Sometimes a crisis fosters greater innovation and risk-taking in organizations…and that’s a good thing. As exhibit A check out the latest developments at Ford, which is making some impressive strides in social media.

Ford’s comprehensive efforts include posting content and commentaries on sites ranging  from YouTube and Facebook to Twitter and Flickr. Nothing revolutionary there, but they’re apparently also allowing unusual freedom on how their content is used – notably allowing folks to share and adapt photos and videos. And they’ve recruited a number of consumer bloggers to drive their cars and provide updates – with no apparent restrictions on content. Perhaps the  smartest thing they’ve done is to develop a social media hub – The Ford Story – which acts as an online clearing house for the various platforms and features links to relevant third-party sites and content. Ford is also working to enlist employees in the online outreach, hoping most of them will act as advocates for the company and its products.

Though some critics say Ford’s recent efforts are not perfect (can they be?) you can’t argue with the strong effort and intent. In fact, Ford’s digital communication manager himself answers some of these criticisms on various blogs. Nice touch. Implicit in this campaign is an understanding that consumers ultimately own the reputation of a company…no matter how much a company would wish otherwise. Ford may become a great case study of rehabilitating a brand through dialog and crowd-sourcing rather than  just traditional marketing and advertising.