Most Innovative Meetings 2013: #6 Further With Ford

The automaker is targeting nontraditional media with an event that mixes behind-the-scenes tours, driving experiences, and celebrity speakers.

By Mitra Sorrells September 10, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Conference participants got behind the wheel of Ford’s newest vehicles at the company’s test track near its Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters.

Photo: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The media industry has changed dramatically in the past decade as power has shifted from traditional outlets such as print, television, and radio to bloggers and other new media. “Further With Ford” is an annual event Ford Motor Company created in 2011 to foster its relationship with bloggers, including those outside the automotive and business spheres such as mommy bloggers and people who write about sustainability. “Last year one of the topics at the conference was urbanization, so we invited someone from the historical preservation society because he writes the blog for them,” said Ford social media manager Karen Untereker. “We look at those categories and see if there are people who would be a good fit who might not be on our normal media list.”

Ford invites about 200 people to the conference at the company’s Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters for two and half days of panel ­discussions, behind-the-scenes tours, driving experiences, and ­social events. The majority of ­speakers at the panels are not from Ford. In 2012, actor and environmentalist Adrian Grenier participated in a discussion of eco-psychology, and fashion designer Christian Siriano spoke about “the Age of Accessible Design.” Recognizing that many bloggers focus on sharing personal experiences, Ford structured the event to make it highly interactive with multiple hands-on experiences. “Every single thing [bloggers experience] they can see and share live. We encourage that as much as possible,” Untereker said.

One new element that ­generated substantial sharing in 2012: visual note-taking. During each panel session, an artist ­created a visual representation of the ­discussion. Ford provided participants with the image and encouraged them to share it through social media.

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