Bill Marriott, the 75-year-old chairman and CEO of Marriott International, Inc., created quite a splash back in January when he became the premier elder statesman and “poster boy” for executive bloggers everywhere when he launched his new blog, “Marriott on the move.” He’s been at it a steady 10 months now, and upon revisiting his blog, I’m even more impressed with his style and the interesting posts he delivers.
His simple blog shrugs off most of the accoutrements that clutter up so many other blogs nowadays and embraces the technology for what it’s worth: a powerful communications tool that enables him to directly connect with his customers. No embedded Flickr photos, no Twitter drivel, no cutesy icons, no astrological sign, no blog junk (badges and flair)…just Bill and his blog.
Connecting with Customers
The blog is touted as “an exchange of ideas with our guests,” on the hotel chain’s main corporate page and promoted throughout their Web site. Over the months, Bill has written about a variety of topics such as a new hotel opening in Beijing, in-room technology and Internet connectivity enhancements, cultural diversity in his workforce, global warming and Marriott’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in-hotel recycling programs, and even his view on tipping policies in restaurants.
“I’m venturing into uncharted territory as I launch this blog,” Bill stated in his inaugural post, citing that his communications team informed him of how popular blogs are in the travel and tourism industry. “Now I know this is where the action is if you want to talk to your customers directly — and hear back from them,” he added.
What’s terrific about it, though, is that Bill didn’t alter his lifestyle just to blog. According to a Washington Post story, he isn’t a big computer enthusiast and he travels a lot. So, he dictates his entries into a tape recorder which is later transcribed and posted on the blog. The original audio clip is there as well. And, he isn’t adhering to preconceived notions about timeliness – he keeps up a pace of about one post a week, which is admirable for a busy executive. Even once a month is a fine target.
The blog permits anonymous comments, which I think is necessary to really get honest feedback from customers. It isn’t the current trend, though – many organizations now required convoluted registration procedures before people can post. While this helps reduce spam, when it comes to corporate blogs, I think it significantly deters people from engaging in the discussion.
Instead, it appears that the blog is monitored closely so that spam doesn’t accumulate. His communications team also responds to certain comments on his behalf. This lets his readers know that their comments are being heard, which has helped him attract a loyal and active readership. He also includes interesting photos and images with each post, which are appropriately optimized for the Web so that the blog loads quickly.
Hip and Green Marketing
According to the Washington Post, the blog is part of Marriott’s ongoing re-branding to remain “relevant in the fast-changing hotel industry, which is adapting to a more urbane breed of traveler who communicates via the Internet and demands a sophisticated lodging experience.” In addition to room and lobby renovations (comfy new beds and a partnership with Starbucks), they’ve announced a strong commitment to greening their hotels.
Marriott has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40,000 tons annually. In 2006 alone, they replaced more than 450,000 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, switched out 4,500 outdoor signs with LED and fiber optic models, installed 400,000 low-flow showerheads, and announced a 100 percent smoke-free policy for their entire hotel chain.
Earlier this year, they received the 2007 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award from the EPA for 160 certified energy efficient hotels, more than any other hotel company, with plans to convert 85 additional properties this year.
A Two-Way Conversation
If you like what they’re doing, either online and off, take a moment to comment on Bill’s blog. Here’s an opportunity to communicate directly with the head of a Fortune 500 company, which doesn’t come along every day. Even more impressive is that it appears he’s listening.