Accredited in Public Relations (APR) news
“My inscription into the SAPS in the sixties at the time when all young men had to do military service has set the tone for a disciplined career,” says Martin Snoek APR. For him this was the foundation of a personal motto: “The truth, even if it hurts”.
This period was followed by an internship with a large newspaper group which Martin believes planted the seed for a career in communication. Martin describes it as tough times as he was a real ‘rookie’ and had to adapt quickly. As an offspring from a German family he was keen to join an international company that would enable him to visit that country. He joined Siemens and was employed in the company’s Division for Corporate Communication where he stayed for 37 years. Martin later became Director for the Division with a team of 23 in-house communication specialists including consultants, designers and exhibition and event planners. They also engaged advertising and public relations consultancies, especially for strategic and creative assignments.
On the academic front Martin attended many programmes, including Global Marketing in Germany (where he also worked for a while), completion of an 18 month Advanced Management Programme (UNISA SBL) and his APR qualification (PRISA). “During my time with Siemens I was part of a Global Communication Council with quarterly workshops in cities ranging from Brussels and New York to Cairo along with communication colleagues from all over the world”, explains Martin. As the company at that time had 450,000 employees in more than 190 countries, their key task was to develop messages for senior executives to ensure they spoke with one voice wherever they held office.
Martin says priority was given to develop strategies for employee communication. The multiplier effect of informed employees was estimated to reach millions – direct and indirect families, friends and social circles. A large percentage of their regional budget (SADC) was invested in messages from the CEO via the intranet, newsletters, road shows, open forums and other forms of internal communication.
“Regrettably many companies fail to apportion appropriate values to empowering employees to be ambassadors for their companies”. Martin says, “The editorial which was run by Engineering news “Union urges Eskom to rethink severance packages, focus on rebuilding staff morale” subscribes to the point that internal communication requires more attention by management”. Martin and his team also engaged their CEOs and Board Members actively in one-on-one high-level communication and round table discussions with editors and journalists which further enhanced an understanding for their purpose as a company, especially as a trendsetter of different technologies.
On completion of his journey with Siemens, Martin started his own consultancy and had several clients on both a retainer and project basis. “Motivating executives to spend more on employee communication remained a challenge and some of them paid the price for not having done so. Others had an absolute lack of basic understanding of marketing and communication and reward was in the form of joint strategy development and successful implementation”.
Martin feels that although social media has taken a firm position in the communication mix, a professional communicator should not discard the importance of personal engagement with clients, or with management in the case of an employee in a company. “The online route does not offer the ‘smell, look or feel’ that can be experienced through personal engagement. To consult means to engage into dialogue and the components embedded in APR studies support a professional personal working relationship with ethical standards”, says Martin.
Although Martin has now ‘downed tools’ far away from the action, he is pleased about the incidence of digital technologies and online media. Out of sight, but not out of touch thanks to different websites and the managements of media who send him their titles online. Of course, the process of personal transfer from the corporate world, to owning a consultancy and to eventually having become a distant observer of change in communication processes is not at all easy. “Do I miss it? Yes and no, but not all of it, especially my role as a mentor which delighted, even today, many of my staff members who reported to me in the corporate world”.