Can talkshows and telenovelas replace communications?

The short answer is no. But the way SAP engages with audiences is shifting from committee-approved corporate messaging to entertaining stories that appeal to an audience disrupted by digital media, YouTube and used to quick dips into the information world.

Image: YouTube

At the New Year I was visiting a friend in Bavaria. Mirko is one of over 300,000 employees employed by one of world’s largest enterprises, headquartered in Germany. He offered to show me the chief executive officer’s end of year message: a 10-minute video, with a cheesy soundtrack consisting of 1980s pop, the executive reading from a teleprompter, covering every possible organisational and strategic angle, a soft focus filter showing someone’s fingers playing with what looked like holiday stardust and jolly messages from diverse regional teams.

No offense, but really? Mirko admitted he had deleted the mail immediately, as he does all executive messages. But isn’t the idea to capture the audience’s attention? Have we as corporate communicators forgotten how to do just that?

For years at SAP we have been scratching our heads over how to make the company’s purpose, values and strategy real and actionable, even for an engineer or software developer. “Reignite” plans were created. We knew we had to rethink how we communicate, we knew we had to move beyond the cycle of all-hands, mails and intranet updates. We discussed tone, voice and authenticity. Yet it wasn’t until recently, with the introduction of consumer formats, that we started to make real progress.