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Under the Digital Hood: The Ladies of Digital Marketing

In the past months, we’ve explored the different technologies and skills sets that empower a digital transformation: Data Science, Internet of Things, E-Commerce and Online Sales. We’ve talked with the experts, to find out more about their activities and the benefits they bring to our company and industry. If the digital transformation was a great gift to an organization, what is that one thing, the ribbon on top if you like, that ties it all together?

Under the Digital Hood: The Ladies of Digital Marketing

We dare to say it’s Marketing and Communications. And since we are talking about digitalization, we decided to explore in our next interview the world of Digital Marketing and Communications (MarCom).

What makes MarCom vital for any organization (we give you a hint: it’s all about your message), how can it advance the digital transformation, turn down walls and eliminate blockers, reach new territories and gather supporters, speed up tasks and optimize processes, and in the end go from a red velvet ribbon on top that makes things pretty to an actual protective and enhancing layer for your organization, all that and much more in our next edition of “Under the Digital Hood” series.

Today, we decided to shake things up a bit and have not one, but two experts in conversation: Stefania Zaharia and Veronika Süß will guide you through the world of Digital Marketing and Communications.

Enjoy the interview and let us know your thoughts!

Digital Hub: Hello ladies! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your roles in the Digital Hub?

Stefania Zaharia: Hi! I’ve joined the Digital Hub in September 2019, as the Digital Campaign and Marketing Manager. I’m a passionate storyteller and a communication professional with over 10 years of experience, so my role in the Hub fits perfect with both worlds: using communications and marketing tools to build, advance and tell the story of Oerlikon’s digital transformation. And it’s a natural build up in my career, as digital is the hot topic of these years.

Veronika Süß: Hello! I joined Oerlikon as Digital Campaign and Social Media Specialist in June 2019 after finishing my Master degree in Media and Communications Management. During my study time, I worked at Siemens and fischerAppelt, one of Germany’s biggest PR agencies, always aiming to improve my communications skills. Together with Stefania, we run Marketing and Communication activities in the Digital Hub.

DH: How would you ladies describe your roles? What are your responsibilities and your day to day activities?

SZ: Very fluent. Never a dull moment. Diverse. The tasks range from pure internal and external communication - keeping our audiences up to date with the Hub’s activities, managing communication channels, managing events, running digital campaigns, creating communications assets – to acting as an R&D center for MarCom (Marketing and Communications) where we test, experiment with new digital technology and find new ways of working and communicating for the entire company. Also, a big part of my role is focused on strategy work, ensuring our audiences understand the whole concept of digital transformation and how to advance it further together.

VS: In my case, I work for two entities. My main role is the Oerlikon Additive Manufacturing Marketing team, but I also dedicate a part of my time to the Digital Hub. To make sure I do my best in both sides, I usually work on one or two bigger projects for the Digital Hub per quarter, in this way being involved in all communication and marketing activities from the start to the end. One example would be the Digital Hub Hackathon, where I worked closely with Stefania to create and implement an end-to-end communication strategy including messaging, social media promotion, participant support and partner communication. With almost 80 participants, all experts in Data Science, IOT and Computer Vision, the event was a great success and managed to position the Digital Hub as a relevant digital player.

DH: It sounds that your days are a bit more than busy ? What are the skills to actually pull all of these together?

VS: The ability to express complex content in a way that is simple and easy to understand is key. But how to actually get the message across? The environment around us changes very fast and the media floods us with content every day. In order to reach existing and potential customers, MarCom people have to think outside the box. Instead of sticking to processes and ideas that worked in the past, we try new approaches to create something that inspires our audience and gets their attention. This requires creativity and ingenuity, as well as quality and eloquence. One example: Stefania and I prepared a concept for a startup networking event in Munich. The idea was to get one of the hotel rooms to present our Surface Solutions offerings by using Bodypainting. Corona made a dash through the calculation, but the ideation process was unique ?

SZ: Going further, I would say project management, business acumen and strategic thinking come in handy, as you need to understand the bigger picture in the company and how the different parts come together. You cannot really talk about digital transformation if you don’t understand the foundation, the technology and the overall context in the market. Audience insight, creativity, curiosity, negotiation and presentation skills, and the list of skills can go on and on. But at the end of the day, I think the most important thing is to enjoy it. Sometimes the best campaign messaging, tonality, look and feel are the ones that come from a place of authenticity and not necessarily the ones that follow the “cook book”.

DH: In a creative field like yours, what is the process you use to tackle tasks?

VS: I prefer to work in a structured way. When starting a new project the very first thing I do is to write all my thoughts down into a hand written notebook – in clear and neatly hand writing. Afterwards, I continue on the flipchart or one of our foam boards to brainstorm different approaches and ideas. At this stage, Stefania and I usually work close together. We write everything down, discuss it, erase everything and start from the beginning again. The goal: to express our content in a way that is as simple and understandable as possible!

After the ideation process, we start the concept phase: define our goal, choose the target group and fitting channels, finalize our message and create the story line. Now we are ready to start with implementing our ideas. The process ends with evaluating the outcomes and adjusting further.  

SZ: This is where we always laugh, as we definitely complement each other. I am not the most structured person in the world, but I do need to mentally visualize the task as a whole. I need to understand the overall context of what we need to deliver, the reasoning and the expected benefits. We experiment a lot in our process, we allow ourselves to test what works and what doesn’t early, so we can achieve our results fast.

DH: And speaking of results, sometimes people have trouble understanding what are the goals of a MarCom team, what is the connection with the actual business goals. Can you talk a bit on how your work impacts and bring benefits to organizations?

SZ: For us in the Hub, It’s important that our stakeholders trust us and join us in the digital transformation of our company, and that requires an open flow of communication. Our goal is to enable the different groups (internal and external) to understand our capabilities, the impact of the Digital Hub work and of the new technology. And in order to achieve that, we use digital tools to innovate and find new digital ways of working and communicating.

VS: The Digital Hub collaborates across the whole company, so our MarCom roles sometimes act as a liaison between our digital experts and other teams. We also play a big part in enabling the businesses to communicate their outcomes to the outside world and become a key partner for our customers, whilst also keeping our own employees informed and engaged.

SZ: Exactly, communication can bridge the gap between different groups, so that collaboration and exchange of information happens faster. I want to also mention a few more benefits: using communications and digital tools can help improve employer branding and overall attractiveness as an employer (especially in today’s market), it can optimize and speed up processes, open up new markets and new opportunities that were not accessible before.

DH: You mentioned many times digital transformation, how does your role contribute to the overall journey of our company?

SZ: On one side, it speeds it up – when people understand the technology, why it’s important to transform, what are the benefits and what is their role, transformation and results will come at a much faster pace. On the other side, as Veronika mentioned earlier, this new world we all live in is in constant move - we have to optimize some processes, and adapt faster to the market’s demands, and sometimes that means a different way of communicating.

Digital transformation is a team effort, it requires the right technology, it requires the right skills, it requires trust and willingness to do it. Our goal as the Digital Hub is to accelerate digital transformation, and you cannot do that if people don’t know what it is or what they need to do. Our daily work is to build trust with transparency, to overcome reluctancy by explaining the steps and the benefits, and in the end, to pave the way for the technology and tech experts, so we can achieve faster results.

VS: Especially when you start something new, you need to convey the message properly to make people comfortable with new approaches. At this point, the Hub focuses on E-Commerce, IOT and Data Science, but also collaborating with other digital players to advance digital transformation. MarCom also supports in building up the ecosystem of partners and bring them together with the Hub.

DH: Ladies, thank you very much for the very insightful discussion. Before we wrap up, one more thing: what is one misconception about your role?

VS: There is more than just one misconception when it comes to MarCom. Some people think that working in Marketing means to party all day long. Let’s take events for example, many people seem to ignore (or they actually don’t know) what it takes to carry out a successful event and the effort involved in following up. Attending the event itself is the smallest part. Others like to reach out to Marketing because they want to make use of our design skills. A popular inquiry: “Could you use your magic on my Power Point slides?”

Marketing people get a variety of different requests, from organizing giveaways to preparing snacks, to the question of creating labels for the trash can. At the end you can probably summarize our job as the “Feel-Good-Manager” of the company.

SZ: And let’s not forget - how much time things actually take. It might look like we do some kind of magic, but our activities require serious research and time to actually produce the assets. And my favorite: sometimes you need the right settings for inspiration to hit you ? we are in a creative business, after all.

DH: Love that! Both of you, thank you very much for your time today!

Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Under the Digital Hood”. As with the other interviews, we would like to think you now have a better idea of what it takes to advance a digital transformation, and most importantly, why you should do it.   

If you want to read again the previous editions of Under the Digital Hood, exploring Data Science, Internet of things and E-Commerce, you can find them here.

If you have questions that require an answer in these areas, feel free to send them to us via our Linkedin channel. And do let us know your thoughts and comments about this edition, we would love to have a conversation.

Until the next time, may the digital force be with you all!

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