Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Talking Social with Marriott's SVP of Global PR

There are a handful of well respected, global companies that receive constant praise for their enterprise-wide adoption of social media.

Online retailer Zappos is one example.  Computer maker and IT services shop Dell is another.

The reason for this adulation became quite clear to me on Monday after a group of us at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) spent 90 minutes with Gordon Lambourne, Senior Vice President, Global Public Relations at Marriott International.  Gordon visited with our team at as part of our ongoing professional development and guest speaker series. 

Gordon Lambourne, Marriott's SVP of Global PR
The process of infusing social media into an organization's global operations is complex and full of risk. Consider the following about Marriott:

-150,000 employees worldwide
-3,500 hotels under management
-18 distinct property brands, including high-end offerings such Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott to extended stay business products like ExecuStay
-Rapid international expansion into emerging markets in southeast Asia, Africa and eastern Europe

According to Gordon, Marriott is following a disciplined and structured path to empower its employees to actively engage in social media.  Corporate guidelines are in development and will eventually be rolled out through the company's four global operation centers.

I suspect there are some social media consultants who would chide Marriott for this rather bureaucratic approach to social media adoption.

However, I'm going to applaud Gordon and Marriott for this cautious approach.  The company simply has too much invested in its brand and reputation to allow for social participation by its employees without well defined guidelines.

Plus, Marriott's embrace of social media starts at the very top.  The company's CEO publishes a blog called Marriott on the Move that he personally develops content for and partially measures success by how the blog spurs online reservations.

Gordon summed up Marriott's global view of social media well by explaining, "With social media it is obvious that the more you try to control it, the less you can.  It just may take us awhile to get there."

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