Wellspring Digital Chats – Scott Monty, Former Social Media Marketing Svengali at Ford, Keynote, Consultant

If you’ve read any good book on social media marketing, then chances are very likely that you heard of Scott Monty. Scott’s efforts with social media marketing at Ford Motor Company are legendary.

scott-monty

The former CEO of Ford Motor Company, Alan Mullaly, called Scott a “visionary.” That’s high praise from someone like Alan.

But, there is much more to Scott than just what he did while at Ford. He is a sought after consultant, keynote, and video podcast guest. 😉

In this we discuss…

  1. Empathy in Marketing
  2. Regis Philbin and The Importance of Connection
  3. What Scott Still Likes about Social Media
  4. The Positive Marketing Repercussions of COVID-19
  5. Politics and Social Media

Enough from me, let’s dive in and get some of that good Scott Monty knowledge…

Digital Transcription – Edited for Readability

Introductions

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Welcome to the Wellspring Digital Chat. I am Jon-Mikel Bailey and this is where we bring marketing brains directly to you. Today, we have a legendary marketer Scott Monty. Scott, please take a moment to introduce yourself to these fine folks.

Scott Monty: Sure, I don’t know about the legendary part, Jon, I’ll just go with marketer. I am Scott Monty, I am the principal of Scott Monty Strategies where I help leaders and their teams become better leaders, better communicators, and better humans.

For six years I was the Global Head of digital communications and social media for Ford Motor Company, their first one ever. And after that, I decided to go into consulting on my own to share some of my observations of marketing, communications, and leadership with other companies that are struggling with the same.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: And I think we’re all better off for it. I’m really excited to have you here, mostly because, you know, I’ve been on social media since the early early days. And for as long as I’ve been reading books about social media, I’ve been seeing your name mentioned, as you know, Scott Monty, from Ford, and the things that you’ve done.

So I’ve been familiar with your name, and your work, and we’re friends on Facebook, and I see your posts. And so it’s really exciting to have this conversation with you. And I’m excited to dive in. So without further ado, if you don’t mind, let’s jump in…

Empathy in Marketing

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So you wrote recently a post about empathy and I think it goes beyond most of what I’ve seen lately. And while your post was much broader in scope, I’d like to ask about empathy specifically in marketing, and what I wanted to know is kind of a two-part question, what is marketing without empathy? And conversely, what does marketing look like with empathy?

Scott Monty: Well, thank thanks for referencing that post, Jon. You know, I write a newsletter called Timeless and Timely. And I typically explore some of these issues that executives and businesses are grappling with and I do it in a bit of a different lens. It’s not your typical marketing newsletter, I think you’d agree.

I look at history, I look at philosophy, I look at literature for inspiration for where we’ve been before to help predict where we’re going. And with respect to empathy. It just feels like we’re in a bit of a dip and to me, empathy is closely associated with trust. Because when you think about it, and we’ve heard lots of companies in the last decade talking about the need to build trust, right?

But without empathy, there can be no trust. If you can’t understand what people are going through, the struggles they have, the opportunities they’re looking for, and how you can provide them value along the way, if you don’t understand that, there’s no need for them to trust you.

And it’s not just about understanding their challenges. It’s demonstrating that you understand what their challenges are. I think the best brands do that. Think about that iconic reveal. I think we’re going back to 2003 or so maybe 2005. Way back when Steve Jobs revealed the iPod. Well, did anyone say “I need a device In My Pocket that can carry 1000 songs?” No, but he understood the human need for music and the ability for people to make it portable and more convenient.

And taking all of those things together, it was through empathy, as well as through great design and marketing that Apple came out with the iPod. Right? So I think that’s what happens when you have empathy as a company. When you don’t have empathy, it’s simply tone-deaf.

I mean, I could be very glib and cynical about this and say marketing without empathy is advertising. But I think that gives advertising a little bit of a short trip. And I think our best ads actually do show a lot of empathy.

But when we feel like we’re being sold to rather than brought along a journey, I think that’s what happens when companies lack empathy, when they are is simply too concerned with themselves and the latest thing that they’ve bought the market versus what it helps you do, how it helps you live your life, how it provides value to you in the process.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It’s a difficult lesson to learn, I think a lot of marketers and businesses and people, in general, could really use a bit more empathy, the practice of empathy. So I think it’s important. I think that’s an important post and I’ll link it in in the comment in the transcription below. But I think it’s an important post for people to read because you really do dive deep into the concept of empathy. So I appreciate that.

Regis Philbin and The Importance of Connection

So if you’ll in divulge me a bit, my wife subscribes to People Magazine, so here’s a kind of a weird reference. So, Regis Philbin had Live with Regis and Kelly or Kathy or whoever it was, and he recently passed away? And so there was this big write up on him. And so I read that article.

And it was talking about how he and Kathie Lee would not talk to each other before the show started every morning so that when they had their sort of 15 minutes of that initial banter, it would be it, would come across as, you know, a “real” normal conversation. And, and I think that one of the goals of that was for not only for them to appear authentic, but to make an authentic connection with their audience and establish some level of trust in the sense that they were trying to portray themselves as real human beings, as people that could be trusted and related to.

So I bring all of this up to ask, you know, is empathy a two-way street? Do customers need to also empathize with a brand like the audience does with Regis or did with Regis and Kathy Lee, if that makes sense?

Scott Monty: That, that is such a great point. And a great question, Jon, I mean, I get the two-way street. First of all, I loved Regis, you know, just so full of energy, and infectiousness, and you felt that coming through the television, his joy of being, and his wife’s name was Joy, by the way, this joy of being on morning television every day.

You could tell how excited he was to be there. You could tell when he was bereft and exasperated about something, he just he wore his emotions on his sleeve. And to your point, you can’t do that after three rehearsals. And Johnny Carson was the same way. Johnny Carson would never mingle with his guests in the green room before the show because he wanted to be there at interactions that he wanted them to be authentic.

To your point, people can smell a line of BS a mile away and they can tell when you’re not authentic. They can tell when you’re reading off the teleprompter, or when you are reading off the teleprompter and don’t mean the words behind what it is that you’re saying. I know plenty of executives and leaders of all stripes that rely on teleprompters as not to fumble.

But if you feel like what they’re reading doesn’t match with their actions and doesn’t match with who they are as a person, then it doesn’t even matter. So this idea of empathy and trust being a two-way street, this is why at Ford we were so adamant on getting our people out in front.

It wasn’t just a logo talking to you on social media. It was “you’re meeting the men and women of Ford Motor Company, who were making the great products, who had your safety in mind, who were on the cutting edge of technology, and you understood the challenges that they went through professionally and personally.” And this made Ford more human to people and therefore more trustworthy in consumer’s eyes.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s and, you know, I feel like I’ve been talking about that more and more pardon the tractor in the background. I’m, I’m on a farm. So occasionally we have tractor noises.

Scott Monty: We’ve got lawn mowers in the neighborhood. Okay, too. So I think it may be in stereo.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It’s part of the COVID charm. So yeah, you know, I think the humanization of brands, you know, it’s a buzzword right now. But at the same time, I think it’s very important. So yeah. Great point.

What Scott Monty Still Likes about Social Media

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So you are of course known very much so for your time at Ford and the things you did with social media at Ford. Now, it’s been a while, a lot has changed and probably will continue to change, but just to stay on a positive note here, what do you still like about social media?

Scott Monty: Well, I think, believe it or not, social media still has a lot of untapped power. We’ve seen how the power has been tapped over the last, I guess, decade, decade and a half or so around, but it’s still got a lot of potential. I think, to me, it’s about the power of, and let’s talk about this from a corporate perspective, from a business perspective, it’s still got the power to connect humans, from behind the firewall to consumers.

To not necessarily use it the way that budgets have driven it to be used, which is as an advertising and marketing tool, but as an opportunity to solicit feedback, to get in touch with executives to make yourself heard, and to know that you’re being listened to. I still think the power of speed from external to internal is still there. And there’s still a lot left that can be done with it.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It’s really again about the empathy that you’re talking about it. It is a channel where you can further pursue, you know, those empathetic causes that you’re trying to put in place.

Scott Monty: It really is. I’ll give you a quick story if I can, Jon. I was up in a big meeting and Ford Motor Company up on the top floor in the Thunderbird room, this big circular table, almost, if you ever saw Dr. Strangelove, it’s kind of like a gentleman you can’t fight in here. This is the war room.

So here I am invited to give an update on the state of social media of Ford and of the industry. And Alan Mulally, who was the CEO at the time, gave up his seat. I sat in his chair. So I was flanked by the CEO and the CFO. And the CFO was probably the most skeptical person in the room on social media these days.

He didn’t understand why we were wasting our money and our resources on this. Productivity was down, you know. So I felt like there was a hard sell to make going in and we already talked just a few minutes ago about what it feels like when you’re getting a hard sell. So every executive in the room at that time, and this was probably the spring of 2010, concerned about fuel economy and oil and gas prices

So I went on the Ford corporate account, and I tweeted out “what would be the ideal mpg miles per gallon you’d like to see out of your next car,” and I gave my presentation. 20 minutes later, came back, opened up the Twitter feed for all the executives to see. And there was a whole range of answers.

Everything from doesn’t matter what the mpg is. I’ve got V8 engine in it all the way up to the then fanciful and fictional 300 miles per gallon, right? Most of the answers, Jon, we’re right within 30 to 40 miles per gallon range, which is exactly where the Ford strategy was leading. So, in essence, what we had was real-time data to back up the company strategy.

The CFO who was seated next to me, it was a British guy sitting there, he’s got his glasses on the end of his nose, touch them up on his forehead, and he goes, “you know, if I had insights like this every day, I would find it invaluable.” Wow, game set and match, right? All I had to do was to speak his language.

2000 years ago, Cicero said, “if you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.” The CFO doesn’t need a bunch of memes from social accounts, but if he gets business intelligence back, that’s something that can help him and the rest of the company do their job. So that was a great lesson to me and empathizing with an executive at the table, and being able to speak their language.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So I’m just gonna subtitle this whole interview, empathy.

Scott Monty: I’d be okay. Right.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah, why not? Yeah, it’s important.

The Positive Marketing Repercussions of COVID-19

Jon-Mikel Bailey: All right. So, the pandemic, good old COVID our buddy COVID. I want to kind of stay positive here. Do you think there are any positive repercussions for marketers or small business owners? You know, assuming they get out of this nightmare, a lot of small business owners, is there anything that will come of this that could put us in a net positive in your mind?

Scott Monty: If anything, I think what this has done for us is it has given us a sense of corporate empathy. Right now, previously, you went to the office, you did your job, if you have meetings that ran late, just stayed late. Then what happens, you’re in the car commuting home, you’re stressed out because maybe you’re going to miss your kid’s bedtime, or maybe you’re going to miss your favorite show or whatever it is.

There are 1000 different reasons that we all have behind why it is we work and the struggles that we have outside of work. And I think given that everyone has essentially worked from – and when I say everyone, I’m just talking more about knowledge workers, I know there’s a lot of essential workers, right, a lot of blue-collar workers that are still out there doing their job, and God bless them – but as far as people that have white-collar jobs, we’ve all been working remotely.

And I think what that has the opportunity to do that hasn’t already done so is to create a sense of empathy in our leaders to say, “Hmm, now I understand what it’s like, for the working mom to balance having kids and the job or what a single dad goes through,” or, you know, I mean, create your scenario.

Now, we might be a little more willing, as we go back, to allow people to work in a hybrid model to work a couple of days in the office and a couple of days at home, we’ve realized that productivity, not only has it not decreased, it’s actually increased as we’ve allowed people to work on their own time and to still accomplish the same goals. So if anything coming out of this, I think we’re going to have a sense of corporate empathy for how we approach our work.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s interesting. I agree. And I’ve seen it across the board. And, you know, one positive for me is that I’ve had people like you are more readily available to me to do these interviews because most people are stuck at home.

Politics and Social Media

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So finally, I want to talk about politics for a minute. So you’ve made no mistake about your politics on social media channels. I see the same from people, like Chris Penn and others. And while some people avoid politics like the plague, pun intended, I wonder are people being disingenuous?

politics-social-media

By avoiding political talk on social media, in other words, how important is it to be your truest self on social media, especially when we talk about empathy? Even if you’re a public figure, business leader, or even a marketer, how important it is to be your truest self and to make your political thoughts known? Or is it?

Scott Monty: Wow, I’m sure we couldn’t have talked about something less controversial, like religion or sex. Like the third rail of conversations. Look, Sky High, right. When I was at Ford, I wouldn’t touch politics with a 10-foot pole. I couldn’t afford to, I was a public figure.

And look, I still am but a public figure serving a public company. We couldn’t afford to alienate one side or the other, you know, to Ford. Our demographic was people who drive. Doesn’t matter whether you’re blue, red, purple, or anything in between. So to me, it has to be outside of corporate restrictions, things that are the norm within your company. It has to be a personal choice.

And I could very well have gone on not saying anything, and just posting about business and leadership and social media and cat pictures or whatever else, Sherlock Holmes. I don’t post cat pictures, by the way, I’m not. I’m more of a dog guy. But, but at a certain point, I realized that a couple of things:

  1. My personal brand is built on integrity and built on authenticity. And I feel like if I am not speaking my mind, and if I am not true to myself, and if I am not true to the virtues of leadership that I stand for and coach executives on, then I have no business.
  2. The second thing is I have a fairly large platform, you know, 100,000 followers on Twitter, 40 something thousand followers on Facebook. I felt like I had an obligation as someone with a platform who believes in integrity and decency to stand up and make my views known, because, in my opinion, what we have seen in the last three and a half years as far as leadership goes, I’m not going to talk about policies all I’m just talking about leadership style has been an abomination and an aberration from all that is normal. And it is not the kind of leadership I would point to, to my children, nor to my clients to say “be more like this.” To me, I will speak out when there are unethical things happening, when there’s corruption happening, and when there are norms and certainly laws that are being broken.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I feel like that is one of the benefits of social media, is it gives people the platform to, especially if they have the large follower numbers like you have, to shine a light on, you know, things that are happening that that are just not good. And I think that can go on both sides of the aisle. So interesting.

We get asked all the time by clients, “should we be political?” I love your answer about staying true to your personal brand. And I think if corporations just look at themselves and look at their own brand and their own core values, the answer probably lies within?

Scott Monty:

That’s exactly right, Jon. I mean, you see, so many companies that have tried in the last, I don’t know, half-decade or so, to get on board with the “Corporate Social Responsibility” thing. And now, of course, it’s being expressed with Black Lives Matter. And a lot of the changes they’re making are surface-level changes. They’re not fundamentally a part of the DNA of the company.

And again, we go back to what we talked about earlier, people can sense that when it’s not authentic when it’s not who you are as a company as a brand as a leader. And you’re simply mouthing the words, whether it’s from a teleprompter, or from a policy paper on corporate social responsibility. People can see through when it’s not what you intend to do and who you are.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Well, I can’t think of a better place to leave it. That is an excellent point and words to live by. Shout it from the rooftops. So Scott, I really appreciate you being here. This has been great. And thank you so much.

Scott Monty: It’s my great pleasure, Jon, thank you so much for inviting me here.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s it, folks. Stay safe. Thank you.

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Jon-Mikel Bailey is the Chief Development and Marketing Officer for Wellspring Digital, a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in SEO, PPC, Marketing Automation, and Content Marketing. He has been published in MarketingProfs, Business2Community, SpinSucks, {Grow}, Social Media Today, and more. He has spoken at the Digital Summit Series, MarketingProfs, ITE, Grant Thornton, and others.

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