Jessica Baxmann | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Charting the future of public relations
Innovator 25 EMEA Jessica Baxmann

Jessica Baxmann  

Director, executive communication for SAP's chief innovation officer

SAP 
Walldorf, Germany

“If you want to make the cut, if you want to stick out from the crowd, you have to be bold enough to try new formats, be a little edgy and tap into unknown waters”

Jessica Baxmann leads communications for SAP’s chief innovation officer and provides communications counsel to other C-level executives at the German multinational software corporation. In her role as an executive communicator, Baxmann shapes SAP’s overall communications around innovation, including setting and driving the innovation agenda on a global level and engaging with business and technology-focused journalists, analysts, and influencers. Baxmann, who has a political science background, previously built the communications function from scratch for SAP’s corporate incubator, the SAP Innovation Center Network, and still works closely with its “intrapreneurs” to bring their ideas to market.

How do you define innovation?
I define innovation as "invention plus adoption". Because having a great idea is just not enough. You have to bring it to life, make it real and people need to use/consume it.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Berlin’s public transport company, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), has done a phenomenal job with their bold “Weil wir dich lieben” (Because we love you) campaign, from a comms and marketing stand point. Really outstanding.

Which brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
I am a big fan of Volvo's brilliant Superbowl interception and Nike’s "Just Do It" campaign with Colin Kaepernick. Both have been very bold and really powerful in getting their message across.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
Working so closely with SAP’s chief innovation officer and his entire team, my day to day job is all about innovation. We constantly think about what new ways and communication formats we can come up with that go hand in hand with the incredible inventions the teams develop. As the speech writer for our chief innovation officer, I came up with a different format for one of his keynotes at SAP’s premier customer conference. The goal was to inspire our customers with our latest innovations. To transport the entrepreneurial atmosphere, I brought folks from our engineering teams as speakers on stage and let them have a dialogue with our chief innovation officer, just like they would have in the office. So instead of having heavily scripted and rehearsed speakers, we focused on having a real, authentic conversation on stage that also allowed for unexpected, fun moments. It was very well received by the customers.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Pretty much every entrepreneur who is driven by passion and commitment and is willing to take many risks to build something incredible. And in terms of PR, I am really inspired by a16z’s Margit Wennmachers – probably one of the most striking and influential PR peers in tech.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Go out and get inspired by others. Observe how other innovative companies do PR and how they landed a coup. And importantly, build up your communications network. Talk to journalists and PR peers. You can derive so much creativity from it and many valuable insights.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Be bold, don’t shy away from taking risks. If you want to make the cut, if you want to stick out from the crowd, you have to be bold enough to try new formats, be a little edgy and tap into unknown waters. Also, new technologies like machine learning will change our profession fundamentally. Understand what these mean for you personally, experiment with them and help transform the PR profession.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
My initial plan was to become a criminologist. During my studies, I researched a lot on juvenile crime and wrote my thesis about youth gang prevention. I had already one foot into the door of starting a PhD in criminology. But then I got inspired by technology and was fascinated by working in a more practical field where you often get much more immediate feedback whether your ideas fly.

Favourite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
I am a big fan of the Serial podcast. Season 3 just started!