I’ve just read Jalopnik‘s post: Scott Monty: Ford Social Media “Expert” A Bit Of A Twit – which contains a great point in relation to Monty’s role:
But at the end of the day, Ford will have to ask itself — did that money spent sell any more cars? Our best guess is no — but maybe a couple more PR people doing real work might.
I believe that PR people can be using social media to do “real work”, but the interesting thing about the “social media expert” route that Ford took is that it is fronted by one individual, who has certainly connected with the SM fraternity, but has he connected with the Ford brand and its publics?
Scott Monty doesn’t have robust understanding of the automotive industry and its history – which can be useful, but is also dangerous when some of the things he says come over as naive to those who are informed. I’ve also found him rather marketing-puffy in his posts – but put that down to a cultural difference in style.
The heart of automotive PR has always been about building relationships – whether with traditional owners clubs or specialist motoring media – and this is predicated on a genuine love and understanding of companies and their vehicles; with historical context a key element.
So it isn’t surprising to see the specialist automotive media – even online – not engaging with Scott Monty. They have relationships with the PR team at Ford – and they’re not convinced that Monty does.
Media Bistro has some debate on this point, with Scott Monty fans arguing his corner. David Armano at AdAge picks up on the interface of the personal and corporate online presence. To a large extent this has always been a potential issue for PR practitioners in industries such as automotive as the media know you are representing one company and for many in PR, their career path has involved brand switching.
But it is different online. How would Monty disconnect himself from his Ford online presence if he decides to move on – which he undoubtedly will at some point. Can he readily untie the legacy and leave something meaningful to the company.
Having personality for the brand is important, but Monty isn’t Bill and his last name ain’t Ford. I’d prefer to see other faces from Ford having engaged in social media – there are great engineers and designers, for example, who are the guys who really will sell cars and ensure a future for the company.
As with certain blogger outreach initiatives there is still debate (see recent posts by Mack Collier and Jenn Mattern) over the value of focusing on “influencers” in social media rather than those who actually connect with real stakeholders, be they of beer or car companies.
It is currently relatively easy to build a reputation in social media for being in social media, but I think that converting online chatter into return on investment in respect of reputation, sales or stakeholder satisfaction should be the true measure of social media PR.