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How Emerson turned an internal blog into a customer engagement tool

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A tech marketer's blog can be many things—a news feed or a thought leadership vehicle, for example—but global manufacturing and technology company Emerson Electric Co. decided that a blog featuring a personality was an ideal way to connect with both internal and external audiences. Charles A. Peters, the company's senior exec VP, has written an internal blog for Emerson since 2000. It featured a weekly report that addressed broad ideas, focusing on content that would engage employees across the company. But in May of last year Emerson decided to update the platform, opening that interdepartmental conversation to customers and prospects. “We wanted to communicate the true face of Emerson,” Peters said. “I write this blog that goes to 3,000 or 4,000 people internally, and it keeps us on the leading edge of conversations. [We thought] we ought to find a way to make that public.” As it turns out, the true face of Emerson looks a lot like the executive blogger, who has been with the company for 38 years. The updated blog for both internal and external audiences, dubbed the “Extra Mile With Charlie,” is a microsite that focuses as much on the running enthusiast's personal insights as it does on the global manufacturing and technology markets that the company serves. “The overall strategy is to reflect the interest and values of Emerson but to use a person to create a framework,” Peters said. “I've worked at the company for so long and to some degree helped form the culture. We thought that there would be a close alignment between what we wanted to convey about Emerson and the person that I am.” The content strategy requires diversity, he said. About half of the posts focus on personal insights. Peters has posted letters that he sent to a son who was serving in Afghanistan. He has also made reading suggestions and recognized the people who influenced his career. Other posts focus on business topics, offering discussions, for example, of the intricacies of product pricing. Peters taps internal and external sources for contributions, building content around themes that shift every two or three months. The site constantly is in flux. “The business side of the site communicates the types of things that people in Emerson are thinking about,” Peters said. “We're a progressive, forward-thinking company; but that's only part of the appeal. We don't want it just to become a business site. We have to personalize it.” Internally generated content performs best, Peters said, whether he creates videos of his favorite running destinations or an engineer writes about her experience in China. The company does not advertise the microsite and quietly launched it in its Gateway to Emerson digital magazine. Content reposted to social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter has driven referrals, Peters said. “The self-promotion helps it stay within the community of people who are interested in the same topics we are interested in,” he said. “There is a whole pricing community and a whole innovation community that follows it. In the b-to-b space, it's much more about the quality of your following than the quantity.” Nevertheless, growth has been steady, fueled by direct traffic, organic search and social media channels, as well as online contests, Peters said. More than 17,300 unique visitors have engaged with the site since its inception, according to Digitas, the digital agency that developed the site with Emerson. The number of visits has increased more than 80% year-over-year for the period ended in November. The traffic has exceeded Emerson's expectations, Peters said, and the platform continues to offer the company the flexibility to introduce new content and new storytelling methods. “You just have to work on building the balance,” he said.
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