Stephan Heimbach, Siemens’ global head of comms, on the CMO of the future
This article by Stephan Heimbach, global head of communications for Siemens, was first published in the June-July issue of Marketing, as part of a collection of essays from senior Australian and international marketers, titled ‘2018: A skills odyssey’.
We asked each respondent to look five years into the future, at what a future CMO’s core competencies, technical knowledge, and role within a business will be in the year 2018. Here’s what Heimbach wrote.
In the time it takes you to read this article, Siemens will have registered another invention – and by the end of a workday we will have registered about another 40 inventions. This is the pace of change needed to match the demands and pressures of a changing world. My role as global chief communications officer for Siemens means that I cover operations in around 190 countries with over 2000 communicators for one of the world’s largest and oldest technology companies. I think that the fundamental shift we are seeing is around the pace of change. However, increasing economic pressures also highlight the need for marketers and communicators to stay relevant to business. Our role is to help the business achieve its objectives through demand creation to enhance and protect our brand.
To do this effectively communicators need the broadest range of skills – and more than ever we need to understand business imperatives and translate those into effective actions. At the top of my agenda is people development and getting the right mix of people who can bridge the void between business and finance, technology and creativity.
And it’s a process of continuous development to keep up with the speed of change in areas such as the changing media landscape. Not only do we need people who are at the cutting edge of communications and media technology, we also need to make decisions at a pace never before seen… and they need to be quality and considered decisions. This requires people with strategic thinking, people who can adapt to changing environments and people who are brand ambassadors and can help others to become ambassadors.
We have a saying at Siemens: ‘If Siemens only knew what Siemens knows’. One of the best ways to share and grow knowledge is through collaboration. We employ the most talented people in the world so it’s important in my role to be an enabler of knowledge and cross-fertilisation of ideas. A great idea developed in the US could equally be applied as a great idea in China, Australia or Norway. We encourage this global collaboration through different programs such as internal awards or job rotations.
One of the things we’ve been undertaking and will continue to do so over the next five years is shift to people-centric communications rather than technology-centric communications. This requires a different set of skills again, including the skill of storytelling. If I was to get a compelling message across, for instance in healthcare, the most powerful way to do this is to deliver the message through the eyes of a patient or doctor. Our annual report tells a poignant story about a 15-year-old boy, Christian, who has been diagnosed with cancer and the role of our new Biogragh mMR (molecular magnetic resonance), which helps physicians monitor the impact and effectiveness of his chemotherapy treatment. Our technology is changing people’s lives. At the end of the day, that’s what our technology is about and we need real stories that make emotional connections.
Last but not least is our need to do more with less and to have courage and resilience. It feels like only yesterday when five years back we faced the global financial crisis. The point is that the next five years will go by in the blink of an eye and one of the greatest challenges marketers and communicators face is the continuous uncertainty of the global economic landscape. Crisis has become a part of the ‘daily business’ for companies since the economic crisis. This means fewer resources and a need to plan activities in a more integrated way. Therefore, we must be more efficient and cost effective, while at the same time deliver the highest impact for our brands. The new chief communications officer must be a manager that can foster collaboration and efficiency in a global team.
Now read what the other respondents said: