How UPS repackages content to extend its reach

The shipping and logistics company reaches employees, customers and the public with content curation and ‘repurposing.’

UPS tractor-trailer operator Ron “Big Dog” Sowder has traveled the highways for 49 years without an accident, and the company figured there was a lesson in his steady driving.

Every year UPS salutes drivers like Sowder who have gone at least 25 years without an accident, admitting them into its Circle of Honor. When another 1,122 drivers reached the milestone this year, the company localized press releases for the markets where they lived, mentioning him as well.

But UPS didn’t leave it at that. The shipping and logistics giant repackaged the information for its own employees and the public, stressing safety. This was part of its effort to “repurpose” content and extend its reach, both internally and externally.

“We’re trying to look also from the standpoint of content that is created; how can we use that through multiple channels?” says Susan Rosenberg, public relations manager for the Atlanta-based firm.

UPS was one of a handful of companies cited by Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, for recognizing the compelling business need to curate content.

In a recent blog entry, he wrote that as the number of media channels and reporters declines, “organizations need to think about taking matters into their own hands in order to get their stories into the public consciousness.”

Using customer video for employee training

In UPS’s case, this means creating a video case study for customer communications, but also using it for training employees. With its story of the drivers, UPS went beyond gold-watch-type press releases. It touted the story internally, in its blog and on a section of its website devoted to safe driver stories, which also includes tips.

“We can share their recognition with other employees,” Rosenberg says, “and at the same time it’s a way to reinforce what are the safety procedures, what are the safety measures.”

For a company that moves over 15 million packages every day, fuel bills are a major cost. So it’s striving to reduce its consumption and its carbon impact—and it wants to let the public know.

Communicating sustainability

UPS boasts that it operates one of the largest private alternative-fuel fleets. This includes more than 2,000 vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, propane, hydrogen fuel cell, electric and hybrid electrics.

UPS explains to customers how they can minimize their carbon footprint though a section of its website devoted to sustainability.

“At the same time,” Rosenberg says, “then you can tell an employee: ‘These are what our practices are within the hub operation. This is how we’re conserving fuel with our airline. This is what we’re doing with driver training and practices.'”

This allows them to learn what they can do as employees, and customers can consider what to do to help sustainability initiatives in their own businesses.

“Repurposing” also extends the life of events in which UPS participates. UPS was a primary sponsor of the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference for senior business leaders near San Diego in early April.

At the event, the company created a UPS Logistics Lounge to showcase its “expertise in creating environmentally responsible supply chains.” Executives from other corporations, many of them industry leaders, discuss the topics of the day with top UPS officials.

Paralleling this, UPS used a conference platform to set up a “virtual booth” to post videos and print content about its use of alternative fuels and case studies about customers who have had success with UPS’ sustainability measures.

“So it’s not only going to live in the three or four days of the conference period,” Rosenberg says. “And for us, it also adds value to the cost that we put in to the sponsorship of the conference itself, because we’re being able to extend the information that was shared there.”

Links and tweets from others

CFO Kurt Kuehn was one of the keynote speakers, talking about the return on investment that UPS gets from its sustainability measures. UPS had subject matter experts there who tweeted from the conference, posted it to its blog and notified the publications such as Environmental Leader, which posted video of Kuehn on its website.

“We could alert the sustainability media that is very engaged both online and in social media space,” Rosenberg says, “and they would link to it and they would tweet and retweet about it.”

UPS also sponsors articles and content through the Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg BusinessWeek. These include stories about trends in small business, sustainability or general logistics. As online community discussions build around topics, UPS alerts its customers that they can find the information there.

Through its Facebook page and its site, UPS links to information such as a Harvard Business Review white paper, “Building on Supply Chains that Deliver on the Green Promise.”

Using Federated Media, UPS is sponsoring a series of articles in Small Business Trends, among them one titled “Sustainability and Green Business Trend Continues.” The author is a third party, and UPS is noted (and linked to) as the sponsor.

The company is “repurposing our own content,” Rosenberg says, “but we’re also enhancing the relationships that we have with various media organizations to take advantage of the other services that they’re providing.”

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