Ford Tweetup – Lessons Learned

This week Jeff Cutler (@jeffcutler) and Christine Koh (@bostonmamas) were the oh-so-gracious hosts for the Boston #fordtaurus Tweetup (see the new Ford Taurus SHO and drive it!)  The local event was part of a grand tour (The Summer of Taurus) for the new cars, pairing the vehicles in different cities with local Twitterati/bloggers and a (semi-random) Ford executive.  (Boston’s event brought Corporate Counsel David Leitch out from Detroit.)  There were lots of interesting PR, Social Media, events and business lessons to be picked up from the Ford event.  Here are just a few:

Get your executives out talking to “the people.”

  1. How? “All-in” or “everyone else is doing it” — David and the Ford PR rep from Ogilvy both told me that several of the Ford senior execs had been pressed into service for the series of events.
  2. How? “Pick a place, any place at all” — The execs had been told to pick a spot where they knew people.  In the three cities he was visiting, David was going to be able to visit a sister, his hometown and get close to where his son was going to college.  I’m sure it also was handy that the execs could probably deliver some warm bodies if needed…which they weren’t, at least in Boston.
  3. Why? Face-to-face meetings with your customers are good things. Looking at the long list of tweets, it’s hard to find any negative comments.  Fact is, people are nice to people and once you have met real people from a company, it is harder to make mean comments about the company.

Partner with the locals:

  1. Ogilvy partnered with two well-known local bloggers and Twitters (Jeff and Christine) to get the word out.
  2. Good going on getting a woman on the team (Christine.)  Yes, folks, women do buy cars, influence the purchase of cars, and STILL get short shrift on most things car-related.  (As some of you know, I come from a car-happy family, racing, selling and in general, enjoying things that go VERY fast.  Some of my favorite memories are of the (mostly ticket-less) driving of my Beretta GTZ (Quad-4 engine that hauled but constantly needed new valves, sigh.)  When I bought the Beretta, I actually walked out of one dealership that wanted to speak with my (then-non-existent) husband.
  3. Of course I’m sure @Scottmonty could have brought out the crowds all by himself but having Jeff and Christine there to add comments, etc. pulled it out of the “talking amongst ourselves” thing.  (“It’s advertising when you tell everyone how great you are; it’s PR when others do it.”)

Test track not included:

  1. Yes, it was a car that could haul (well, it looked fast…and one comment from the back seat “How do the brakes work?” while I was driving was an indicator that the car and I were exceeding someone’s comfort zone.) Hauling around a test track would have made for a good time but for a tweetup, the Asgard was a good choice.  First off, where’s the closest test track to Boston?  (I have no clue.) Even big empty parking lots are few and far between around here.  Second, let’s talk damage and liability — if you’ve got a limited number of cars and limited time and a schedule to keep, turning over a fast car to a bunch of amateurs on a test track isn’t the greatest idea.  (Sorry, Dude. I have to beg to differ.)  Better to keep things to a central location and in Cambridge where speeds are naturally limited.
  2. Hanging around in a social setting is conducive to blogging, tweeting and, in general, talking up a new product.  Bloggers don’t work in a vacuum.  The social lubrication and (frequently) the liquid lubrication) help.
  3. And, yes, asphalt is hot and that day had been in the 90s — ugh.  Blah.  I prefer the air-conditioned bar while waiting for my turn to drive, thank you very much.  And, the Taurus’ air conditioned seats.  (I used to think heated seats were the epitome of luxury.   Opinion officially revised now — air conditioned seats is where it is at, baby.  Whooo.)

Come prepared to document

  1. If you are throwing the shindig, make sure you’ve got your camera because DANG, I forgot my camera at home again!  (The Sony HandyCAM that was my mother’s day gift keeps getting left on my desk.)  John from Ogilvy got lots of great coverage, I am sure.
  2. It’s a numbers game — you are going to end up with few posts and tweets than people.  People do what is quick and easy, for the most part.  Even the most dedicated bloggers get bogged down, delayed or distracted.  I have a few dozen blog post drafts that will probably never see the light of day.  To post them now would be weird so much time has passed.
  3. Ford had a Facebook page for RSVPs, links to the blog posts, etc.  A convenient place to link to all the “coverage.”  (I do something similar for Mass Innovation Nights — a round-up of the blog posts about each event and the products that get launched there.)

If you are in PR, marketing, or touting yourself as a social media expert, make sure you get out when the big boys come to town.  There are always things you can learn, and even if what they are doing isn’t that out of the ordinary, the attention to detail can often be worth the price of admission.  It never hurts to have that lesson reinforced.