This is something I, Julia Remmele, discussed with Heike Lisson – Corporate Digital Communications Manager, who is responsible for corporate blogging – and Henriette Krohn – Corporate Communications Manager and contact person for international media relations. Other topics raised included content strategies, social media and ideas on digital communication in traditional B2B companies.
Julia Remmele: The MANN+HUMMEL corporate blog started in 2013. How might you summarise it in a few words?
Heike Lisson: Lively, caring, informal and – although this sounds a little contradictory, compared with the other terms – extremely innovative for a company in our industry. MANN+HUMMEL is a company with family roots and a lot of ‘historic evolution’. Corporate communication should therefore always be based on the premise that it is ‘reserved and prudent’. Our blog provided the ideal entrance to social media because we have countless options to choose from regarding content, scope and format. At the same time, we retain an overview of all these elements – and it remains in our hands.
Julia Remmele: What changes have taken place within the company through starting the MANN+HUMMEL corporate blog?
Heike Lisson: Things have changed because the blog has for the first time given every MANN+HUMMEL employee – regardless of their location, language or role – a shared channel for communication. Everyone can have their say, tell their story. Employees write in their own language and from their own personal viewpoint. We didn’t have that before.
Henriette Krohn: Through the blog, we can now specifically focus on topics which had previously received little attention. This is in fact our primary goal: we are working to create integrated communication extending across individual departments, involving all business units and brands equally.
Julia Remmele: The MANN+HUMMEL corporate blog was relaunched recently. Why was this done, and what specifically has changed?
Heike Lisson: We have been working with and on our corporate blog every day over the past year and a half, and have learned a lot. The usage patterns and feedback from staff and readers gathered from everyday practice have highlighted potential improvements which we have incorporated in the relaunch. With the blog relaunch, we have deliberately focused on stronger orientation towards the requirements of our stakeholders. This also affects the choice of topics: in the past, the focus was primarily on HR-related themes. In the future, however, we will concentrate more strongly on innovation and technology, as well as associated areas such as environment or health. These topics are socially relevant, but at the same time require sensitive handling, specialist knowledge and extensive industry analysis. Content marketing is the crucial keyword here, because it is necessary in this area to do more than simply list highly technical facts. Skill and creativity are required to attract attention and raise awareness for the range of topics.
Julia Remmele: You mentioned the concept of content marketing just now – this is currently an important buzzword in the communication sector. Klaus Eck, one of the gurus in this area, even talks about a content revolution. How do we strategically introduce content marketing at MANN+HUMMEL?
Heike Lisson: Quite honestly, not much importance was attached to the concept of content marketing when we launched the blog in 2013. I think that a little more time is needed, particularly in traditional companies in the B2B sector, to include newer communication concepts in addition to classical measures. From today’s perspective, it is good that concepts like content marketing were not pushed in those days. The amount of persuasion required internally would certainly have been higher.
Henriette Krohn: We have a completely new starting position today. The blog has become an integral component of MANN+HUMMEL’s external communication. We can now approach this topic openly – fortunately! Content marketing fits perfectly with the mentality of an international company with Swabian roots. After all, it is ‘typically Swabian’ to play things down and shine through performance and hard work rather than big words (as in traditional advertising).
Julia Remmele: What is the role of the MANN+HUMMEL corporate blog in your content marketing strategy?
Heike Lisson: The blog really plays a key role. There are already almost 400 stories on our blog, reflecting various facets of our company, addressing and informing stakeholders at a personal level. And how can you better convey such information than by stories? Storytelling – this is the approach we will follow far more intensively in the future.
Henriette Krohn: What we lack to date is a clear strategic focus, more targeted communication and above all, ‘picking up’ stakeholders at relevant touch points. This is what we will work on in future. We would also like to welcome new faces onto our blog – guest bloggers are cordially invited! As well, we aim to position our own experts on relevant platforms.
Julia Remmele: Which other areas does this content strategy cover?
Henriette Krohn: Quite simply – all points where stakeholders might come into contact with the company. We gradually want to take all these areas ‘on board’ to make it possible to create cross-departmental content-marketing.
Heike Lisson: Social networks in particular play an important role. We already share many comments here, either through our LinkedIn account or via Twitter. This will be done in a more selected and targeted way in future. Until now, the content of various digital channels has often been viewed separately. Through comprehensive company-wide content strategy, however, it will be possible for us to focus the strengths of individual channels to a goal and in future create a standardised digital presence.
Julia Remmele: In conclusion – the tradition-conscious family business with Swabian roots and the ephemeral digital world – how do they fit together?
Henriette Krohn: The question is how you define the word ‘traditional’. For me, there are two interpretations: for some, it is synonymous with ‘conservative’, they consider us to be ‘doubters’ who view new things with scepticism and fear losing control. There have been a lot of changes here in recent years – not least through our blog. Instead of ‘His Master’s Voice’, our approach is closer to ‘One Story – Many Voices’. If a story fits our values, we tell it as it is and through different channels. Then there is the second interpretation: ‘traditional’ for us means value-orientated – and not ‘corporate speak’ along strict party lines. For me, ‘conservative’ also means adhering to clear values. One of these values is always to tell the truth and, as mentioned before, not to exaggerate. This is very helpful, as far as our stories are concerned, as we never receive orders ‘from above’ to dilute the content. It provides an important basis for content-marketing, because diluting certainly doesn’t get you very far. We will continue to take this to heart – because yes, we believe that our corporate blog has a bright future!