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Cisco’s Foray into Brand Journalism

This guest post is by John Earhardt, Director of Social Media Communications at Cisco on the important of brand journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @urnhart.

Why My Mom Invented Social Media

As Brian Solis stated in a recent blog entry, “social media has never been about the technology as much as it has been governed by social science.” There you have it! Brian Solis has just confirmed that my mom invented social media.

No, my mom’s last name is not Winklevoss or Zuckerberg. She is not on Facebook. She is not on Twitter. But starting when I went to college some eleventy-seven years ago, she started mailing me articles that she thinks I might like. “Thought you might be interested in this” she’ll scrawl on the top of an article in the Wall Street Journal that she has ripped out of the Marketplace section. This is social media at its core. And she still does this.

She knows me. She knows what I am interested in. She is willing to take the action to share that information directly with me. She is making a piece of media (an article) social. Social is sharing. And, as my four-year old says, “sharing is caring.” That’s the social science part that Brian talks about.

Technology clearly allows us to do this a little easier than the analog method that my mom still chooses. We can e-mail an article to a specific person or a few people. We can opt to share something with our friends on Facebook or our followers on Twitter. We can offer an insightful comment on someone else’s piece of content.

In my mind, a piece of content that is shared with a friend, or friends, or followers, or the world is the ultimate measurement of its success. 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. They know the audience they are trying to reach and they target it to that audience with the sharing technology that is appropriate.

INTRODUCING: “THE NETWORK” – Cisco’s technology news site

This brings me to what I do at Cisco. I lead the Social Media team within Corporate Communications. We own and develop the corporate social media “pipes.” Facebook, Twitter, Talk2Cisco Ustream, our corporate blog (The Platform), LinkedIn, and our corporate newsroom among others. We use these tools and channels for different things to reach different audiences, but all of them are there to make us accessible as a company and share information about the cool, innovative things that we are doing at Cisco.

homepage with comments v2

Our latest project is a revamp of our corporate news site, currently known as “News@Cisco” and now being renamed (voted on by our Facebook followers) to “The Network.” The Network is our effort to tell stories and share information on the topics that are the most important to Cisco, namely: Video, Collaboration, Core Networks, Data Center, Cisco Culture…and, more parochially to my team, Social Media.

contributing writers
We will create, share and curate content on these topics as a part of our overall Cisco voice. We have engaged world-class reporters who have worked at Fortune, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, AP and more to create content on the technology news topics that we want our audience to care about and, ultimately, share with their social footprint. The purpose of these stories isn’t to showcase Cisco or our technology, but to create compelling content in the topical areas that we care about. This is content that you might read on any other technology or business news site. 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. Some are calling this “branded journalism,” but I just call it content creation around the topics that we care about.

Sure, we’re also going to use The Network to tell our own stories on innovation or highlight our smart employees and the good work they are doing. We hope our audience finds this information compelling and “share worthy” as well, but because we will embed the number of views a piece of content gets, its tweets, it’s Facebook likes, etc. into the actual piece and allow our readers to sort content by most viewed and most shared by week, month and year, they can easily see what others are reading and sharing. The ultimate validation of a piece of content might be measured by page views, but it also might be measured by how many comments it gets. After all, is starting a conversation on a technical topic that a few are passionate about less important than reaching 10’s of thousands of readers? I think they’re both important and I hope The Network can play a role in the discussions that are happening on the topics of video, collaboration, data center and core networking…and, hopefully, we can start a discussion on occasion as well.


The Network has been a lot of work by a small amount of people within Cisco and we’ll see if our new editorial and content philosophy resonates with our audience. Actually, because of the measurement tools embedded into the pieces, we’ll all see.

My general editorial philosophy and approach to The Network can also be applied to what I think about social media holistically.

These are the principles that I follow:

  1. Offer Value (this can be defined in many ways)
  2. Push it to the audience you want to see it (that can be one person, that can be many people)
  3. Stick to a core set of themes (this will allow your audience to self-select whether they want to receive your information) (or, stated differently, if you stand for everything, you stand for nothing)
  4. Don’t always talk about yourself.
  5. Repeat

This will allow your audience to see if they want to join in the conversation.

This is part of a series on brand journalism as told by the brands that are paving the way. Please send me a note if you would like to tell your company’s story on its move to what Tom Foremski dubbed EC=MC, Every Company is a Media Company. Please visit The Network for more information. [Disclosure, Cisco is a client of Altimeter Group.]

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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16 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Cisco’s Foray into Brand Journalism”

  1. Gogi says:

    Nice Post .. Waiting for more posts from you ..

  2. OopEducation says:

    splended Post … Keep up the great work 


  3. Sdevaughn says:

    Sounds like one hell of an orchestration job.  I’d love to read a “day in the life” post.  Keep up the good work and best wishes…/sd

  4. Digipendent says:

    Phenomenal post John! Brian once stated that the new CEO = the chief editorial offices, I couldn’t agree more. I always try to boil things down to curation & context.

    Both of which are rooted in value for the end-user aka Person/Mom/You/We/US 



  5. What a great post! Not one mention of a press release. By the way, has anyone seen a reporter lately?

  6. Jorn Sanda says:

    So much has been written about a brand’s responsibility and opportunity with social media.  So little of that content has articulated it as well as this post!  With leadership being honest,forward-looking, competent, inspiring and intelligent; this post puts Cisco aheqd of the pack.Thank you.

  7. Jorn Sanda says:

    So much has been written about a brand’s responsibility and opportunity with social media.  So little of that content has articulated it as well as this post!  With leadership being honest,forward-looking, competent, inspiring and intelligent; this post puts Cisco aheqd of the pack.Thank you.

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  9. I agree that collections of great content act as a catalyst for useful conversations. I don’t think companies have found the right publishing format just yet…in many cases they are just emulating what was the company magazine. Pushing material out to audiences is still important. But so is curating the conversations started by the audience. Perhaps it’s a hybrid model, mixing a platform that’s designed to share ideas with an active database which allows people to get a briefing on a subject they want to know more about. I’m currently experimenting with formats for various companies. The good news is that costs of curating are dropping. But the whole sector needs professionalizing if we want people to trust the content. If it’s not quality storytelling, then it is not worth making. Would like to chat with people working on the same concept.

    • Jorn Sanda says:

      Not sure if I can qualify to the requisite of ‘working on the same concept.’  It’s probably more like ‘struggling with the same concept’ – as our clients have come to us with a quest for PR, and somehow that limits their expectation to what can be done with press releases and media.  Those willing to embrace social media tend to do so in an attempt to use it as a broadcast medium – using it to state the messages they have failed to get out through traditional media.  I’m all for catalysing conversations, but I’m getting frustrated that most of my world isn’t seeing the potential for that as yet.  BUT, if I can help in any way – I’d be delighted to.

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