaching in 1997) and horses (I have worked in horse racing on and off for more than 20 years, in the US and in the UK.)  Site data is also pretty cool.  Our busiest day, 70,000 visits.  Our discussion board gets on average over 1,000 posts a day (thanks Prospero).  Our community is large and active.

What were your challenges?
We have a huge online community that while can all agree on one issue (horse slaughter is wrong) has fundamental differences of opinion over many other issues.  Myself and one other administrator (WendyMI) has to try to keep this community together, and when things start to unravel, we need to figure out how to get people back on track.  I have realized that I do not have to agree with everything, and to be perfectly frank, I don't have to like everyone, but I do have to act with a very even hand.  That is very hard.  Some issues that came to the community came from previous history of which i was unaware.  There is a group of people on the internet who absolutely dislike more than one participant in our community.  Their goal is to get them banned.  Banning people is another issue.  When you ban someone, their friends leave with them.  These sorts of things I had not factored when we began.  Shit, I thought we would have no problems given the mission of the site.   Well welcome to the horse rescue / slaughter world to me!  I can provide links of discussion threads on other boards that absolutely bash me and the work of the site, and these are from anti slaughter people.  Odd stuff! 

Tomorrow the site may be over. It is unique I think, but a challenge to keep it going for sure.  It is the most intellectually challenging job I have undertaken, and I am thankful of a little knowledge in game theory and other fields to compliment my internet marketing background, and what I learned setting up communities at Wharton and teaching Internet Marketing with Blogs at Delaware.

What would you do differently?/What lessons have you learned?
Fortunately the mistakes I have made have not (yet) been catastrophic in terms of managing the community.  There are a few people I banned that perhaps with hindsight I should not have banned.  Early efforts to get help managing the site were a little rough, but overall I think for what we have done and the size of our community we have managed to bumble along without too much disaster!

What's next for Alex and the Barbaro in the world of social media?
I truly hope we can end horse slaughter this year.  I also want to explore a little more deeply what we have done, and what we can learn from it.  I want Knowledge at Wharton to do a case study on it etc.  I also plan to move out of this grotty motel room in Houston ... and by the end of 2008 be back in the UK!

Why Facebook? With Embrace Pet Insurance


From blogs to podcasts to vlogs to micro blogs to social media networking communities brands continue to explore marketing opportunities.  Laura Bennett from Embrace Pet Insurance shares her challenges and lessons learned about Why Facebook?

Embrace_pet_insurance About Embrace Pet Insurance
Embrace Pet Insurance is a pet health insurance for cats and dogs.  Every Embrace Pet Insurance policy is 100% underwritten by Lloyd's of London. Now that's some classy insurance!

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why use a social networking site, like Facebook, to promote the brand?

Laura Bennett: I’m fascinated by the development of online social networks and participate in a number of them myself. I thought that if I enjoyed interacting with other like-minded (or not) people online, maybe our Embraced pet parents (as we like to call our policyholders) and other friends of Embrace might be too. Embrace on Facebook.

At the core of it though, the open nature of Facebook dovetails very much with the Embrace philosophy - an upfront and honest interaction with just about anyone who wants anything to do with Embrace. Insurance is all about trust and pet insurance hasn’t had the best reputation in the past. Our mission is to change the flighty image of pet insurance one person at a time. Facebook puts Embrace out there in a real way and lets our audience decide if we mean it or not.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why in particular Facebook?

Laura Bennett: I like the flexible, clean look, the growing number of real people on the site, and the demographics of where Facebook is going (older, more affluent) – I think it matches our customers more closely than say MySpace. Having said that, we also have a presence on MySpace but I don’t personally run that.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What is success for Embrace's Facebook strategy?

Laura Bennett: The ultimate success would be for the Embrace group (I’ve Been Embrace By Embrace Pet Insurance) to take on a life of its own and to be run by Embrace evangelists. Just think how incredibly powerful that would be.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Is your Facebook strategy supported by other tactics?

Laura Bennett: I’ve been writing a blog on pet insurance for 2.5 years now with the same upfront and honest feel so the two go together but apart from that, we’re not doing very much right now. Since we’re an early stage company, our resources are very focused and my attention is on fundraising at the moment. Once that painful process is finished for a while, we’ve definitely got a few ideas we’d like to implement. Can’t spill the beans right now though. Would love to hear any brilliant ideas on what we could do though – what do your readers think?

Sidebar: Check out my guest post about how I found Max.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Are you/will you also use ads on facebook to complement the initiative?

Laura Bennett: We’ve used some ads on Facebook with little success as they weren’t very targeted; however, it wasn’t a coordinated approach. Perhaps that’s another thing to add to the to-do list!

Toby/Diva Marketing: What were a few of the challenges you face/faced?

Laura Bennett: Well the nice thing about Facebook are that there are few technical challenges. There’s really nothing much to do on that front. And there is just “getting” Facebook. I have to admit that when I started, I couldn’t see the attraction or how it worked. I’m not sure I’m totally there either. And we certainly need to work on augmenting the Group, increasing the appeal to interact with it. And then the challenge is to get a critical mass of Embraced pet parents to get the group going. You need thousands of interested members before it takes on some momentum of its own and we have a long way to go before we reach that. That means I have to find time and inspiration to get the current members involved. That’s always a challenge.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few lessons learned you can pass along to other brands who want to leverage Facebook as a marketing tactic?

Laura Bennett: If you want a presence on Facebook, go for sincerity and real people, not corporate speak and faceless minions. It’s harder than you think. If your evangelists have created something about you, ask them how you can interact without getting in the way. 

And always remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the people interacting with your brand.

Sidebar: If your brand's strategy includes a social media networking component like Facebook and want to be a Diva (or Divo) rock star interviewee drop me a comment.

Friday Fun: DC Goodwill on the Social Media Runway


Today's post is a Two-for-One. It's Friday Fun  - Friday Fun is Diva Marketing's virtual happy hour from cosmos to Jack to lemonade. A waiting for the weekend 'playground' time to be sophisticated-silly. Or sometimes just plain silly. Combine with Biz Blog Profile - 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.

Take a brand with an image challenge. Add a unique positioning strategy targeting a new segment. Overlay it with the limitations (people and money) of a not for profit. Sprinkle with an innovative, never been done before social media strategy. Toss in a few vintage dresses. Mix well. Welcome to the world of the Goodwill of Greater Washington.

About Goodwill of Greater Washington
Goodwill of Greater Washington provides job training and employment services to people with disadvantages and disabilities throughout the greater Washington, DC region.  We fund our mission through diverse lines of business including our chain of nine retail stores, two e-commerce sites, landscaping, pest control and janitorial contract services, as well as a small amount of traditional fundraising (about 10%).

About Brendan Hurley
Brendan_hurley_2 I have been a marketing professional for 15 years, with a BA in Communications and an MS in Marketing.  I spent most of my career in the “for profit” sector, working primarily in the radio industry marketing for a variety of radio groups including Clear Channel Communications.  I came to Goodwill as the VP of Marketing when Clear Channel’s Regional Senior VP became Goodwill’s CEO in late 2003.  What I enjoy about Goodwill is that it is a charitable agency that helps the community, but also runs more like a business than a traditional non profit.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Vintage shopping is great fun but Brendan, I must admit when I think of diva, cool places to discover cute clothes Goodwill is not top of mind. However, you not only are changing the image of Goodwill of Greater Washington but are creating a new positioning for the organization … from thrift shop to vintage fashion.

How and why did an organization, that is not known for innovation in marketing, decide to step into the world of social media to support and promote that new direction?

Brendan Hurley: There is an interesting disparity in the vintage and classic fashion world. If you spend $150 on an outfit at a high end vintage retailer, it’s considered hip, but if you buy the same outfit at a Goodwill store or “thrift” store, many consumers perceive it as old and used. 

We didn’t want to alienate our core customers, many of whom are bargain shoppers, but we needed to find a way to grow a secondary market segment for Goodwill that we felt we could impact with the right positioning: young, professional females, who tend to be a primary market segment for vintage retailers. Ultimately we felt that a social media strategy would help us address this need.

Toby/Diva Marketing: In a recent guest blog post on The Buzz Bin you said something very interesting: 

It wasn’t until I started developing our 2007 strategic marketing plan that I finally figured out my problem: I was trying too hard to develop a social networking strategy instead of incorporating social networking into my marketing strategy.

It’s the concept that I’ve been trying to help marketers understand. Would you please discuss that a bit more? How did you “get it.”

Brendan Hurley: Like many marketers (I think), I didn’t fully understand social networking as a “tactic” incorporated into a strategy. I kept wondering how we could integrate social networking into our marketing plan (trying to force it) rather than identifying our organizational challenges and applying the best marketing methods to address those challenges. 

Once I did that, the answer became clear:  The use of social networking would achieve multiple strategic objectives. It was like a light bulb went off.  An integrated social networking and new media plan would help us reach the audience we were targeting without alienating our core shopper, drive traffic to our virtual fashion show that we knew would convince visitors we had a good product, then provide them with an easy portal to our online retail store to make a quick purchase.  By integrating mission messages into each step along the way, we could also educate the population on the nature of Goodwill’s mission, thereby developing greater passion for our cause while generating brand loyalty.  The flow seemed very natural.

The only problem was that while I had read blogs before, I had never written one, so I didn’t understand the strategy behind it and how to make it compelling and sustainable.  Fortunately, I knew Geoff Livingston of Livingston Communications from a marketing committee we both serve on at the Greater Washington Board of Trade and I asked him if he would consult us on finding appropriate vintage fashion websites on which to advertise, and on launching our blog. 

It was Geoff that taught me that we had to treat the blog just like any other product with a mission statement, logo, positioning statement, etc.  Doing so has helped us stay focused and forced us to maintain product integrity so that the blog doesn’t become another blatant advertisement that will simply turn off any half educated reader. The content has value and I believe that is what keeps readers coming back. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s talk about your exciting initiatives. First the Goodwill Fashion Blog. Was it difficult to get buy-in from your board and how was it presented to them?

Brendan Hurley:  Our board LOVED the idea.  They believed that the use of new media was quite innovative in the non profit sector.  And certainly the use of fashion to help educate others on our mission was a very unique strategy.  While they seemed quite confident, my team and I were responsible for the execution of this complex initiative, so I was a a bit nervous having never launched such an effort before.  Fortunately, I have a fantastic team.  Our blogger, “The DC Goodwill Fashionista”, is an employee, Em Hall, who is very keen on fashion. She loves writing the blog and is very talented. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did you establish success measures or goals and if so what were they? 

Brendan Hurley: We set financial goals for the fashion show, which we’ve already achieved.  We also set a goal on the number of unique visitors to the fashion show (10,000) which we are close to hitting now and we haven’t even posted the video on YouTube yet. Right now, the only place the fashion show can be seen is on our website.

We have a financial goal for our silent auction, but it hasn’t ended yet, so I can’t tell you whether or not we’ll hit that number.  However, I can tell you that we’ve already successfully converted better than 14% of our fashion show viewers into Goodwill online shoppers. That is a number I had no idea we’d achieve.  Our brick and mortar retail sales increased measurably as well in the two weeks since the fashion show launched.  However, I can’t say whether those numbers are sustainable at this point and how much the virtual fashion show and blog influenced that growth.

As for the blog, I would have been happy with 100 visitors a week and a retention rate of 25% after less than 90 days, but we’re presently averaging about 700 visitors a week and a retention rate of close to 40%.  The blog has also become the second largest referral source for our fashion show.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did you perceive any risks in stepping into the blogosphere with a blog that has open comments?  What strategies are in place to mitigate risk?

Brendan Hurley:  When we decided to pursue a blogging strategy, it was an easy decision for us to establish a policy of posting both positive and negative comments, provided they were not  inappropriate. No comments go live without our review first.  However, I am a firm believer in transparency and integrity and if someone criticizes us, it will be seen.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The DC Goodwill FashionistaGoodwill_fashionista_blog seems to be having such fun with her posts but why did you choose to go the anonymous blogger route?

Brendan Hurley: That was a strategic decision to protect the long term sustainability of the blog.  We decided to give the blogger an alias because at some point, the author of the blog may change.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Then you took a step into wild side with the launch of what may be the first online fashion show from a not for profit  - The Fashion of Goodwill Virtual Runway Show and Virtual Auction. Please tell us the back-story.

Brendan Hurley:  For three years we have held an annual Goodwill Fashion Show that was designed primarily as a fundraiser and secondarily as an attempt to help change perceptions of the quality of fashions available at Goodwill Stores.  Unfortunately, while the unique fashion show received some good publicity, only a limited number of people could attend the event because it had a high ticket price attached to it.

By converting our live fashion show into a virtual fashion show that we could post on our website and promote through social networks, we believed we could reach a broader and younger market segment by providing entertaining and compelling content that would interest and excite the viewer.  This would also make our sponsors happy because we’d be reaching thousands of people rather than a few hundred who could attend a live event.

Goodwill_runway Creating a fashion blog and pages on social networking sites like MySpace would not only help drive traffic to the fashion show and our online auction site, but also give us access to influential social networks that may help position Goodwill as a knowledgeable resource on vintage and contemporary fashion, while also positioning our stores as untapped destinations for inexpensive vintage and contemporary fashions, rather than stores for low income shoppers. So far the virtual fashion show has been a big hit!

Toby/Diva Marketing: How is the eBay Auction working for you?
Sidebar: Today - 9-28-07 - is the last day of the auction. Take a break and do a little virtual shopping for a few cute vintage pieces .. at bargain prices! Send me a photo of you in your new outfit and I'll post it on Diva.

Brendan Hurley:  Since the auction hasn’t ended yet, I can’t tell you if we’ve hit our financial goal, but I believe we will.  We’ve got a lot of watchers on our site. Our fashion show has become the second biggest referral source to our eBay store behind eBay itself.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Were there any surprises along the way in terms of what people bid or perhaps who bid?   

Brendan Hurley: Yes, there are people bidding on some items I didn’t think would get much interest and other items I thought would be popular that few people are watching.  We did discover through some additional research that a Versace china collection is worth much more than we had originally thought.  The interest in that china has really skyrocketed.  There is also an interesting vintage circa 1920s clutch purse that I am not personally fond of, but is getting a great deal of interest from eBay shoppers.  Then again, I don’t know a lot about purses.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  Hmm .. eBay today .. perhaps Second Life next year. A few diva-type Goodwill_1920_hand_beaded_dress_2questions .. Who were the models?

Brendan Hurley: The models were fantastic. They were all local and supplied by Tu-Anh.  Tu-Anh is a locally based, but internationally experienced fashion designer and consultant who volunteered her time.  She runs a professional fashion consultancy called Polished. She knew exactly who to ask and all of them modeled for free. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: How were the garments chosen and who put together the outfits?

Brendan Hurley:  All of the items were literally taken off the racks from our nine DC area Goodwill Retail Stores by Tu-Anh and her staff. It didn’t take them long. I think they were only hunting for a few days before they had an entire collection. What can I say…the stuff you can find at Goodwill is pretty good! You just need to look.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How will you sustain this new positioning and does social media fit into the Goodwill of Greater Washington’s long-term marketing strategy?

Brendan Hurley: I suspect that we’ll see a bit of a drop off once the auction ends and the initial excitement over the fashion show starts to fade, but we’re committed to a long term blogging presence and will very likely do another virtual fashion show next year. The challenge now is sustaining and building upon our early success. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: What were a few of the lessons learned?

Brendan Hurley: First, treat your blog like a product, not a strategy.  Second, to be successful at a blog you need to be willing to make the commitment. A blog requires much more research and time than I would have ever thought.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advise would you give a not for profit who wanted to step into the social media space?

Brendan Hurley: I would tell them something that sounds like a cliché:  Think out of the box.  If you want to engage a new audience and educate them on your mission, you don’t necessarily have to force your mission upon them. 

Engage them using a common interest. If your cause is homelessness, maybe think about developing a blog about homeowner related issues and weave your mission into the blog content. You’ll reach a broader variety of people, develop a personal relationship with them and then gain their trust and support. The population that is already passionate about your cause is going to support you anyway. Use the blog as a way to acquire new untapped supporters.

Brendan Hurley On Social Media
Your take on using social media as a marketing / business strategy. Your get the last word (smile)

I’m amazed at how others are willing to market your product or service for you if they feel it has value.  Build an online product with significance and treat it with the respect you would give any more tangible product or service. If you do, you won’t have a problem finding people willing to help you communicate your message.

Voices of Chrysler, An Interview With Editor Jackie Headapohl


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,, (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.

Biz Blog Profile Series: Flooring The Consumer, Wear-Dated


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.

Christine B. (CB) Whittemore, Director, In-Store Innovation Wear-Dated Carpet Fiber Solutia Inc., is passionate about ensuring the brand experience exceeds her customers' expectations. Understanding that social media could support traditional marketing efforts she launched Flooring The Consumer. CB's vision and creativity clearly demonstrates there are many ways to bring social media into an organization.

Weardated_logo Biz Blog Profile: Flooring The Consumer and Wear-Dated

About Wear-Dated

Wear-Dated is Solutia’s brand and warranty to the consumer for carpet made with our nylon 6,6 carpet fiber.  It was created approximately 45 years ago in what seems like a very different place and time.

In 1962, the Arnold Constable Department Store in New York City was going out of business. The store had a long and proud history - Eleanor Roosevelt had been one of the many rich and famous who bought her clothes there.  The store sold men's shirts with an interesting label in the collar area: if the shirt wore out before the date stamped on the label, a customer could return it and receive a full refund.

The store referred to the label as its "wear-dated" guarantee. Bob Born, from Chemstrand [Monsanto's/Solutia's first wholly owned subsidiary], liked the label idea and bought the rights to it. I love this creation story.

Cb_whittemore About Christine B. (CB) Whittemore

I started out with Monsanto in the Acrilan acrylic apparel division of Wear-Dated in 1993.  In those days, we had a New York City office and worked closely with the garment trade.  The office walls were covered with posters showcasing events that Wear-Dated had done in the sixties and seventies with the likes of Barbara Streisand.  I remember hearing that at one point the whole mezzanine level of Macy’s Times Square sold only Wear-Dated [polyester] apparel.  Heady times!

From apparel, I went into the Wear-Dated upholstery business.  Four years ago, I moved into the nylon 6,6 Wear-Dated carpet fiber business as director, in-store innovation.

Why Wear-Dated Is Blogging

Flooring The Consumer is my personal business blog.  I started it because I wanted to be more involved in the evolution of marketing away from traditional mass approaches. At the same time, I felt a sense of urgency around getting the message out about marketing to women and improving the flooring retail experience.  Getting articles published in our trade press took too long, and self-publishing via a blog – which  I felt strongly was NOT – seemed like a wonderful solution.  I want to elevate the existing lousy flooring experience and I hope someday to be able to direct [women] consumers to innumerable outstanding retailers for a memorable consumer experience!

Flooring The Consumer allows me to experiment with projecting a voice for Wear-Dated; it allows me to draw others from my team [sometimes kicking and screaming, other times enthusiastically] – e.g., Ann Hurley, Ben Jones, Marianne Cone and several of our Wear-Dated representatives.  It also means connecting directly with those who share our passion for the consumer!

From a very practical perspective, Wear-Dated gets to be a thought leader where no one else in our industry does much outside of traditional approaches.  Flooring The Consumer provides our field force with ammunition to get retailers thinking outside of their comfort zone; it supplements the training presentations that I’ve developed, and documents all of the nuggets of valuable insight and information that I run across. 

How Blogging Fits Into Wear-Dated's Marketing Strategy

Oh, the plans I have!  Seriously, blogging is here to stay.  I’ve had fascinating discussions with associates in our corporate communications department about blogging, podcasting and generally incorporating the principles of Web 2.0 into the social media pressrooms we want to create.  Being able to bring the example of Flooring The Consumer – and other business blogs – to the discussion really makes the opportunities and possibilities come alive.

Selling-In to Management

I remember bringing up the concept early on [1.5 or 2 years ago] and being looked at with skepticism.  After all, blogs were a fad not worth wasting an iota of time on, right?  Well, I decided to learn as much as possible on my own time.  In early June 2006, I attended a Marketing Innovation Conference sponsored by Columbia Business School and Corante that fired me up, not only about blogging, but about web 2.0, the power of community and of conversation. 

Just about everyone in the room blogged, and was accomplished [e.g., Brand Autopsy’ John Moore, John Winsor, Johnnie Moore, Lois Kelly, Constant Observer’s Tish Geier….].  A few weeks later I published my first post.  I sent an email to everyone I knew internally and externally to announce my big event, and invite contributions. 

After a few weeks, I created a press release on the blog.  A few weeks later, I presented the blog to my associates, explaining how it worked and what it did and was surprised when they embraced it.  But, actually walking them through it was critical.  I internalized how foreign the concept of ‘blog’ is to the majority of the population [more so in some industries], making it important to hold people’s hands to get them acquainted with the richness of the medium.

Challenges Facing Developing Flooring The Consumer Blog

The biggest challenge is overcoming the initial technical pushback and the lack of understanding of blogs.  Every so often I’ll send out a particularly relevant post via email to let people know [or remind them] about Flooring The Consumer

I’ll circulate a press release, as appropriate.  I encourage our Wear-Dated Reps to showcase positive flooring retail experiences on the blog and to let me know of particularly noteworthy retailers.  I want to celebrate those who really get the customer experience! Whenever I conduct presentations, I make sure to talk about the blog and how to subscribe.

How Wear-Dated Promotes Flooring The Consumer Blog

Let’s see.  I bring it up in conversation quite a bit as it captures what I am passionate about, and responsible for!  After a training presentation on marketing to women, I refer attendees to the blog for reference information, and relevant articles.  Same goes for Trading Up or the retail experience.  I encourage our WDRs to do the same, to print out specific postings and use them as leave-behinds with retail accounts.  I supplement our marketing materials with postings that connect a voice or an additional perspective.

Since we are talking a new medium, I use traditional tools like press releases to extend the awareness and generate more discussion.  I’ll also include links to specific posts in press releases about other programs or activities.  Ironically, the trade press hasn’t yet included a single specific mention to the blog, although I seem to be getting published more frequently!

I’ve created categories [not quite as elegant as a ‘toss of the pink boa’!] to celebrate the achievements of specific carpet retailers.  The highest achievement is the “Store That Floors” award.  “Flooring It Differently” lets me showcase a specific exceptional element of a flooring retailer’s experience. 

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Bathroom Blogfest ’07 and highlighting some of the beautiful bathrooms I’ve photographed in the past year, too!

Lessons Learned
It’s a slow process!  So, it’s critical to stay focused, yet be open to new ideas and possibilities. 

It’s a serious commitment.  I liken Flooring The Consumer to having another child.  A blog must be nurtured consistently over time.  It requires strong passion, vision, creativity, flexibility and lots of love.

Absolutely be authentic, honest and courteous. 

Learn html, tagging, linking….. 

Be sure to listen to fellow bloggers.  The marketing realm includes so many passionate and talented individuals whom I constantly learn from.  Be sure to include them to amplify your ideas and generate more discussion.

Develop your own, unique voice.   

Wear-Dated’s Future Blogging Direction

Flooring The Consumer is here to stay.  I see additional blogs in Wear-Dated’s future, but am still working on the execution details.  First step is identifying additional bloggers!   

Christine B. (CB)Whittemore On Blogging

“It flows through my veins!” It’s electrifying.  I see everything with new eyes because some aspect might be relevant for a post.  I love sharing those wonders.  Now, I wish I could read faster, assimilate ideas more quickly, write more efficiently and catch up on all of the ideas I have for future posts!

Biz Blog Profile Series: HP Blog Programs


Diva Marketing's Biz Blog Profile Series is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and arts organizations are using blogs to support their marketing goals.

With count em - 19 blogs! - ranging from blogs that support non profit events to live blogging events to very technical subjects to VIPs HP must be one of business blogging's best friends. HP is no stranger to social media communications; its corporate website includes podcasts and RSS feeds. Eric Kintz, Vice President Global Marketing Strategy and Excellence, recently joined HP's growing blog network with a blog focusing on Marketing Excellence. He shares his insights about blogging HP style, as well as, background from HP's viewpoint about consumer generated conversations and the blogosphere.

Hpweb_12_topnav_hp_logo Biz Blog Profile: HP Blog Programs*

About HP
HP is a technology company that operates in more than 170 countries around the world. We explore how technology and services can help people and companies address their problems and challenges and realize their possibilities, aspirations and dreams. We apply new thinking and ideas to create more simple, valuable and trusted experiences with technology, continuously improving the way our customers live and work.

Why HP Is Blogging
At HP, we spend a lot of time connecting with our customers. The blogosphere allows us to extend that connection between HP and employees and our customers in a highly efficient manner. A genuine dialog between us and our customers no matter where they reside is simply good for business. As technology evolves which allows us to get closer to our customers in new ways, we'll take opportunities to do so.

How Blogs Fit Into HP's Marketing Strategy
Whether via marketing, sales, service or support, business conversations between individuals create understanding, trust and sometimes healthy debate. HP's blog program enables the conversations we are already having with customers in person to be extended globally. More people can join the conversation and that's a good thing. As business ultimately takes place between individuals, our hope is that the dialog we support via our blogging platform supports the right conversations leading to mutually beneficial long-term relationships.

What Are The Benefits Of Multiple Authors Blogging For A Company?
Customers have told us that who they do business with is sometimes as important as what they buy. Providing a platform for the most sought after business leaders and innovators within HP gives our customers better insights into who we are and where we're headed. We've been delighted that HP's bloggers have come from all corners of the company.

The variety of topics includes*:The Sundance Blog, HP Labs, Small Business Marketing Toolbox, HP Tour de Kids 2006,  Executive Blogs like Rich Marcello, Senior VP & General Manager, Business Critical Servers or Marketing Excellence by Eric Kintz, VP Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence. This offers the significant benefit of showing the different facets of HP vs. only tech focused blogs.

Our key challenge is to make sure those who want to blog respect the rules of the blogosphere. Blogs must be genuinely authored with no marketing gimmicks and the dialog open. I feel like we are up to the challenge!

Selling-in To Management
Help management understand that the conversation is happening with or without us, and it benefits HP greatly to be participating. I think it is also essential to openly recognize and discuss risks of blogging with management, as well as, how to mitigate those risks. At HP, we have developed a blogging policy and set of guidelines for blogging responsible.

What Are The Challenges That HP Faces In Developing A Blog For A Global Corporation?
I think it forces me to  think about issues  that are of interest to a global audience and how it being a conversation. I addressed in my blog, for example, issues that we deal with in our marketing strategies in Korea and India and have started conversations around these topics with fellow loggers in China and India.

How Is HP Promoting Its Blogging Programs?
We're not necessarily promoting our blogs. Bloggers post their thoughts and let their circle of customers, colleagues, and partners know they're doing so. Over time, we've seen our readership grow at a healthy rate. Of course, we are participating in the Diva Marketing Biz Blog Profile so we are doing some activities to help bring more visitors to our blog platform!

Lessons Learned
The first lesson is that it's important to participate and join the conversation. In doing so for the past year and a half, we learned a lot about the blogosphere and consumer generated media.

The next major lesson was on dealing with customer comments. We received both negative and unrelated comments. For negative comments, the best strategy is to politely respond stating the facts as the blogger sees them. Instead of engaging in negative debate, try to keep the conversation constructive and moving forward.

My main personal recommendation would be to focus on what you know best and tell a story in an interesting way that people will want to read.

HP's Future Directions
HP's strategy is to continue to expand our programs both by watching what is being said in the blogosphere and responding appropriately and by proactively participating by HP's hosted blogs and other blogs. We will also evaluate further innovation in the blogging space: for example, we also podcast.

Eric Kintz's Take On Blogs
I view blogging as a humbling learning experience. It forces me to put my thoughts in order and put those insights to the test of the world (see example from a recent post following the MPM conference). I view blogging as a unique opportunity to connect and interact directly and openly with key thought leaders and innovators in the marketing arena. The Marketing Excellence Blog by Eric Kintz.

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Biz Blog Profile Series: Masi Guy Blog, Masi Bicycles


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

Blending old world tradition with modern technology. Sounds like it could be a tag line for a 2.0 web company. It's not. It is the direction of an Italian company, established shortly after World War I, that was conceived and built on passion, honesty and expert craftsmanship. Tim Jackson, Brand Manager, of Masi Bicycles, had a proud legacy to up hold when he launched the Masi Guy blog as a tactic to revitalize the brand.

Masi_logo_2 Biz Blog Profile: Masi Bicycles

About Masi Bicycles

Masi is a road bike brand with more than 70 years of history and is now owned by Haro Bicycle Corporation. The two companies couldn't be much different; Masi was born in Italy in the world of road cycling. Haro is pure SoCal and was one of the founding companies in freestyle BMX. It is the differences that got me the job as Brand Manager of Masi, since I am a long time (well, lifetime) road cycling enthusiast and competitive racer (I still race). All told there are only about 20 people in the two companies and I am the only Masi employee.

Why Masi Bicycles is Blogging: Masi Guy Blog

I started the blog largely because we were doing no marketing or advertising and had a very, stale, boring website. Since I had no budget to work with, I knew I had to do something different to reach people. I'm a very people person kind of a guy and believed I could use my personality and communication strengths to reach people.

How Blogs Fit Into Masi Bicycles

I launched the blog largely on an impulsive whim. I had been reading about blogs and hearing about blogs on the news but I had never actually read one (how embarrassing!). I read a report that mentioned one of the major publications, maybe Business Week, called blogging one of the top emerging technologies to watch. Way ahead of some incredible industries/technologies like medical research.  [Sidebar: Business Week currently is running 12 blogs.]

That report was the final straw and later that day I went to Google and looked up blog. I got to Blogger and set up the Masi Guy blog and created the first post on March 4th, 2005. Being the shameless, self-promoter that I am, I immediately created a press release and sent it off to our major industry publication, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRaIN). They ran our release on their website and I was officially a blogger!

About a week after the article in BRaIN ran I told my bosses what I had done. It was very much a project of my own creation and desperation. In the beginning the blog was the only marketing I was doing for the brand. I knew I needed something that would get the name in front of people again and give people a chance to hear what was happening.

Masi is the last name of Faliero Masi. Faliero was an amazing craftsman who was very respected, but was a person with a big personality. I'm no Faliero, but I believed that the brand needed to have a person that people could connect to again. Many successful brands have a personality that people can relate to, whether they like the personality or not.

Now, the blog is a major part of my marketing strategy, even with the fancy new website and advertising efforts. There is a link to the blog from the corporate website and I still intend to use the blog to communicate directly with my readers and customers.

Selling-in To Management

My bosses didn't have a chance to discuss it with me, since I took the option away from them by telling them what I had done after the fact. I can't deny that they still don't fully understand the relevance of the blog, but it is beginning to sink in. BRaIN has written two different articles about my blog and blogging in general. That has been a great source of exposure. Bosses like that kind of thing.

Now and again, I get a little you should blog a little less and (blank) a little more. To avoid conflict about the blog, I do most of my blogging after hours when at home. I get mocked by co-workers quite a bit too, good-natured kidding. Overall, most people see it as a great tool, even if they don't really understand it.

The blog has grown to as many as 400 visitors a day and many of those readers are our retailers. I hear from my bike shops during the big trade show each year who tell me that they leave the shop computer on the blog and let customers read it! [Sidebar: Excellent!] I also get stories of consumers walking into shops and telling retailers about something they read or saw on the blog and it has turned into sales many times.  Obviously, that is a great indicator that the blog is serving the purpose of selling product. I can honestly say that I haven't had one complaint from retailers about the blog and consumers have been eating it up.

Challenges Facing Developing A Blog For A Global Brand

The biggest challenge has been in finding ways to restrain myself from giving too much away. I am such a firm believer in transparency, but sometimes I have to restrain myself from telling people too much. I'm not exactly worried about giving away secrets or anything, but my bosses get a little nervous when I come right out and say this is what we are going to do. I can understand where they are coming from, but I firmly believe that being honest and saying the things I say is part of why the blog has been such a success.

Outside of that, the other challenge has been trying to keep the blog looking good enough to keep the bosses happy and not concerned that the image is too amateurish. Thankfully, I have a good friend in Seattle, Chris Cashbaugh, marketing manager of SOG Knives, who knows how to build sites and he volunteered to update the look of the blog a few months back.

How Masi Bicycles is Promoting The Masi Guy Blog

The promotion of the blog has been all my own doing ... me talking about it all the time! I added the blog address to my email signature and included it on my letterhead. We have the blog address on the corporate website in both the Team News and Contact Us sections. However, most of the hits to the blog come from other sources. Quite a few cycling-related directories have linked to the blog and other bike bloggers have as well. It's been a very word-of-mouth success. It's developed something of a cult following, which I obviously appreciate very much.

Lessons Learned

Don't be scared. Really it is far easier than people think. And, if you think of it, how else are you going to reach so many people for free? I would strongly urge people to allow comments too. The comments are what makes the whole thing interactive. Without the interactive feature, you are just adding a new website and force-feeding a message. People won't keep coming back for long if they can't play an active role in what is happening.

I look at negative comments a bit differently than a lot of folks because I come from a customer service background. My theory is this: you can let a hothead say whatever they like about you and your brand and do nothing about it. That gives a person all the air time. Not good for you. can engage that person in a dialog. Maybe you won't win the argument, but you will at least be giving your account of the situation for other folks to read and then use their own judgment on what to opposed to just listening to the hothead.

The time issue is pretty relative, but I always point out that the time you spend blogging is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying a marketing/PR firm to communicate for you. My longest ever post took me maybe an hour to write. Plus you can always write them (posts) in pieces as you have the time. There is no rule that states you have to do it all at once.

I have also learned that it is critical to be a part of the blogosphere. Go visit other blogs. Place comments on blogs you feel are important or reach an important audience. I visit other blogs frequently and make friends by commenting and interacting with other bloggers. That has proven to be very successful for me.

Masi's Future Blogging Direction

I am really interested in learning how to podcast. I think that would be a great addition to the blog. Live race reports or interviews from the trade show floor. There is a lot of potential for podcasting and I want to learn how to exploit it.

I also want to learn how more about the whole blogging world and how I can be more active in it. I actually know very little, so I look forward to learning a lot more and gaining more technical savvy.

What I really want to do is get more people in the cycling industry blogging. I think the industry is perfect for blogging: passionate people in the industry reaching out to passionate people who love cycling. It just seems like a perfect fit. That is my biggest goal - get more folks blogging.

Tim Jackson On Blogging

Blogs are just too important to ignore. Either in having one or in reading others. Bloggers are influencing things and failing to pay attention to the dialog and conversation is a huge mistake. With no budget and a simple guerrilla marketing approach, I've been lucky enough to watch sales of my brand go up by double digits this past year. Obviously that isn't solely from the blog, but I keep getting lots of positive validation from retailers and consumers both.

I was recently in Texas to support a large retailer who was having a big sale. I spoke to a whole lot of consumers in two days. Several of those people knew me from the blog. I even had one guy say he came to the sale because he read on my blog that I was coming to town. That's huge to me. I can't see a time when I won't be blogging or dong something similar to it.

I'm traveling to Australia to launch a brand with our distributor. I have been laying little seeds about the trip on my blog and all of a sudden my Australian visitors are cranking up on the blog. I plan to blog while I am there. I have a feeling it will be a great tool to assist in promoting the brand there. Masi_bike_1What's not to love about blogging? 

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Special Biz Blog Profile Series: - DaimlerChrysler


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

I can come clean now. Or rather Ed Garsten, Editorial Director of the famous Chrysler Group Media Blog -, can step out from the shadows.

A few weeks ago I posted about my experience knocking on door and not being allowed in. The post resulted in a lot of play in the blogosphere. When I contacted Ed, he filled me in on Chrysler's rationale and agreed to let me post our conversations...if I kept his identity secret. How could I resist a little Deep Throat intrigue? So Ed became "mysource" in the posts.

Recently, Ed allowed me access to I'm one of a handful of people, who don't have media credentials or is not an industry analyst allowed in. He also graciously agreed to provide a special Diva Marketing Biz Blog Profile interview. Our interview is one of only two that Ed has given about The other was with Debbie Weil who offers a slightly different approach to this media-only blog story.

Sidebar: This blog is available only to the media and industry analysts. While most of Diva Marketer's readers may not be able to access the blog, I felt that the interview with Ed Garsten provided valuable insights and offered an inside look at how a Fortune 100 company approached blogging. DaimlerChrysler was ranked #5 in Fortune Magazine's 2005 Global List. It might surprise you that some of the challenges facing are similar to those of many business bloggers. Besides, it seemed only right to let Ed tell his side of the story.   

Firehouse_logo_1Biz Blog Profile: Blog

About DaimlerChrysler AG
The company was created in 1998 with the combination of the former Daimler Benz AG and Chrysler Corp. DaimlerChrysler AG has headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany and Auburn Hills, MI. The company produces vehicles under the brand names, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz.  Juergen Schrempp is chairman and CEO. He'll be replaced in January by Dieter Zetsche, former Chrysler Group president and CEO, who now heads Mercedes-Benz.

About Blog
First...if you to to the Welcome category, there is a full explanation of TheFirehouse name and the philosophy behind the site. In a nutshell, for the past several years DaimlerChrysler has rented out an old firehouse across the street from Cobo Center, where the North American Auto Show is held each January in Detroit.

The firehouse is converted into a nightspot where reporters can relax after a hard day of covering the show - grab a burger and something to drink and have some relaxing conversations with some of our executives. In that same spirit, we named the media blog - a place where reporters can engage in an honest, open exchange with our folks and themselves in a relaxed atmosphere.

How Did The Chrysler Media Group Prepare To Launch Blog?
The communication group here is well aware of the blog world and follows several auto-related blogs such as Autoblog, Autoextremist, and The Car Connection among others. We also consult regularly with an outside IT firm that manages the technical aspects of the blog, but is a valuable resource on content and strategy. I personally polled a number of experienced and respected auto reporters and took their views into consideration before the blog was launched. To a fault, all were enthusiastic and had no problem registering. All were grateful for the opportunity to communicate in a closed environment.

Was A Corporate Blog Explored? Why Start With A Media-only Blog?
The company is still planning to launch an open blog, but I can't say any more than it was just an internal decision to go with the media-only blog first. Our Chrysler Group Communications VP Jason Vines love the interplay with reporters and they love communicating with him. Besides, there are already so many corporate blogs and this company enjoys, as it always has, going against the grain and plowing new ground. That's what we did with such ground-breaking products such as Dodge Viper, PT Cruiser, Prowler and the early 90's cab-forward cars such as Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Interpid. Remember, it was Chrysler that invented the minivan and created an entirely new vehicle segment.

We love to break the rules, and by the way, who made the rules in the blogosphere? -- seems like some self-appointed circle. For a great analysis of what we did, please see Kevin Holland's posting on The Association Blog.

The fact is there are no rules. Blogging is a constantly evolving, and wonderful, form of communication and we fully intend to use the same rule-breaking philosophy we've used for so many years in developing products, in exploring new ways of using it. Here's my basic philosophy, which matches my mandate here:

Blogging is still an evolving medium that different constituencies will begin to use in ways that make sense to them. We're not about exclusivity or secrecy. We're about communicating with a certain subset of people and aiming our content toward them with "Firehouse."

How The Blog Was Promoted To Target Audiences
I also want to say that I've seen some blog postings ranting that we did a big PR push to publicize the blog then closed it in everyone's face. That couldn't be further from the truth. We intentionally spent almost nothing to publicize the blog since we wanted to avoid the type of disappointment that some have experienced. The only real effort was handing out some invitation cards to journalists at September's Frankfurt Auto Show.

We already had mailed a monthly V-Gram to several hundred auto beat reporters - it was a fun, informative newsletter from Jason Vine. We sent those reporters pre-registration invitations via email a few days before the blog officially launched. The invitations clearly stated is opened only to the media. Inevitably, once the site was launched, some folks stumbled on it, while others were led to it by reporters who registered and been allowed access.

Unfortunately, those who did not qualify for access received emails telling them so. A few were evidently put out, or confused, and the page that the non-media members would be denied access that has been corrected - Firehousebiz_blog_1005thank you Toby for calling that to our attention.
: Click to enlarge.

As far as the legal language is concerned, our legal team fully vetted it, consulting current case law and language used on similar blogs.

You've mentioned a few other style and content issues in critiquing our site. I appreciate that sort of input and we're always looking at ways to improve TheFirehouse.

Your Title is "Editorial Director." What Are Your Responsibilities?
I was hired as editorial director because I've been a journalist for 32-years - 16 as an automotive reporter. I was the CNN Detroit Bureau Chief and Correspondent for 12 years until the network closed the bureau and sent us packing. After that I was the national automotive reporter for the Associated Press and most recently, GM/Delphi beat for The Detroit News.

My current job is to oversee editorial content for the blog, making sure it's relevant, accurate, and responsive to the needs of the automotive and marketing press. I help DCX contributors in writing their comments, paying close attention to subject matter, style, and accuracy. I also monitor registrations and comments and have the authority to accept or reject any registration if the person does not meet our criteria for access.

Comments are never edited, but they will not be posted if they contain personal attacks or do not pertain to the subject matter. If a reporter simply wants to ask a question, it will also be posted and we attempt to post an answer ASAP.

As part of my position, I will interview executives and attend media events to provide sidebar, or back-story material for reporters. Sometimes I shoot photos that would not generally appear on our media site. Really, I'm sort of an "embedded reporter."

How The Firehouse Blog Fits Into Chrysler's Public Relations/Marketing Strategy
The Firehouse blog is an important cog in the company's public relations strategy in that it is another means of spreading our message while affording reporters an opportunity to post their feedback on issues, events, products, etc.

After almost a month in operation, we're beginning to find our voice. It's a work in progress as I look for topics and content I think will trigger additional coverage of DaimlerChrysler, and especially the Chrysler Group. From the time you wrote to me (September 14th) we began to learn what would trigger responses; I expect to see that trend continue. Keep in mind, reporters don't have a lot of time to tap out comments or questions, and our expectations do not include long strings of point-counterpoint, as may be seen on other blogs. We're merely offering the opportunity.

Most of my off-blog email is from reporters wondering what's next, as they become conditioned to log on to the site as part of their regular news gathering routine.

The Blogosphere Buzz About Blog
I think the initial firestorm, as you call it, regarding our site, was flamed (sorry) by a few factors. The inability to gain access by those not meeting our criteria obviously made it impossible for a lot of folks to see what we were doing. That closed door, I'm sure, sparked some resentment, confusion, anger, and yes, a fair bit of arrogance on the part of those who feel no door in the blogosphere should ever be closed.

Unfortunately, several of those who chose to slam us didn't bother to contact anyone here to gain an understanding of our strategy--seems they'd rather shoot first, then find out the facts later. That's one reason journalists are slow to accept some bloggers into the fold. If you're going to don the mantle of journalism, you must conform to the basic tenets of the profession - accuracy, fairness, context, perspective. We have many bloggers as members of TheFirehouse, so there's certainly no discrimination between what might be called traditional and non-traditional media.

So was I surprised at the reaction or speed? Of course not. The Internet is an instantaneous form of communication. In fact, it only built the buzz for the site. Once I was contacted and permitted to explain what we're doing, assessments of TheFirehouse took a decidedly positive turn - it's amazing how facts can affect a story.  In the end, the so-called "firestorm" turned out to be pretty much a brush fire easily extinguished by the truth.

Why The Chyrsler Media Group Never Joined In The Blogosphere Conversation
We weren't proactive about promoting or explaining the blog outside the world of journalism because we already knew, through our research, that it was being embraced by our target readers. Does Ski Magazine care what non-skiers think of it?

When you break it down, we were trashed by those who had no clue about what we're doing and didn't bother to find out. All they knew is that we weren't adhering to some sort of rules that don't really exist. Think of it - the Internet was first developed by a network of university educators to share information and research. It the world stuck to those "rules" we wouldn't be having this discussion today or Amazon (wouldn't exist).

Lessons Learned
As I've said, TheFirehouse is a work in progress with no real end point. We're already beginning to reach our goal as an indispensable source of material not available anywhere else and reporters are becoming comfortable posting comments.

The biggest challenge is breaking away from the news release prose and learning to embrace the more first-person, personal approach blogging requires. We've made great progress in that regard and as executives and staffers become comfortable with the format, our postings will reflect that.

I did distribute a short "Blogging Essentials" guide with some tips for developing blog items and spend a good part of my day working with our staff in shaping blog-friendly messages.

Future Direction
As far as the future - I intend to file items on location at more media events, auto shows, breaking stories, and podcasting isn't far off.

Ed Garsten On Blogging
One thing for sure, rules, real or perceived, aren't gong to hold us back. We're involved in the most explosive form of communication to come along in at least a decade and there's no reason its growth and potential should be reined in by artificial limits. It's called progress.

Update: As of June 30,2010 the Chrysler Firehouse Media Only Blog closed its virtual doors. As Ed said in his last post, " ... the public expects to get its news right from the source, not necessarily through the filter of the press." Happy virtual travels my friend. I'm looking forward to where the social media road will take you.