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“The automotive industry is essential for the human´s desire for mobility.”
In the first week of May I had the possibility to speak with Jörg Howe, Head of global Communication at Daimler.
Even if the internet connection between Rome and Stuttgart did not appear particularly stable, we were able to have a very interesting conversation about his professional career path, the challenges of the current situation and the future of the automobile industry.
Jörg Howe, born in 1957 and with Mercedes since 2008, shows a carrier that could not be more diverse. After studying history, English and educational science at the University of Hamburg, it quickly became clear that his passion were the media. A stay abroad in a center for young journalists in Paris made it clear that he wanted to become a journalist.
In order to join the Norddeutscher Rundfunk, he quit his job as a teacher. He gained professional experience at the Tagesschau and as head of news editing at Sat.1. A personal highlight followed at the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk:
The development of a new TV format, the boulevard magazine Brisant. Jörg Howe tells us how the idea arrised:
Back then we wrote the first concept on a beermat that I still keep until today. Since 25 years the magazine is broadcasted on ARD 6 days a week and it still makes me very proud.
Further valuable professional experience followed as editor-in-chief at Sat.1, in corporate communication at Karstadt and then in October 2008 as Head of Global Communication at Daimler.
At the beginning I thought I couldn’t bear it for even two years, now I’ve been here for 12 years and I really, really enjoy it.
He could not imagine being faced with such challenges, which the pandemic of Covid-19 is forcing us to cope with.
I was particularly interested which changes occurred in everyday work of Jörg Howe and all the employees of Daimler because of the coronavirus and which measures are taken to provide the best possible protection for all of them, but still remaining productive.
«Every Morning at 8.45 o´clock we are having our morning conference. I expect the participation of everyone to remain informed. In addition to the information I give about the current situation, every sector comes up with its specific news.
Some of our employees are currently on short-time work, but we are trying to get them back to the office step by step, because we have a lot to do with our ongoing projects.
Especially for colleagues with children it can be burdensome to work at home, that is why we want to give everyone the opportunity to get back to the office as soon as possible, but of course in compliance with the safety distance and masks.»
A lot of automobile companies changed their production due to the “Emergency Coronavirus”. Mercedes also announced to provide 3D printers to fabricate medical equipment. Could this project be realised?
«Immediately at the beginning of the crisis we donated 110.000 masks to the German citizens. We have them available because we need them in our production sites.
In England we were able to fulfil an order of the National Health Service for 10.000 “simple” respirators within a few days together with our Formula One Team.
Here in Germany we produced a specific component of respirators with the help of our 3D printers, of which we can manufacture 3000 per week if necessary. The first 2.500 we delivered to the region Rheinland-Pfalz, where we have a big production site.»
The right words inform, inspire, take responsibility and create a sense of community. The wrong words spread fear, hate and egoism. In exceptional situations, like the one we are currently facing, it is more important than ever to choose the appropriate communication strategy to deal the situation with care. Because the words we say can affect the way things go.
How was the right tone chosen in communicating with your clients? Are there new marketing projects or ideas you would like to tell us about, also to inspire the Italian society?
«The first thing which comes into mind is our initiative “Be a Mover”, that we are realising with various artists and actors. We successfully organised a concert in the courtyard of a care home for old people in Berlin, to give some joy to people who live in quite large isolation.»
«Across our Social-Media channels we are promoting the project “Donate our reach” since the 19 of March.
We use our global range to provide factual information about Covid-19, which has enabled us to reach 400 million people so far.
Already booked advertising space on TV and Online was rededicated in order to thank all our everyday heroes and everyone who stays at home.
However, the communication models differ between the regional markets. The communication we use in Europe, is not the same which we apply in china. China is the first country in which the market is normalising again, that is why we return to our classical forms and contents of communication, electronic or print.
For our internal communication we use our social-intranet platform, through which we permanently inform our employees worldwide. On this platform are provided the latest updates from experts on Covid-19.»
This system is very important for us, so that we do not forget our own people, beside all the communication we are addressing outwards.
The automotive sector is facing profound changes concerning autopilot, electrification and reduction of emissions. In your opinion, how should the ideal car of the future look like?
«My imagination of the perfect car is a hybrid vehicle, which can be moved predominantly electrically in cities, but can also travel long distances thanks to a low-emission combustor, if there is no charging infrastructure available yet.
The ideal car must be able to drive autonomously – we are already on the right track – so that the driving experience can be a very relaxed one, but there should still exist the possibility to intervene and take control if you feel like it.
That would be my car.
The new S-Class, which we are going to present in autumn, comes already very close to my vision. Another concept of an electric S-Class follows next year. These will be two vehicles that satisfy my vision already quite well.
Currently I am driving a G-Class, actually a model quite antiquated, but I really enjoy it.»
Will global mobility change in a long-term perspective due to the appearance of the Covid-19? Can we still speak of sustainable mobility or does the term mobility need to be redefined? What “lessons” does the automotive industry draw from the emergency situation in order to remain socially useful in the future?
«The automotive industry is essential for people’s desire for mobility.
The car gave us the opportunity to experience and use individual mobility to an unprecedented extent.
Due to the corona virus, the industry is facing a new challenge:
The desire for a safe – virus-free – mobility.
People want to feel safe. This means for us, that we develop cars with virus-filters in order to give people a feeling of security.
In addition, innovative systems must protect people from accidents. These aspects will be important in the near future and will have a lasting impact on our industry.
At the same time, the desire for sustainable propulsion systems, that have the least possible impact on the environment is growing. We see perspectives in hydrogen, electricity or hybrid.»
Do you have 3 tips for our young readers – who, like me, studied communication science – how to get the possibility to be invited to a job interview in a company like Mercedes?
«That’s a good question. There are 1000 ways. One possibility is of course to use his contacts. As long as humanity exists, this will always play an important role. I did not have any contacts when I started my professional life and I had a lot of luck to get the opportunity to join the Norddeutscher Rundfunk.
Another possibility could be to write an extraordinary email. You should search for the contact details of the responsible persons on the internet and simply message them.
This can be a cheeky or serious email, but I would always recommend to try to get into direct contact to arouse interest.
What I personally do not like are standardized emails, in which I already receive all the necessary documents, from people I have never met before.
Die Originalversion unseres Interviews könnt ihr hier nachlesen: Jörg Howe, Globaler Kommunikationschef der Daimler AG.
Per tutti i nostri lettori italiani, la versione italiana dell’intervista la trovate qui: Jörg Howe, Responsabile della comunicazione di Daimler.