MS Vodcast Episode#24 | Jennifer Cisney, Kodak Social Media Manager & Chief Blogger

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Managing content creation and online pedigree

Our second in a new series of video podcasts (vodcasts) focussing on those interesting folks who manage social media for their brand / company / organisation.

Jennifer Cisney is the Chief Blogger and Social Media Manager for Kodak.

0.00—0.24 intro
0.25—2.15 day-to-day activities and duties
2.16—3.29 who creates the media content and the numbers
3.30—4.47 process of education (internally)
4.48—5.26 what if no-one wants to create the content
5.27—7.34 what types of content is created
7.35—9.34 measuring success from social media activities
9.35—10.43 what type of business tool is social media?
10.44—14.24 impact of monitoring the social stream
14.25—17.13 broadcasting to narrowcasting / corporate governance / freedom
17.14—18.01 the strategy and how it changes
18.02—19.03 signing up to new platforms / core set of guidelines
19.04—21.06 becoming a chief blogger
21.07—22.47 the future
22.48—23.11 outro

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Jennifer Cisney: I am Jennifer Cisney. And I am Kodak’s Chief Blogger and Senior Social Media Manager. I am in a conference room a few steps away from my desk here at Kodak Headquarters here in snowy Rochester New York.

DK: Well, it’s marvelous to have you with us Jenny. Thank you for giving up your time. Let’s get off with a question around what do you actually do then day to day?

Jennifer Cisney: I get that — well usually the first question is, “How did you become Chief Blogger?” but, so even though my title is Chief Blogger, I’m not writing every single blog post. It’s a lot more of the social media manager part of the job. I’ve kept the Chief Blogger because it’s a great title, I love having that on my business card. But I kind of work like a newspaper editor where I am managing all the different people throughout the company that are contributing to our social media efforts. So if you went to our blog, you’re going to see blog posts from product managers, PR people, marketing people; even IT folks write blog posts for us because it’s not always just, oh here’s a Kodak camera, the Kodak camera has this. It’s, how people are taking pictures, its stories about photography, about video, tips and tricks and you know we have one guy he’ll go on vacation to Disneyland and come back and share his tips on how to get really great pictures of his kids when he’s on vacation. On I’m always looking for stories internally whether we’re coming out with a new product or we’re going to be at an event. And then also paying attention what’s going on externally. Like if Valentines Day is coming up here in the states so should we be talking about Valentines photo cards or great project ideas to do with your kids on Valentines Day. So that’s kind of my day to day role.

DK: So, you touched on that there’s plenty of people within Kodak actually creating content there and that is something I’d love to explore with you. Run the numbers. Really, I know you’ve got like four or five blogs specifically. Give us a little bit of the idea about how many people are actually creating content for you?

Jennifer Cisney: Okay. Right that’s a great question because our core team is pretty small. It’s pretty much me and our Chief Listener. But when you factor in everybody that contributes, we have three blogs and I would say we’ve had over 150 people contribute at sometime. Maybe some people will write one blog post because they have one story and they don’t write another one. Then we have people that might contribute on a regular basis. And then when you count in our Facebook pages, twitter handles, YouTube channels; we have about 40 people worldwide that represent Kodak whether it’s on a twitter handle like kodakkiosk or kodakuk or our admin’s of a Facebook page like the Kodak Germany Facebook fanpage.

DK: Okay. So was there a process then — because there’s so many people. Is there a process of education internally around not just telling people that these platforms exist and they can communicate through them. But also how to do that as well?

Jennifer Cisney: Yeah, so what usually happens is somebody will raise their hand and say, “You know I think we should have a twitter handle for our printers, our inkjet printers.” And so that’s when I will sit down with them and share with them some guidelines, best practices, and really kind of hands on walk them through the process. The thing that’s great is a lot of times it’s already somebody that’s already on twitter that has an interest in it. That’s the best thing is when you have somebody in the company that is a big proponent of their business but also has an interest in social media, that’s the perfect combination. I would never go to someone, to a business unit or to a region and say, “You need to have a twitter account and you should just start one” if they didn’t believe in it. Because if you don’t get twitter and you don’t believe in what it can do, then it, you’re, that’s not a recipe for success.

DK: Of course. So how did you manage then — flip that, how did you manage when there’s in a team no one on twitter, no one has written a blog post before? So what’s the process then about enabling them to do that?

Jennifer Cisney: If you mean, like there’s a business unit and they’re not — well that’s usually when I step in and I will you know provide me the information, you know bulleted list, what’s happening, are you going to be at this event and I’ll write the blog post. So I travel a lot. I go to trade shows, I go to event sponsorships and I will cover it or I’ll tweet it through my twitter handle.

DK: Okay, cool, cool. So tell us a little bit about the content that you create through the channels there because I know you got some really cool podcast series. Like I said, even just before the interview, I was watching you create a little bookmarking thing and also I think it was your dog as well. About dog photography which is really cool. So what’s the logistics of that? do you do it all? Do you get other people to help to help from you (inaudible) companies and what’s the ideas behind those?

Jennifer Cisney: The primary means of content is it’s mostly created here. Because it’s great to show that we use our products, we have a passion for what we do. And so obviously on twitter, on Facebook, we talk about our products. What we come out with from our upgrades. But a lot of it is also interesting stories on using our products. And sometimes it’s not even our products. We’ll talk about just photography in general and it’s not product specific. Sometimes people will say, “But I have this camera. Is that okay?” It’s like you know just take pictures. Print it on Kodak paper then. because we want to be, we want to add value to our viewers not just be constantly talking about ourselves, our products. We want to give them information that’s going to be valuable to them whether it’s something like dog photography or, which is not taking pictures of dogs. That is attaching a camera to your dog and letting him take pictures which my poor pug was subjected to. You know how to take better fireworks pictures. You know some people ask, “How does that factor back to your business?” Well it’s adding value to our customers and then you hope in turn they come back and you have some conversion. But you’re just going to engage people if all you talk about is yourself.

DK: Brilliant. That is something we try to communicate to our clients a lot. Don’t just broadcast and talk about yourself. But lets — you touched a little bit on it about how does that feedback then into the core business. How do you measure success in social media terms?

Jennifer Cisney: Well we do — that’s why we brought on a Chief Listener because I was doing all of that for a long time, for about four years I was sort of creating and managing the content and measuring our results. And that is a lot of work, especially when we pulled a number that there are 300,000 new mentions of Kodak a month. And that’s a lot of conversation to watch online. So we hired a Chief Listener last spring and she uses a tool called Radiant Six to help us monitor the conversations. So you can do things like whether, how many impressions you get. For instance, we were at a print trade show last year in Cologne called IPAX. And we were able to see by measuring our mentions online that we had twice as many mentions on twitter and blog posts as our two major competitors combined. So that’s a great you know measurement. But then there’s always the question of can you connect it back to sales? And that’s always the challenge especially when you have lots of partners and channels that you sell through. You know how are you tracking like this tweet actually led to a sale over at this brick and mortar store. So you can do things like having maybe do a coupon code or tracking sort of that when you set a goal. You want people go and download this coupon or visit this site. You can track some of those numbers and using a tool like Radiant 6 helps with that.

DK: So where would you put social media in terms of a strategic tool then? is it a marketer or is a business prospecting tool? Kind of where do you put it in your brain so you can do this day in and day out?

Jennifer Cisney: It oh it’s all of those things. It’s marketing, it’s PR, it’s support, it’s, yeah it’s customer generation. Especially on our B2B side, a lot of people don’t know that Kodak is like I think almost like 60% a B2B business. And so in that case, customer’s leads can be very important in social media. So it’s really, it’s all of those things. We sit in the CMO, the Corporate Marketing Office but we work very closely with PR and with product groups. One of the others things that a lot of other people don’t think about is taking the feedback that we get from customers and funneling that back into the product managers to improve our products.

DK: Oh, wow, so that was one of the questions that I had about the specific impact of monitoring and tracking these conversations. Could you draw on a story then specifically to —

Jennifer Cisney: Oh yeah.

DK: Okay, go.

Jennifer Cisney: So about two years ago, we came out with our first pocket video camera, the ZI6. Or you guys say ZedI6. It was very popular right off the bat and but that was about the time when we started our first twitter account and immediately noticed people talking about the pocket, the ZI6 on twitter. So we really started tracking that and noticing people saying things like, “I love my ZI6 but when I’m recording at a trade show, the sound isn’t great.” Or, “When I have other things plugged into my laptop, I can’t fit it, fit the USB in.” so we gathered all of those comments together and presented it to our product team. And a year later with the ZI8 which had an external microphone jack, a flexible USB arm, and electronic image stabilization; all these things that people were asking for. So we literally improved our product by listening to our customers. It’s like the world best, biggest focus group. Instead of having nine people sitting in a room somewhere behind a double mirror, you’re asking people that actually have the product and that use it. And are out there — they’re so passionate about it that they’re talking about it on twitter and, oh, and the funny this is so we had the ZI6, the ZX1 and the ZI8. And we started noticing people say, “I’m so confused with this naming system. Why are they already at Z? did I miss the A’s? what are they going to come out with the next?” And so we finally, the last straw was one of the reporters at the Boston Globe wrote an article saying, “I love the ZI8 but the name stinks.” So we said, “That’s it, we are going, we need to change this up.” So we said, “If you don’t like the name, we want to know what you think our pocket video camera should be called?” And so we made it fun, we had a contest and we said, “Tweet us name suggestions or you can go to the blog and leave a comment. And to make it fun, we’ll pick 100 of you that have submitted a name and we’ll give you a ZI8. and if we pick your name, we will fly you to Las Vegas for CES, which is the worlds largest Consumer Electronic Show to help us launch that pocket video camera.” And so wow, we got thousands of entries and the names were, I mean, they were hilarious, they were creative. And we ended up picking, we liked the name “Combo Playsport”. But it was two guys. One guys submitted, “Play” and one submitted “Sport”. So we had to fly them both to Las Vegas and we gave them t-shirts. One said “play” and one said “sport” and they walked around together. And we literally crowdsourced the name of our product through social media. And I consider that a success.

DK: And for free may I add?

Jennifer Cisney: Well, it did take some time though. I — we went through a lot of names but yeah, it was —

DK: Cool, well thank you for that story. That’s wicked. And you touched on where you sit in kind of the overall department as well. You sit in the Chief marketing kind of thing and as you know we spoke to Jeff Haslet some time ago, I know he’s moved on now. But he was the Chief Marketing officer for you guys. And he talked about the idea around broadcasting to narrowcasting as a very important idea where social media fits with him in terms of the marketing kind of channels or the marketing roots. And he was very much an advocate of this is actually this is all about P2P now, it’s not about B2B, B2C; it’s kind of just person to person. And what I felt from his as well was this huge amount of permission that he’d been given to have a go at this social media you know from the top down. I don’t know if you want to just say something around, I don’t know the corporate governance of such a big organization such as Kodak which has a huge amount of history and a legacy and a pedigree behind you guys. Was there a time where you remember when you started to see corporate buy in from top and how much freedom do you have as well?

Jennifer Cisney: It all started four years ago with the first blog, 1,000 words blog. It was September 2006. and when we first came up with the idea, let’s have a corporate blog, we thought, “Oh there’s going to be pushback so how can we help management understand what our goals are?” and one of the most simple things that we did at that time was we mocked it up. We did a sample blog that has, that was pop ululated with sample blog posts — like we went to people and said, “we’d like you to write a blog post for this” and showed them. Because when you just, you tell management, “Oh, we’re going to start a blog, immediately their imaginations are going to run away with them. They’re going to think we’re going to be sharing corporate secrets and — but when they saw what it was going to look like, it really helped set expectations. And we had a plan all set up. We said, “This is how we’re going to moderate comments, this is our escalation plan. If anybody leaves a comment that’s inappropriate or is a crisis, this is how we’re going to handle it.” And so they really didn’t have any — you know we didn’t leave any questions hanging. We had all our basis covered when we went to them with the proposal. It also helps to benchmark and show what other companies are doing and just really having that plan in place. Because I think too many people just come and say, “We want to start a blog” and immediately people freak out.

DK: And so do you guys at Kodak have a social media strategy written down?

Jennifer Cisney: Oh yes, yes we have. We even like a B2B social media strategy and our consumer strategy and that gets refreshed every year. And of course it changes. It’s so funny, you start it in January and it doesn’t look anything like that by the end of the year. But yeah, you kind of look ahead and you look at your internal plans — again working very closely with your product managers and your marketing folks and the, just what’s going on in social media with customers and yeah, we definitely have a strategy that we follow.

DK: Interesting.

Jennifer Cisney: But you got to be flexible.

DK: Like you say, you know these platforms changed kind of not even year to year now, it’s more like month to month sometimes does it with new platforms popping up? And I how often do you kind of sign up to things? Are you constantly signing up and having a play and always thinking, “How can I use this”?

Jennifer Cisney: I do, I do try everything that comes along, I sign up really quick to get my user name. but really what it comes down to is no matter what tool it is, the most important thing is to have a core set of guidelines. So whether it’s Facebook, whether it’s the next thing coming out. We always adhere to being transparent, adding value, listening to the customer. And if you take — you take those core set of values and apply them to whatever you do, that’s how you’re going to have success no matter what, what might come along in social media.

DK: Brilliant. Two more questions. One, I got to ask and you know you referenced it right at the beginning. How did you become a Chief Blogger for Kodak?

Jennifer Cisney: Well, I worked on, on our website and at that time 2006, when we said, “Lets talk about having a corporate blog”, people sort of looked around the room and said, “Anybody know anything about blogs?” And at that time I don’t think there weren’t books, there weren’t conferences yet but I had been blogging since, personally since 2000. and everybody knew about my blog because my dogs on it and everybody was reading it. And they said, “Jenny has a blog.” And I really, I started off just helping set those guidelines and kind of mocking out what the blog would look like. And I was in the right place at the right time really. I do have a Bachelors degree in PR, but my Masters is in Computer Graphic Design. So I guess maybe that combination of PR and computers was the right combo and then it grew of course from the blogs to adding in Facebook, and twitter and YouTube and Foursquare. But I think the key there is I had also been with Kodak at that, since ’98 so I was very familiar with our product line, with our brand, and I had a lot of experience in social media because I think a lot of people discount the fact that there’s a certain tone and protocol in social media. We don’t interrupt conversations, you don’t slam other people and a lot of people I think take that for granted. And I think finding somebody in a company that has that right combination of experience in both the brand and social media is really helpful.

DK: So lets wrap this up with a question about the future both personally and professionally. What are you guys kind of focusing on at the moment and in the next six months, what is on your work plan?

Jennifer Cisney: I think one big thing is really kind of harnessing the power of our customers. We talked a little bit about how we feature our own employees, about what they’re doing with their cameras and video and photography and imaging. But our customers are doing a lot of really cool things too. And sometimes I’ll find somebody that’s doing something really creative using his pocket video pocket camera on a stick to check his gutters, to see if they need cleaned out of leaves. Or people that are taping them to their snowboards. You know featuring the really creative things that our customers are doing and kind of highlighting that. and creating essentially brand ambassadors. And like you were talking before about narrowcasting, really developing relationships with our customers — we already have a lot of that where I can go to a conference and people will show up at the booth that I’ve been tweeting with for months and I get to meet them in real life and I feel like almost like their a friend. But to them I — Kodak just isn’t just a brand, just one big you know brand; it has people behind it, it has Jenny the Chief Blogger and it has Deidra at Kiosk and it’s really putting a face and people behind the brand.

DK: Very important. Well thank you very much for giving up your time Jenny. It’s been awesome to talk to you and thanks for giving your insights and the inside track of what you guys are doing.

Jennifer Cisney: Well, thanks for having me.

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