Carsten Thomson-Bendixen, head of external communications and Group spokesperson, recently spoke a the Kommunikationskongress on communicating the change process involved in splitting German utility conglomerate E.ON into two distinct entities.
He took time out to answer some questions for Communication Director.
What inspires you to share your ideas with other communications professionals?
Knowledge-sharing is about give and take: by sharing my own knowledge and experience, I can encourage others to do the same.
What is the importance of an event such as the Kommunikationskongress?
It creates a lively forum for communication professionals from a broad range of companies and industries to share their expertise and experience. Listening to colleagues talk about the challenges their companies face and how they’re addressing them enables me to identify parallels with my own company’s situation and perhaps learn something that I can adapt here. In short, the Berlin conference has proven to be a great opportunity for cross-pollination.
What do you believe are the integral ingredients for a successful change communications campaign?
Employees need to understand why change is necessary, what its objectives are, and how it will affect them personally. If communicators can make a convincing case for change, employees will embrace it and actively support it. The same approach applies to external stakeholders. They need to be made a aware of the opportunities that change creates as well as any potential risks it may pose. Key ingredients to change communications are cogency, credibility, and transparency.
Can you explain the mentality behind the the E.ON divison and how this challenged your role as a communicator?
The decision to divide E.ON into two separate companies is the logical consequence of our reassessment of the energy world and its future. We believe there’s no longer a single energy world. Rather, two worlds are emerging: one new, one conventional. The new energy world is green, decentralized, and driven by customers’ increasingly individual needs and wishes.
The conventional energy world is the one we all grew up with: big power stations, intercontinental gas transmission lines, and global commodity trading. This conventional world will continue to be needed for several more decades to ensure system stability as we transition to a low-carbon energy future.
"Key ingredients to change communications are cogency, credibility, and transparency."
Our strategy responds to the emergence of two distinct energy worlds by dividing E.ON into two distinct companies, each of which can focus entirely on the needs of its particular world. Right now, this is greatest challenge for our company’s communications: explaining that we need to divide to thrive.