Fellow Internet OldTimer Tom Hespos posed a question a few days ago on the list that asked what people thought of Ford's Bold Moves community site. Now, I can't go into detail on the email because there are some rules for the list, but he beat me to the punch because I was planning on making a post on it.
I stumbled across the website because I clicked on a small banner running on my webmail that directed me to the site, but I have to be honest, I only clicked on it because the person in the banner looked like Tom Kean Jr (running for Senate in NJ). So, I spent some time on the site, checking out the blog, watched a few of the web episodes, checked out the pr and news items and I have to admit, it is well done. I wanted to hack it to pieces, but I couldn't find a design flaw or execution flaw in it. In fact, I'd call it the best example of a corporate community site I've seen to date.
Now before you think I lost my edge and answered Tom's question, let me elaborate a little further. Bold Moves is a great execution, but I'm not sure what it is executing on. Is it for selling cars, PR/investor relations, or employee communications? Now, before I jump into the answer, let's take a quick scan at Ford's headlines for the last week:
- The Street.com ranks comments of one of Ford's Top Execs, Mark Fields as one of the Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week.
- Ford recalls 1.2 million SUVs, Trucks, and Vans
- Ford loses $18 million lawsuit over a 1999 crash
- Ford details restructuring plans that includes more spending cuts and speeding up plans to cut 30,000 jobs by 2012.
- JD Power Study shows US cars lag foreign rivals in reliability
- Toyota's profits up 39% while Ford has a $254 million loss
That's the backdrop on the news and none of it is helpful for employees, investor relations, PR, or selling cars. So, can the Bold Moves help? For selling cars, I think the answer is no. People buy cars in 4-5 year cycles so anyone buying a car now will look at the here and now and unfortunately a lot of what's on the website is about future moves. And, in the future the Bold Moves campaign might be helpful if Ford obtains a competitive advantage over its rivals, but that assumes that the Toyotas of the industry are not consistently innovating. SELLING GRADE - D
For IR the site is slightly helpful because the videos are believable and it outlines Ford's strategy for the future. So, if you get the investor relations community and investors to the site, it can do a very effective job in changing sentiment. However, long term outlook as well as short term tactics, news, and of course income statements contribute to a stock's price. INVESTOR RELATIONS GRADE - B
Finally, the employee relations aspect of the community is probably the hidden gem here. Getting a potentially demoralized employee base excited to come to work with the restructuring and looming large job cuts must be very difficult (ask any recently laid off AT&T employee about morale at the end). However, with weekly videos about the brightness of the future and an available community to discuss and socialize regarding issues, it is a valuable tool in the battle to boost morale. EMPLOYEE GRADE - B
Ford Bold Moves is a beautifully executed community site, but it will do very little to sell cars. If that's the point of it, then Ford misses the mark entirely. However, it a very good tool for investor relations and a great employee communications vehicle. In fact, it puts all employee relations communications tools to shame. What would you rather have, a boring monthly Ask Ford newsletter/employee broadcast or a cool up to date blog with slick videos that you can view at your leisure.