By Mike Wellman
Jennifer Erickson shows off the new Xoom
JE: The communications team reports to the CMO and is always working hand-in-hand with marketing to prepare for the show — developing the booth theme, planning how we’ll highlight coreproducts and then strategizing how to create buzz in and around the show floor. Coordination is one big differentiating factor. With everything going on, we’re careful to not make any communications decisions without working closely with our marketing team on message content and timing.
This year, we felt it was key to hold an event off the show floor to ensure press, bloggers and analysts could get their hands on the latest products. We built buzz by creating a fun teaser video and anchoring all communication around that. In addition to what was done on the show floor that week, we also matched our executives with journalists to explain the new Motorola Mobility and unique benefits of our latest products.
The other, more obvious differentiating factor is the quality of the product you’re promoting. Our Atrix smartphone is a great example. While it wasn’t as hotly anticipated as other devices, the new functionalities and power within the device have left many with the general takeaway that it will define the future of mobile computing.
MW: We hear from a lot of our clients that while trade shows are an established part of how they go-to-market, demonstrating the value of participation can be iffy, at best. How do you measure the results of your participation in shows like the CES, and what do you share with your CEO?
JE: We try to move beyond the simple, volumetric gauges (coverage, event attendance, number of meetings, etc.), and strive to get more rich perspective into our performance by collecting the staff’s take on booth traffic, one-on-one conversations and general feedback while on the show floor. We also strive to learn from our social media channels, visits to our Media Center, and other feedback from afar.
Some might suggest sharing only a portion, but we share everything with our CEO.
MW: It seems like Motorola would probably have a very tech-friendly employee base who would also be excited by what gets shown. Do you have a means of getting employees involved, keeping them informed, or even leveraging them as brand advocates?
JE: I think Sanjay said it best from the NYSE floor, when he said that “Motorola Mobility becoming an independent company is a testament to our employees being passionate about what they do and what this company means to them.”
We made a decision to ensure each audience could watch the broadcast, read about the new company and its products online, and obtain consistent updates throughout CES. While it was great to see how external audiences react to our CES announcements, it was simply amazing to see the overall excitement from our global employee base. I had people on my team come over and said that they were so excited and happy to be here. During the transition, my team had the option to choose which business to join, and I think everyone who has come over is just thrilled to be here. We also saw people using our motmot platform… an internal version of twitter.
MW: Wait, motmot?
JE: Yes! motmot is actually the name of a bird, and people will use it to send messages out to the entire company or a specific group. We shared pictures and videos immediately from the show floor and sparked a lot of conversations as a result.
Motorola uses internal microblogging platform “motmot” to keep employees up-to-date on news, developments at the CES and other major shows, and the thoughts of senior leadership. (Click to enlarge)
MW: How many people use motmot (or used it prior to the separation)?
JE: We had about 10% of our employees using the tool before, and it’s growing too. People at all levels of the organization use it, and many more read it.
MW: It seems that the show is a great way to kick off the newly formed Motorola Mobility brand. Can you give us some insight into how, if at all, the Motorola Mobility brand will work differently from when it was under Motorola, Inc.? Even after the last two weeks, I’m guessing Sanjay probably won’t let you head off to the beach quite yet…
JE: We’re really excited about the opportunities ahead and viewing this as our time to behave more like an agile start-up… We have the benefit and name-recognition of an 82 year legacy and new flexibility to sharpen our consumer focus.
MW: On a related note, is there anything that’s surprised you about the separation process? What’s been most difficult, and how did you work through it?
JE: I would say that the prolonged nature of the economic downturn was something we had to navigate through. You can’t always predict the future, but you can do things to prepare yourself for the road ahead. We tried to be as deliberate and careful through the separation process as possible over the last three years.
Breaking up my team was probably what was most difficult. Communications was one of several corporate functions supporting both sides of the company and both CEOs. As we worked through the process, we had to divide the team into two individual communications teams with balanced talent.
As I mentioned, we gave team members (where possible) a choice of which side they wanted to work. Despite how hard we tried to look at the organization objectively, it was still difficult and emotional to divide what had essentially become a family into two teams.
MW: Is there any advice you would offer to a communicator new to working in PR at a high-tech company or a student looking to get into the industry?
JE: Be proactive. Think about the big picture beyond the hot new technology. Be deliberate in your networking, and get to know a lot of people in different areas. This is especially important for our industry. While high-tech is fast paced and exciting, understanding technological nuances can be tricky. By developing strong relationships with the product teams, you’ll gain go-to resources when you need to respond to a product feature inquiry or demonstrate new products to your top-tier media targets.
MW: Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself or your background?
JE: Well, an interesting fact about me is that the very first product that I worked on as an intern for Motorola in 1996 was the StarTAC phone. Do you remember that?
MW: I… do not. Sorry!
JE: It was the first clamshell-style cell phone, and really ahead of its time for what it was. People used to keep them on a lanyard and wear them around their neck (MW: That’s fashion-forward!) I have really had a unique opportunity to work in communications for a company that has gone through ups and downs and ups again. While that’s sometimes hard, I wouldn’t give that up for the world.
MW: Thanks Jennifer!