Monday, March 30, 2009

You’ve Got to Get Your Feet Wet!

Part I of an Interview with Symantec’s Cory Edwards

I recently participated in a conference call at which Makovsky and Symantec discussed various ways B2B companies are using the social media to their advantage. (In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 25 years or so, Symantec—a member of the Fortune 500 and one of the world’s largest software companies—is a leading provider of security, storage and systems solutions.)

Anyway, I found the session so rewarding, I felt my readers too would benefit from some of the perspectives and sage advice of Cory Edwards, Senior Manager Corporate Communications. This will be a two-part interview, completed in my next blog post. In Part I, Cory tells us what triggered Symantec’s use of social media, how it has benefited Symantec and the steps the company took to generate a social media policy.

Q: What spurred Symantec’s adoption of social media as a proactive tool for PR?

A: There were a few things, and to be honest, it was really one of those over-time processes that started several years back. Nearly five years ago, in 2004, we had started monitoring mentions of Symantec in the blogosphere. We had become intrigued that year by the number of mentions that Symantec had received by random blogs that we had no interaction with. Like most people, we were impressed by the self-publishing abilities that blogs provided and the fact that it could be read by anyone globally. I remember doing a Technorati search for the term “Symantec” and getting 159 results and thinking, “Wow, look how many people have been talking about us without our knowledge?” Four years later that same search resulted in 45,000 blog mentions and there are hundreds of references to Symantec or its products each day on the Facebooks and Twitters of the world.

Q: Among the Fortune 500, Symantec is an early adopter of social media tools on its company website. What convinced you that embedding interactive media like YouTube videos and podcasts alongside traditional news assets would provide a return for the company?

A: Watching others certainly intrigued us, but what convinced us was getting our feet wet. Not everything turns out the way you’d like of course. There are definitely videos that I wish we’d been able to better promote, but all in all, it has been a very successful venture that has led to thousands of articles or links from business and trade media that we would have never had otherwise. We’re continuing to learn as we go and are finding out what type of news lends itself best to using multimedia or social media.

Q: What process did Symantec follow for creating a social media policy? Has that policy paid off?

A: It began some time ago as simply guidelines and policies for blogging, but we quickly recognized that it needed to be expanded beyond simply blogging to encompass online interactions in general. One of the challenges was trying to create a social media policy that wasn’t a “thou shalt not” document and instead a kind of enabling policy that would provide recommendations and best practices. We wanted to encourage our employees to feel comfortable interacting online about Symantec and our products when customers were having problems or when questions were being asked, etc.

I spent a good deal of time talking with other companies about their policies and approaches with social media, from tech companies like HP and Intel, to companies in completely different industries like Southwest and Caterpillar. We then created a policy and leveraged a cross-functional social media advisory group to help with its creation.

In Part II, we take a look at risks and best practices associated with a lively involvement in the social media.

Technorati Tags: Makovsky + Company, Symantec, B2B companies, social media, Fortune 500 , software company, Cory Edwards, Corporate Communications, blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, business, communications, public relations

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