By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group
I was recently scrolling through my Google Reader, where one of my key words is “social media.” I caught a reference to a new study from FedEx and Ketchum that benchmarks best practices in social media. There was some good information in there I may tackle in a future blog post. But what caught my eye was Renée Horne, one of the study’s authors and staff director of digital social media engagement at FedEx.
In my day job, I cover aviation and aerospace companies that are creating and nurturing their social media efforts, and FedEx is considered a leader in the industry. And the fact that Horne is a woman of color in a position of power in an industry that is not known for its diversity made this story even more interesting to me.
And Horne has one of the most interesting career paths I’ve ever seen for someone so steeped in social media. She joined FedEx in 1996 as a financial analyst. She wound her way through jobs with increasing responsibility, including roles in finance, marketing and corporate communications. She currently leads an organization responsible for engaging internal and external audiences utilizing multimedia content, digital channels and social technologies in support of business and corporate culture initiatives. She spoke to NABJDigital about how social media fits in her company’s internal and external communications, how her past work experiences help her in her current job and how she keeps up with the social media universe.
NABJDigital: How did you make the transition to your current job?
Renée Horne: The way my career has evolved is what makes FedEx such a great place to work. I started as a financial analyst. A few years later, I transitioned into marketing, where I oversaw segment campaigns and also worked in product marketing. I then stepped into management, where I held several marketing management roles. I’ve worked in integrated marketing communications and alliance marketing before this job. FedEx has afforded me a broad breadth of experience.
ND: Many companies are struggling to decide how social media fits into their internal and external communication efforts. Why did FedEx decide this was an effort worth pursuing?
RH: I think all the trends pointed to that direction. We keep our hand on the pulse of the market to see how media is evolving and where our target audiences want to consume media. Externally, we wanted to connect and engage with stakeholders on channels they use. We also wanted to speed communications to the market and have a dialogue on content that is relevant for end users. Internally, we see social media tools and technology as avenues to connect our leadership team and employees. There are now means for engaging in our workplace through very simple tools and platforms that didn’t exist before. If you think about collaboration, it’s the same things people do on their personal time, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are direct benefits and applications for these tools in the workplace too. They’re not just for entertainment; they help us break down silos.
ND: What do your duties entail in your current job? What is a typical day for you?
RH: there really isn’t a typical day, with the realization that media is now 24/7. We have, first and foremost, the responsibility to monitor what’s being said about our brand. We receive alerts and access reports to see what’s taking place out there. In some instances, we may many have to engage to correct information or to stay informed. With my experience at FedEx, I feel as if I am able to connect communications and new media opportunities to the business in being able to tell the FedEx story. My team also handles digital content production in the form of multimedia as well including blogs, videos, photos, podcasts, slideshows all of which enable us to engage with stakeholders in the market that can influence our brand and reputation.
Another area I oversee is our business broadcast operations. That’s actually where we started long before I came along, and that has grown into the digital space. Business broadcast is our internal broadcast network where we are responsible for supporting leadership messaging and disseminating information to employees using video communications. More than 1,200 FedEx locations are served with content using TV monitors, primarily for our front line workforce. We have regular programming for mechanics and air operations workers. The network owned and operated by FedEx, and we have our own satellite and transponder.
One thing we continue to do is evolve our model. Take the commercial media landscape or commercial advertising as an example. Consumers are not watching as much TV as they used to. So we’re looking to iPads, iPhones and other handheld mobile devices to push messaging. We’re also doing it through channels like Twitter. It’s about fostering culture of engagement. We’re focused on engaging our internal and external audiences using multimedia content, digital and social channels to support the business, corporate and reputation culture objectives.
ND: What training did you have to get in order to learn all the myriad social media tools out there?
RH: There’s that old saying, “it takes village to raise a child.” And if anyone says they’re a social media expert, I’d be afraid because it new and changes so quickly. We tap into a number of resources, like conferences, webinars and our agency partners to support us. We also conduct benchmarking with other companies and do ad hoc research. I also make a habit of tapping into thought leaders in this space to see what they are following and sharing. I keep an eye on what’s happening in the market. We also maintain a Ning site for employees that houses case studies, best practices and key learning. I also try and do a regular blog posts with a fast five on trends.
ND: What are some of the social media/new media conferences that are on your must-attend list and why?
RH: FedEx invests in and recognizes ways to build the business through new media and gives us the latitude to do things that helps us all. If I chose, I could be at a conference twice a week. Being in this job for a year, you learn as you go along. Signature venues and the cream of the crop for me are SXSW, Web 2.0 and Forrester. We also have relationships with the Conference Board and others, based on what we’ve learned. The best resources are all represented at Mashable.com.