Cisco Networks, which had been communicating for years with tech and business journalists about its products, recently has hired some of them to write about its industry.
Cisco introduced The Network in June 2011, a website with stories focused on news about the cloud, technology, data centers, security, and mobility. It reached out to the writers from publications like Businessweek and The Wall Street Journal, and asked them if they’d like to contribute.
Karen Snell, digital content lead of social media for Cisco, said the company asked the journalists to write about industry trends, not necessarily about Cisco. Some were apprehensive.
“It’s a hard sell,” she explained. “You’re the corporation going to journalists saying, ‘We want you to write for us.’ We told them our approach is to develop engaging stories about tech trends, and that we wanted them to write a story just as they would write it for Newsweek or The New York Times, but they happen to be writing it for Cisco. We gave very few parameters.”
Along with articles on Cisco-related topics, the company began producing My Networked Life, a video series featuring the stories of entrepreneurs around the world. One features Enes Kutluca, an environmental engineer from Turkey who “envisions a future where every household will treat their own waste water and produce their own energy,” and another focuses on Juliana Machado Ferreira, a Brazilian trying to start a Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in her country. Nine episodes have been produced.
Snell said that The Network put out these videos to tell stories about networking technology in ways that everyone could understand. “[We focused on] how connected technology enables you to pursue your dreams and reach your goals,” she said. “We targeted the next generation work force and did it mini-documentary style. It’s a day in the life.”
Each week, The Network publishes two original pieces of written content and one video. The goal of the site is to reach analysts, investors, industry influencers, journalists, customers, and decision makers in businesses.
Instead of measuring traffic, John Earnhardt, director of corporate communications and social media, said that his company tracks engagement. And rather than looking at the number of engagements, he analyzes the quality of those shares instead. “We want people to share the information and have them validate it and [show] it’s important enough to email it or share it through Twitter or Facebook,” he said.
According to Earnhardt, My Networked Life has been the site’s most popular content. Depending on the type of stories the editors are posting in any given week, they promote it through various channels — Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
“Innovation doesn’t just mean building a better widget. It’s trying to deliver — in our case — messages, stories, and concepts that are sometimes very complex and trying to package them in different ways so we can reach the intended audience,” he said. “We are trying to innovate around the reality of the marketplace.”