Scottevest Chief Executive Scott Jordan turns the camera on himself to give the world ScottTV, a 24/7 insight into a CEO's hectic life
It's June 30 and Scottevest Chief Executive Scott Jordan is on the phone losing his temper. Thieves have made off with about 3,000 jackets sold by his Ketchum, Idaho-based company and he's trying unsuccessfully to get access to the Port of Los Angeles security videos he hopes will reveal the perpetrators. He's spotted thousands of dollars worth of merchandise for sale on eBay (EBAY) and his patience has worn thin. Jordan is having the kind of outburst many executives might take pains to suppress. Not Jordan. He captured the entire episode on a Web cam. As with almost every other minute of his workday, he unabashedly broadcasts it to the world. There's little new about lifecasting, or turning Web-connected cameras on oneself and broadly sharing the vicissitudes of daily life. The trend has been made into an art form in recent years by the likes of Justin.TV Founder Justin Kan and Justine Ezarik, also known as iJustine. Company executives have grown increasingly comfortable with disclosing internal information through social media such as company blogs or the microblogging service Twitter. What's unusual about Jordan is that he may be the only CEO who's gone so public with such detail. "We've been broadcasting live every day for nine months," Jordan says of his broadcast, called ScottTV. Cameras go dark in certain circumstances—say, when Jordan is interviewing a prospective employee or discussing legal disputes over patents that Scottevest holds. Just about everything else is fair game, including internal meetings and designs for Scottevest's multipocketed jackets and other apparel. While few corporate officials would be willing to record every move, there is a growing willingness among business professionals to use video as a communication tool. By 2015, 200 million people will pay for desktop videoconferencing, according to Gartner (IT). Cisco Systems (CSCO) CEO John Chambers has said video is his top strategic priority and that an increasing corporate reliance on video is a big reason Cisco has bid $3.38 billion to acquire videoconferencing company Tandberg. a big play on transparency
Jordan experimented with a variety of video communication tools before he took the workcasting plunge. He tried video blogging and then used video e-mail service TokBox for correspondence. He says it's easier to communicate with customers and to show them how to use his company's gadget-friendly clothes—say, how to run earphone wires through a Scottevest jacket. "When I communicate something directly using video, people understand it and remember it," Jordan says. Jordan set up ScottTV with little more than a Mac, a Web cam, and a service called Stickam from Advanced Video Communications, which lets users embed streaming Webcam video into any Web site. Jordan has embedded ScottTV in a section of his Web site that also has links to his video blogs and his Twitter stream. He says he hopes the transparency will engender confidence. "In 1940 you used to buy meat from your local butcher because you trusted him," Jordan says.
CEOcasting is also part marketing gimmick, Jordan admits. On a big day, ScottTV may get 72 views, he says. Other days, he may get only one. Often it's a fan from Canada whom Jordan identifies as Jorge. Jordan says that in spite of the recession, sales more than doubled in 2009, the best year yet for this 10-year-old company—although it's hard to say how much of that growth can be attributed to Scottevest's social media efforts. Whatever else its impact, ScottTV has turned into a workplace productivity tool. He uses the broadcasts to stay in constant contact with his four employees and multiple contractors. If he needs someone's help—even if they're located 1,000 miles away—he simply calls out to his computer screen and they can respond in a number of ways, via instant message, Skype, or a phone call. He's also used ScottTV to get input from viewers on logo designs, new products, and proposed ad campaigns. note: don't blog or CEOcast surprises
On a recent December morning, Jordan used ScottTV and a variety of additional online tools to design a Scottevest ad for Esquire.In addition to Stickam, he drew on screen-sharing software from Adobe Systems (ADBE) to collaborate with his graphic designer in California, Google (GOOG) Documents to share the proposed text with colleagues; and Skype for the phone call.Jordan says that he "loved" the final product.A week earlier, he used the same setup to direct a commercial for Scottevest thousands of miles from where it was actually shot.The commercial is a spoof on Apple's (AAPL) "There's an app for that" commercials and carries the theme: "There's a pocket for that." CEOcasting carries risks. "The downside is a few errors in judgment," Jordan says. Once, he received an e-mail from the TedMed conference, a spinoff of the Ted conference that focuses on medicine and healthcare, telling him that they wanted to give away 600 vests to attendees. In his excitement, he forwarded the e-mail to his blog and started talking about it on ScottTV. "I had to eat a lot of crow," he says, about ruining the surprise for attendees. (His enthusiasm didn't scotch the deal.) It doesn't help that Laura Jordan, the CEO's wife, co-founder, and president of SCOTTEVEST, isn't as enthusiastic about broadcasting her life on the Internet. "My wife is very private and she hates it, but she sees the benefit of it," Jordan says. Some employees occasionally find it hard to tell whether Jordan is using ScottTV to communicate with them or the public. If only for a handful of viewers, ScottTV is helping create community. Brad Wilder, a lawyer in San Antonio, bought his first Scottevest jacket after learning about the company on a tech radio show. "I have so many Scottevest products that it's sort of a joke at my house," he says. Wilder eventually became interested in ScottTV, which he often keeps on in the background while he's working. He finds Jordan entertaining and can relate to him because Jordan was formerly a lawyer, while Wilder studied business in college. When Jordan asks for input, Wilder will often weigh in with ideas. He recently suggested that Scottevest add a clip for gloves on a jacket he'd like to use for skiing. Jordan has not yet taken Wilder's advice, though he says he has learned a lot from his Webcasting career. "It's made me a better business man," he says, "I know people are watching me."