Phil Watson

“One of the fundamental issues I had with being a reporter was that you’re always on the sidelines reporting on what other people are doing.”

A big part of my job is making sure we have a strategy tied to anything we’re doing in social media.

Like many SocialMedia.org members, before Phil Watson began working in corporate communications, he was a journalist.

He covered public safety issues for The Sun News, and state and government issues in South Carolina and Georgia for The Augusta Chronicle Newspaper. Phil was there when the media was one of the first industries to try their hand at social and digital content.

But, tired of being on the sidelines, Phil says, “I wanted to be one of the ones doing something.”

So Phil took his understanding of the PR world to a huge, project-based BtoB, Fluor.

As a part of the Corporate Communications organization at Fluor, Phil says he had plenty to learn about corporate structures in large, complex organizations.

“The fundamental communications knowledge was there from my time as a reporter. But the most challenging thing was learning about corporate cultures for a large corporation. It’s very different from working for a media outlet, in my opinion,” Phil explains.

And after nine years at Fluor, Phil shifted to a role more focused on social media at Michelin.

“My first priority at Michelin was to understand our structure, culture, values, and challenges.”

Social media allows you to constantly test new things.

He says it felt important to him to meet face-to-face with people at Michelin offices across the country and the globe to find a way to make social work to the advantage of all of these aspects.

Now, Phil’s been their Corporate Social Media Manager for almost two years, and he’s focused much of his efforts on social media governance.

“Many large companies got into social several years back without much governance, and this can lead to channels being opened by different silos within the company without much oversight, strategy, or coordination. Now, a big part of my job is making sure we have a strategy tied to anything we’re doing in social media.”

He’s also focused on making sure consumer experiences in social are part of the premium Michelin brand experience.

That includes a big opportunity to integrate social media into the many exclusive events Michelin attends. For example, before the gates opened at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the United Kingdom this past June, Michelin was on the ground livestreaming behind-the-scenes content on Periscope.

One of the most interesting things that came out of that livestream: Taking real-time requests from fans. Phil says, “People were asking ‘Can you walk over to this car?’ and we got to show people what they want to see in real-time.”

“It’s another example of Michelin providing an experience to our fans that they’re passionate about.”

“I like having a license to test and learn new things,” Phil says.

For example, one of Michelin’s most successful user-generated content campaigns came from asking fans to share stories from the time they got their first car. They also shared this heartwarming video of teens in that exact moment:

It came from Michelin’s research that backed up the idea that people remembered their first car, thought about it, and liked to talk about it. And it earned Phil’s team over 2,000 photos and videos from fans for the #FirstCarMoment hashtag.

“Social media allows you to constantly test new things — not all of them work — but sometimes they do, and we learn from everything we try.”

Follow Phil on Twitter and ask about Michelin’s influencer program built to teach teens about tire safety and his plans to leverage more of the brand’s iconic mascot, the Michelin Man, in the future.


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