Cisco Systems may be under seige by investors-including no less than Ralph Nader-but nobody can blame the company's communications team of failing to do its part.
Earlier this month, Cisco relaunched its corporate news site with a new name- The Network-and a new approach to sharing news and information. "A piece of content that is shared with a friend, or friends, or followers, or the world is the ultimate measurement of its success," according to social media team leader John Earnhardt, writing on the Cisco blog, The Platform. "That person is validating that the piece of content they are sharing was valuable enough, interesting enough or topical enough to share with one or with many."
The Network (whose name was selected as the result of a vote by more than 180,000 of Cisco's followers) is the latest effort by a company to expand beyond traditional content and assume the characteristics of a media company. The features are summarized neatly in this video, produced (for free) over at Go Animate:
The idea is to produce sharable content that's worth sharing. The content is listed in reverse chronological order with icons to make it easy to distinguish the type of content:
The feature articles include pieces written by independent journalists, like former BusinessWeek technology columnist Steve Wildstrom, on topics that aren't necessarily about Cisco but that frame Cisco's involvement or thought leadership role. Wildstrom's piece, Big Data: The New Frontier of Analytics, for example, explores the challenges of analyzing the vast sums of data organizations collect, like the "1.5 billion items of data on customer behavior" collected each month by UK retailer Tesco.
Cisco isn't even mentioned in the article.
Earnardt explains that "The purpose of these stories isn't to showcase Cisco, but to create compelling content in the topical areas that we care about. We are supporting the generation of this content in the hopes that our audience shares it and becomes more educated on the topics that are important to Cisco and to our customers."
Which is precisely the idea behind approach content like a media company. All of the content is easy to comment on and share (although there's nothing as blatant as the overt permission to share that resides on the home page of Intel's content portal, the Free Press (at left). But Cisco is taking the two-way conversation a step further with a monthly uStream show, "Talk2Cisco," enabling discussion with company leaders.
As for third-party content, it so far links only to posts on The Platform (such as a post focusing on a Cisco infoposter looking at the Internet in 2015).
Content is also available in topic categories like Core Networks, Video, Collaboration and Social Media.
The Network's landing page also includes recent Facebook, Twitter and Flickr activity, along with a widget that lets anybody share The Network's content through their own blogs or sites.
The Network is new, so the ultimate test of Cisco's approach to content will emerge over time and according to Earnhard't own test: Are people sharing the content? I'm hopeful Earnhardt will provide updates on The Platform. But based on how the newsroom looks at launch, Cisco's on the right path to getting attention in the ever-more-crowded digital content space by pumping out interesting, diverse content that people will want to share.
Note: Earnhardt was interviewed for Ragan's PR Daily; a RaganSelect membership is required to read the interview.