Kim Benjamin
Jul 15, 2016

Inside in-house PR: SAP’s head of communications APAC Jeanette Tan

An economist by training, Tan explains why more humour and a more human perspective is needed for the enterprise IT brand’s communications.

Jeanette Tan
Jeanette Tan

Jeanette Tan joined SAP in 2012, having previously worked for a number of other technology solutions providers, including Citrix, IBM, Motorola and Oracle. Her team works across several remits, including employee communications, industry analyst relations, media relations and corporate social responsibility.

While SAP’s comms team continues to build its resident expertise in these different roles, Tan says it has also been developing its capacity as an integrated communicator.

“The world is getting more connected – there are more people today with mobile phones than have access to clean sanitation,” says Tan. “Brands are more visible in the age of social media and online social influences are impacting buyer behaviours. Traditional media and news sources are accompanied by online opinion makers, and there is an incessant transfer of information. To be successful, communications as a function needs to integrate the roles within it.”

As part of this transformation into an integrated communications organisation, Tan says she aims to fully integrate the substance of the different communications roles, adapting global/regional content for local audiences and influencing them to the value of SAP.

Current activity that the brand is working on includes the SAP Digital Experience Report. The campaign is intended to raise awareness of the issues customers face when embracing digital transformation.

“We expect to take these findings out to our priority audiences over an array of channels,’ says Tan. “We want to meaningfully engage them about customer centricity in the digital age, and demonstrate the business impact of engagement channels.”

Tan adds that SAP is immersed in the world’s most significant conversations and its communications team meets the wider business need in a number of ways.

“We advise policymakers on topics ranging from cyber-security and data privacy to immigration, as well as partnering with researchers and healthcare providers to enable better patient care and personalised medicine,” says Tan. 

“We work with the biggest leagues and teams to innovate a new era of technology in sports, giving youths the perspective and tools to shape their future as consumers and employees.”

Agency network

Tan works with a number of boutique and international agencies, including AL Consulting, Blue Current, FleishmanHillard, Howorth, Kyodo PR, Team PRInc, United Communications and Weber Shandwick, to supplement its in-house capacity, particularly in markets where local staffing is not present.

“We have been increasing our investment in employee communications and in doing so, have changed the mix in our agency spend,” she says. “By 2020, 70 percent of the workforce will be millennials and how companies drive towards that future workforce will be critical. Company culture has become top of millennials’ priorities when choosing a job.”

Tan believes that in the proverbial war for talent, the ability to communicate a company’s purpose in a meaningful way to its employees and potential hires is paramount.

“SAP’s vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives and our customers look to us to help them ‘run simple’ – to seamlessly connect people and technology, in real-time,” she explains. “We help them re-imagine business and life to drive meaningful impact globally.”

Effective communication, she believes, is vital to attracting and retaining top workers and as such, an inspired and engaged workforce is imperative to SAP’s growth agenda.

Tan says the investment in employee communications is reaping dividends. Working in tandem with HR, SAP has improved its employee engagement scores and won several awards as an employer of choice in Asia.

Room to improve

While established and recognised in the enterprise space, SAP is not yet a household name, nor the intuitive choice for SMBs, says Tan. Customers continue to choose SAP for on-premise application software, making it the world’s largest provider of enterprise application software. But, she says, there is a lot more it can do.

“Clearly, there is significant diversity among Asian nations, with obvious differences in language, culture and IT maturity,” she says. “Yet there is a common thread that runs through them. The environment that today’s small and large organisations operate in is volatile and they want to engage with live data in powerful new ways.

“They want technology to provide them with the agility to adapt to consumer behaviour and changes in the macro environment.”

Going forward, software creation and consumption will be via the cloud. SAP offers its customers cloud software and services, while supporting their end-to-end solutions that require on-premise software.

Tan’s challenge, and opportunity, is communicating SAP’s continued relevance to enterprises and SMBs, and the brand’s mission: to support businesses with simple and easy-to-use solutions focused on cloud-based innovation and on SAP Hana, its platform for real-time computing.

Tan is looking to engage the brand’s main audiences in new ways and tell the SAP story simply and effectively. Another challenge, therefore, is broadening the way SAP tells these stories and presenting them in a more personal and more visual way.

“The ‘consumerisation’ of corporate communications will help employees and external audiences alike consume information more readily, if the information feels like the journalistic content they consume outside of work on their computers, tablets, phones and in front of the TV,” she says.  “More human, more humour where appropriate – akin to the choices they make outside of work.”

This calls for creativity, which Tan says, takes courage. “When we present our work, we are putting ourselves on the block to be critiqued. It’s bold, vulnerable, and requires a certain level of esteem and courage. My team hears about my ‘E’s often: be entrepreneurial, empathise, explore, experiment and execute.”

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