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JANUARY 18, 2011

Scott Monty [r] shows Ford Motors CEO Alan Mulally a blog comment during recent auto show.

I knew Scott Monty when he was still in Boston. When I first learned he was leaving the home of the beloved Boston Celtic and Red Sox, for Detroit to work for Ford Motor Co., I kind of felt sorry for the guy.

He was leaving a very cool place for a company whose glory days seemed to me to be long ago and far away. His having to go to Ford indicated that there must be a great paucity for senior level social media jobs in the global enterprise.

Shortly before Scott was hired, I had visited Ford, on assignment for FastCompany TV and had left very much underwhelmed by Ford's grasp of social media.

The shock is that all this happen in 2008, just a tad over two years ago.

Ford Motors is now writing, blogging, tweeting, and recording on of the great industrial turnaround stories of all times. Senior players are leaving Toyota to join Ford. Their cars are getting all sorts of awards for engineering, sustainability, design and sales.

Of course, Scott Monty did not accomplish all that. But what he did accomplish is a brilliant braiding of social media into an ever-expanding part of Ford, it's culture and it's relationships with customers.

He talks about all this with a fair amount of modesty, but I'll let him take up the story from here.

You began as a medical student. From there, you became a marketing consultant before centering your interest in social media. What drove you along that course, and why?

Let me take you back just a little further.

As an undergrad, I was a Classics major studying Greek and Roman civilization, art, culture, architecture, sports, drama and history. While I planned to go to medical school, I first wanted to study some subjects other than science, since I anticipated having a lifetime of science before me.

I had no idea that I’d wind up handling digital communications for one of the world’s best-recognized brands.

As it turned out, I enjoyed the humanities more than science, but didn’t want to give up on my aspiration, so I began the first year of medical school, to try it out.

I quickly realized that while I had the personality for medicine, my patience for applying myself to the deeply scientific side was lacking.

Rather than give up on what I began, I investigated other options and discovered a dual-degree program, where I could get a master’s degree in medical science concurrently with an MBA.

With the growing importance of managed care, I figured I’d be a double threat--or at least have enough knowledge on both sides to be dangerous.

While I was working on both degrees, I concurrently worked part-time as a writer for the US. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. I was on the team that wrote the report on the transformation of the VA health care system under the proposed Clinton plan, and as a speechwriter. This writing assignment, in addition to the numerous essays I had written as a Classics major and my thesis for the master’s program, continued to influence and hone my skills as a writer – a critical element for a professional communicator.

To make a long story even longer, managed care didn’t turn out to be what I expected, and after working in it for a few years, I left to join a biotech and medical device consulting firm, doing corporate development work.

Our clients had promising early-stage technology and we found larger companies and structured the deals to bring that technology to the market.

When the tragic events of September 11 occurred, the financial markets were particularly uncertain and it meant that firms hoarded their cash, leaving our small shop absent from the revenue we needed to continue. The owner eventually shuttered our division.

Luckily, I found a home at a business-to-business marketing and advertising firm that specialized in health sciences and high tech clients. My background led me to participate in many of the key medical accounts, but I was also exposed to some of the high tech work.

In this new role, I became aware of this new topic at professional conferences – one called “social media.”

I had been personally blogging since 2000, and social media struck personal and professional chords. I began writing The Social Media Marketing Blog in mid-2006 in an effort to get some of my thoughts down and to use it as something of a laboratory and sounding board for our clients.

Since B2B marketing runs 18-to-24 months behind B2C in terms of trends, I was ahead of my time when it came to convincing clients to try the new social tools. I subsequently left and joined a consultancy that specialized in helping large companies understand and adopt social media strategies.

Looking back at my classical education, I can’t help but acknowledge that it played a significant role in how I came to do what I’m doing. As I mentioned, the writing component was a crucial one. For anyone wishing to have a career in communications, I’d recommend honing your writing skills. You need to effectively express yourself. Writing is a muscle that always needs to be exercised.

Ford has become one of the great turnaround stories of recent years. But when you chose to join Ford, most of us did not see that coming. What did you see that made you elect to uproot yourself and your family and join an enterprise that had very few achievements in social media?

Probably like many people in late 2007 – particularly those on the coasts or in the technology space, Ford was simply not on my radar. I didn’t know enough about the company to jump at the opportunity.

But when I took the time to research it a bit, looking at the management team and their philosophy (One Team. One Plan. One Goal. One Ford) and the product cadence that the company had so heavily invested in (thanks to taking out a $26 billion loan in 2006), not to mention the raw talent and passion of everyone I spoke with I saw a huge potential. I had predicted that by 2010, there would be a convergence of Ford’s product lineup and the development of the social media industry.

Not everyone recognized that. I was asked, “Why aren’t you going to a successful company like Toyota?” While we may smirk at that question now, the fact is that in early 2008, it was a much different industry. I knew that Ford’s fortunes had to turn, and I thought I’d rather be part of a success story than simply maintaining an existing one. And since the senior leadership at Ford had created the position for which I was interviewing, I knew that I’d have their.

There’s no question that leaving Boston after 20 years was difficult. But the experience has been nothing less than exhilarating. It has helped me growprofessionally and given me the chance to serve an American and global icon. In retrospect, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Ford is a very big enterprise. Just what do you do there? Who do you work with and answer to at Ford?

It is indeed.

We make vehicles in 70 locations on six continents and have over 160,000 employees. A far cry from working for a five-person shop just before I left Boston!

My position sits within Corporate Communications, overseen by Ray Day, our vice president. Ray reports directly to our CEO Alan Mulally, giving a senior seat at the table and and involving us in strategic decisions.

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