As Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP, Eric Kintz leads HP’s marketing strategy worldwide. He’s also the author of The Marketing Excellence blog where he openly discusses industry trends and writes about the future of the marketing function in the high-tech industry. Despite his busy schedule, Eric was nice enough to answer my questions about blogging at HP and elsewhere. Below is this long interview conducted via e-mail.
Roland: IBM, Sun or Microsoft had legions of bloggers a long time before HP. Who took the decision to catch up these other companies and to start the blogging initiative at HP?
Eric: The way you’ve phrased your question is a bit leading. Most tech companies had legions of bloggers communicating with their peer groups. HP was no different. Employees from HP hosted blogs both internally and externally. In 2004 HP decided to provide a formal space within HP.com for those conversations to take place. I believe IBM made a similar decision later in 2005.
On HP’s side, we opened the formal blog platform because our business leaders saw an opportunity to extend the conversations they were having with customers to a much broader distribution. Our enterprise businesses took the lead with a number of executives launching their own blogs on hp.com. From there, platform use expanded to other business groups within the company.
Roland: As this is your job, you’re writing mainly about marketing: how people react to your posts inside and outside HP? Are you pleased by their comments?
Eric: I have been surprised at how positively people have reacted to my blog both externally and internally. Externally I think bloggers have been appreciative of the fact that I have blogged about the future direction of marketing and how HP is responding to these trends vs. blogging about how great HP is. They also have appreciated that I was willing to engage in the blogosphere and learn from other bloggers, this is a humbling experience and I learn every day.
Internally, my blog has spread through word of mouth and has given me the opportunity to connect throughout the world with HP people who have a passion for web 2.0 and are driving innovation in all corners and levels of the organization. Here is one recent example of a HP viral marketing campaign that I discovered through my blog. I have also connected with HP Labs and discovered the great research they were conducting around word of mouth and social networks.
Roland: When did you start your blog? And can you give me some numbers (posts per month, number of visitors from inside and outside HP)?
Eric: I started my blog in April and my traffic has been increasing every month since. I have approximately 10,000 visitors every month, mostly from outside of HP. I post on average once a week, which allows me to focus on going deeper in the topics/insights vs. just reporting news or what other bloggers say. My blog was recently recognized as the #3 CMO blog by the Daily Fix Blog published by MarketingProfs.
Roland: Has this blog changed your work by reducing the ‘distance’ between you and your customers?
Eric: It has not changed my work per se, but it has allowed me to keep up to speed in a much more effective manner with the most critical marketing innovation developments by writing about new concepts, putting them to the test of the blogosphere and engaging with fellow bloggers.
One of the most interesting and rewarding experiences was getting recently together with leading marketing bloggers and sharing thoughts around the opportunities and challenges of blogging –- we wrote a joint post and cross-posted on all our blogs and it was really well received.
Roland: How many HP executives have a blog now?
Eric: Nine executives have a HP hosted blog but many more have their own blogs outside of the HP platform. A great example is Phil Mckinney, the Chief Technology Officer for our PC business[, who writes the Killer Innovations blog.
Roland: And how many HP employees blog outside from the official platform?
Eric: It is difficult to say as many have personal blogs talking about their family or hobbies. Clearly many employees have their own blog outside of the HP hosted platform; I think it is a great thing as it helps employees better understand what blogging is about and how they can use these new communication platforms in their work.
Roland: Is there a corporate blogging policy?
Eric: Yes, we do have a corporate blogging policy and guidelines in place. I strongly recommend that every large company have one, even if they don’t want to start their own blogging platform. The blogging policy is structured around 6 key guidelines and best practices to help HP employees make the most of blogging’s potential.
Roland: Time is often an issue with blogging: how do you find the time to do it? and how much time do you spend between reading, researching and writing? Is is part of your official job?
Eric: Time is clearly a very difficult issue, which I personally struggle with a lot. I tend to write on planes or in the evening. I usually take a few weeks to write a post, coming up with the initial idea though reading or by connecting with somebody and develop my thoughts over a period of time. Each post takes approximately 2-3 hours to write if you add up the various pieces. Blogging is not part of my official job but driving marketing innovation is and I view blogging as an enabler of that responsibility.
Roland: Besides writing about marketing issues, do you use your blog to stay in touch with other French people living in Silicon Valley?
Eric: Not really… Most people do not know that I am French! Shhhh… But it’s a great idea!
Roland: Besides that, are you happy to live in the U.S? And do you plan to return to France one day?
Eric: I really enjoy living in California. It has an amazing combination of business innovation and great outdoor lifestyle. I would have a hard time living elsewhere…
Roland: Are you hooked to blogs? Could you stop blogging tomorrow?
Eric: I am definitely hooked; I have come to realize how much quicker I get the information I need and learn about new trends. More and more mainstream media journalists get their news from blogs and it is already old news when I read it in the newspaper. I think I could stop blogging but I cannot stop reading blogs.
Roland: Do you plan to use sometimes your blog as a promotional tool, like Jonathan Schwartz does implicitly for Sun from time to time?
Eric: Do you mean for example when Jonathan blogs about publicity stunts? :) I do blog about HP initiatives when I think that we are doing something cool in marketing.
Roland: Where is going HP now that IBM sold its PC division to IBM? Do you want to be #1 and replace IBM?
Eric: According to financial analysts and some media, HP may well be the largest technology company by the end of this year. [For example, you can read “Tech Has A New Top Dog” (BusinessWeek Magazine, June 19, 2006 issue).]
Roland: Finally, do you have a message to deliver to my readers?
Eric: Learn more about the blogosphere (personally and as marketer), understand its power as well as its shortcomings. Is there too much hype? OF COURSE! However remember the hype surrounding the first wave of dot-coms, remember the craze, remember the crash but remember also that Google came out of this period and changed for ever the landscape of advertising.
Roland: Eric, thank you for taking the time for this conversation.
Sources: Eric Kintz, September-November 2006; and various websites
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