Interview with Christina Rettig: Integrated marketing communication should become the standard

Christina Rettig is head of Corporate Communications at SCHOTT in Mainz. In an interview with AG CommTech, she describes how her team approaches data-driven communications. She sees a key to this in the integration of communication and marketing. The questions were asked by Klaus Treichel, co-leader of WG1 in the CommTech WG.

Klaus Treichel:
It is often said that MarTech is miles ahead of CommTech. In other words, digitization is already fairly mature in marketing – and it’s still in its infancy in communications. In your view, is CommTech really still in its infancy?

Christina Rettig: Let’s put that in terms of numbers: A search on Google Scholar for the term MarTech brings up a good 9,000 results. CommTech lies beneath, dragging bycatch from neighboring disciplines like computer science that use the term in a different context. To me, that’s an indication that MarTech is more advanced. I can confirm this impression from practical experience.

Klaus Treichel: What potential do you see in the application of CommTech?

Christina Rettig: Communicators usually have a good gut feeling about which topics they use to position their organizations successfully. Ideally, they contribute to the success of the business. CommTech offers the wonderful potential to make this work even better. Above all, we make the value of communications visible to the organization.

Klaus Treichel: What conditions must be in place for us to use digitization to measure the value contribution of communication?

Christina Rettig: In short: mindset, manpower, infrastructure. It starts with convincing the comms organization’s leadership to align communications with data. But then the teams can’t do that in addition to their day jobs. As Antonia Eidner said at the recent #KKongress, dedicated resources are needed to deal with this exclusively. And third, it needs access to the data and the appropriate tools to pull it together from a wide variety of sources and structure it. And ideally automatically, according to predefined routines. This is the only way to make our work more efficient.

Klaus Treichel: Digitization is a classic cross-sectional task. How necessary is a separation between communication and marketing?

Christina Rettig: For this integration to succeed, however, I think it is important to recognize the differences between the two disciplines. Only then can you optimally combine strengths and work well together. And that, after all, is what management expects from both functions.

Klaus Treichel: What experiences have you had at SCHOTT regarding the convergence or even integration of communication and marketing? Which tricks were successful for you?

Christina Rettig: That was not entirely voluntary at the time, but the result of the financial and euro crisis. In retrospect, it was a stroke of luck, because a common reporting line is definitely beneficial. Key to the integration were also our “focus topics,” for which we have formed rolling project teams since 2015. For this purpose, we have chosen topics with radiance, for example, bendable ultra-thin glass. This is what you encounter today in foldable smartphones, such as those launched by Samsung or Vivo. At that time, we worked out in an integrated team from both disciplines how we could use the topic to position SCHOTT as a provider in the consumer electronics industry and make our company better known overall.

Using projects like this to get closer to each other and not immediately change everything was a good way for us. Taking it one step at a time allows feedback from teams to better inform the redesign.

Klaus Treichel: What mistakes did you make during the first projects of data-driven communication? And what was decisive for the correction?

Christina Rettig: For us, the good content idea and the doer gene of many communicators still overtake the clean process. As a result, we give away an estimated 20-30% performance. Because ideally, the team that has an eye on the data should first run an analysis and only then is the content created. This planning and waiting is not in the nature of communicators. But as long as the overall direction is right, that can happen from time to time, it’s not the end of the world. We are all on a learning curve with each other.

Klaus Treichel: Many communications departments are looking at data-driven communications right now. What concrete practical tips can you give based on your SCHOTT experience? How and with what should one start with the introduction?

Christina Rettig: Textbook, of course, would be a top-down CommTech strategy. However, my experience is that this quickly overwhelms the organization. Managers often don’t know where to start. It is also difficult to free up the necessary capacity in the teams.

If there is no experience at all, I would start with a delimited project. For example, we managed a product launch with an interdisciplinary team that deliberately compiled data first and used this as a basis to initiate the creative process. The lessons learned can then be applied to other projects.

Klaus Treichel: Marketing and communication live on creativity and imagination. How do numbers, data and dashboards fit into this world?

Christina Rettig: Creativity and imagination determine how I tell a story. Data and dashboards complete the other W questions: what story do I tell, to whom, and where. From my point of view, they complement each other perfectly.

Klaus Treichel: What developments do you see for the next two years? Where is the data journey headed?

Christina Rettig: We communicators are still in a comfortable situation at the moment and are sailing under the radar. Marketing is already under much greater pressure to succeed today. I think this one will be with us soon. The goal for our profession over the next two years should be to dare more data culture and get in front of that wave – and best of all, actively surf it. This promises greater success and is also more fun in the end.