The inner workings of industrial and manufacturing companies—by both tradition and necessity—are not easily observed by the outside world. Some have called it a “walled garden,” and it’s one of the main challenges a company such as Emerson must deal with.
Indeed, consumers aren’t able to walk into its “stores” to browse and shop products or ask sales associates questions. That is precisely why the company has made such a huge commitment to its content marketing strategy, said CMO Kathy Button-Bell. Emerson is using content to help customers, partners, and employees better relate to what it does and what it stands for.
“Our content strategy, whether it’s the content on our site, blogs, or on social media, is really meant to support the character of our company and promote why we are different than other companies to do business with and to work for,” Button-Bell told CMO.com. “Digital makes that possible. It’s like people can now walk in and look around online. Are you the kind of people I’d like to do business with? Is this the kind of company I want to work for?”
The company’s commitment to content came about when Emerson became serious about social media about five years ago. It quickly learned that meant having the digital content to feed the beast, so to speak.
Emerson tapped its alpha employees—the people who were naturally interested in the various aspects of the business. “They actually are your very first movers,” Button-Bell said. “We trained 100 marketing and senior management people as the first wave of people with what we wanted our brand voice to be.”
Also part of that training was how to listen on social and share relevant content. Then, about two years ago, Emerson identified subject-matter experts throughout its business—scientists, engineers, etc.—and leaned on them to help the company build communities around its various businesses via blogs.
“Blogs are a controlled experiment into broader content marketing,” Button-Bell said. “It's pretty safe. Blogs give you a platform to start to more aggressively create programs and create the ecosystem to truly start sharing things in a really efficient way so that you get the sort of arithmetic build or exponential build of messages.”
Today, Emerson has several blogs that cover topics relevant to its business. I Love STEM, for example, geared at Generation Z, is all about supporting STEM education, with an eye toward reaching out now to future Emerson employees, customers, and partners. The blog features a mix of curated and original content, and is just one component of the company’s year-long “I Love STEM” integrated campaign, which features Hank Green, the popular SciShow host and YouTube sensation. The goal of the campaign and all the content the company is generating to support the effort is to get people excited about the innovations made possible through science and giving back to the industry.
In the first four months since its launch, the I Love STEM page garnered 42,893 total page views and 32,844 unique visits. The Hank Green video has more than 439,000 views.
Another successful Emerson blog is “The Extra Mile With Charlie,” which is run by senior executive VP Charlie Peters, who has been with the company since 1975. He focuses on leadership advice and mentorship.
Emerson also operates more technical blogs, focusing on its five business units: Process Management, Industrial Automation, Network Power, Climate Technologies, and Commercial & Residential Solutions. Each of the five groups is tasked with staying on-topic and developing blog and social media content.
“Emerson Process Experts,” for example, is run by chief blogger Jim Cahill and highlights the experts within Emerson Process Management. “Modeling and Control” is geared at automation professionals and run by two Emerson automation Hall of Fame technologists. The company also has an online community for automation professionals, called “Emerson Exchange 365,” designed as an online destination where professionals can ask questions, share expertise, and network with peers.
“We encourage the groups to humanize what they’re doing,” Button-Bell told CMO.com. “We at corporate have a centralized group, and we have more of a generalized collection of content that we share from around the company.”
The corporate team at Emerson also focuses on employee-centric content, with the goal of keeping people excited and proud to be working for the company. Employee-facing content focuses on leadership, company information, and philanthropy, and is predominantly shared on Facebook. Emerson has more than 135,000 employees worldwide, so having a strategy to turn those employees into advocates is key for the company, Button-Bell explained. Emerson’s content strategy for employees is meant to create morale.
In particular, the company celebrated its 125th anniversary at the beginning of this year. Emerson launched a campaign targeting new talent, customers, existing employees, and investors. The strategy was to attract new talent by telling Emerson’s story of a higher purpose, showcase it as an integrated, solutions-based progressive company, and to build pride and engagement among employees.
To get employees excited and talking about the anniversary, the company encouraged them to submit videos of themselves celebrating. With 235 manufacturing locations worldwide, the participation level was “through the roof,” Button-Bell said. Folks in Manila did flash mobs, and employees in China danced, for example. The videos were shared on the company's website and on social media, giving potential employees a glimpse at what it’s like to work at Emerson. A compilation video was viewed 20,708 times by existing employees alone.
Additionally, the company relies on storytelling via digital channels to get people to better understand its history and to engage with “science nerds,” which is a new approach for this traditional Midwestern industrial company.
“The best practice I can share for content creation, whether it is partner, customer, or employee-facing, is you have to create something that people are going to value and share,” Button-Bell said. Visual content, such as images and video, tend to resonate better with people, she added.
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