120 years of Siemens' press office

A look back in history

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Press work at Siemens dates back to the last third of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, it became clear that press work – which had been carried out until then by various departments within the company – needed to be reorganized. To put an end to the “dis-persion” of press work, a Circular was issued 120 years ago on February 8, 1902, announcing the establishment of a Central Press Office. A good 90 years later, this department – which was now called the Corporate Information Office – became the Corporate Communications Office, known today as Communications (CM).

Founding of the Central Press Office

On January 18, 1902, Siemens & Halske (S&H) held a conference regarding the company’s “literary affairs,” at which the forms of external and internal press work in use at the time were reviewed. The outcome of the discussion was an agreement by the participants “that by concentrating all newspaper, advertising and news activities at a central office, the interests of our company can be promoted and protected from damage far better than is the case with the present dispersion.” A decision that still impacts the company today: 120 years ago, on February 8, 1902, a Circular announced that the Managing Board had decided to set up the Central Press Office. 

 

The Central Press Office was initially housed in the administration building at Askanischer Platz in Berlin. This office was assigned three tasks. First, it selected articles from daily newspapers that were relevant to the company and made them available – today, this would be known as press clipping.  Second, it supplied the press with “appropriate news” from the company’s business landscape. The third task involved “public promotion for the entire company” – that is, the placing of advertisements. 

 

The Central Office was not responsible for the content and distribution of "Mitteilungen von Siemens & Halske" (News from Siemens & Halske), a journal that had been published since 1897. Neither was it responsible for collecting, processing or forwarding product-related information or other technical services to the technical and scientific trade press. These tasks remained the responsibility of the S&H Literary Office, which had been founded in 1900.

 

When the Central Press Office was founded, an approval process was set up: articles and papers intended for newspapers had to be submitted in advance to the relevant department head. In addition, a press commission consisting of seven Managing Board members was formed, which was responsible for the approval in “important cases.”  Such cases included, for example, publications affecting multiple departments.

Expanding press work

In 1909, six years after Siemens-Schuckertwerke GmbH (SSW) was founded, a press office was set up for the two parent companies. In 1913, this office reported organizationally to the S&H finance department and – in addition to pure press work – was also responsible for the journal „Mitteilungen aus den Gesellschaften Siemens & Halske / Siemens-Schuckertwerke“ (News from the Siemens & Halske / Siemens-Schuckertwerke Companies), which was published between July 1913 and June 1914. In functional matters, it reported to a three-member commission, comprising a Managing Board member of S&H, a Managing Board member of SSW and an SSW engineer. 

 

In 1914, the press office moved to the new administration building on Nonnendamm in Siemensstadt. In order to expand contacts with the daily press, the press office also took on responsibility for supplying newspapers with SSW’s advertisements. However, the content and form of SSW’s advertisements remained in the hands of SSW’s Literary Office, which had been founded in 1905.

 

 

Starting to differentiate press work

In 1919, when the Economics and Corporate Relations Policy Department and the Social Policy Department – which were responsible for the two parent companies – were established, the press office reported to the Economics and Corporate Relations Policy Department. The Social Policy Department set up its own press office, which also supplied information to the daily newspapers. Independently of this development, however, there had been a problem for years of employees dealing with the press on their own accord.  The board members of S&H and SSW responded with the appropriate letter:

We’d like to point out again that – in view of the necessary consistency of our conduct toward the daily press – the press office must exclusively handle all dealings with editorial offices because otherwise unpleasant occurrences are unavoidable.
Letter from the Directors of S&H and SSW to the companies’ factories, departments and offices, May 29, 1922
Abbreviations
 
S&H
Siemens & Halske
SSW
Siemens-Schuckertwerke
KWU
Kraftwerk Union AG
P Circular
Circular of the Presidency of the Managing Board of Siemens AG
Z Circular
Circular of the "Zentralvorstand" (Corporate Executive Committee)
CC
Corporate Communications
CM
Communications
MR
Media Relations

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In 1922, in order to deepen the connection with the daily press, an external expert – who had previously worked as the main editor of a daily newspaper – was entrusted for the first time with managing the Economics and Corporate Relations Policy Department’s press office. His main task was to handle field work with the daily press – today, this would probably be considered regular editorial visits. He was also responsible for editing „Wirtschaftliche Mitteilungen aus dem Siemens-Konzern“ (Economic News from the Siemens Group). Published since 1919, this journal was the forerunner of „Siemens-Mitteilungen“ (Siemens News), which began publication in 1923.

Central Advertising Department’s Technical News Service

The lion’s share of press work was carried out by the Central Advertising Department’s Technical News Service, whose task was “to report in words and pictures on research, development, production and plant construction in our company.” Its partners were the daily newspapers and trade press in and outside Germany, radio and television stations, newsreels, film production companies and film distributors. For example, in fiscal 1964 alone, the Technical News Service sent out some 1,200 announcements, resulting in total in more than 30,000 articles printed in newspapers and magazines with a total circulation of around 260 million. The trade press group within the Economic Policy Department’s Technical Press Service, in turn, supplied technical journals with information and pictures, organized press conferences and press tours, looked after editorial staff at trade fairs and exhibitions, and wrote exclusive articles. The daily press group sent out the press service “Information for the daily press” – basically a forerunner of today’s newsletters – to all German newspaper editors and to foreign daily newspapers every four to six weeks.

Analysis of the company’s press work

In 1965, Ernst von Siemens – the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the two parent companies S&H and SSW – commissioned an analysis of the company’s press work, for which the Central Advertising Department’s Technical News Service was responsible. 

 

Almost 40 journalists from the press, radio and television and 40 company managers participated in a survey. This survey showed that “even within the company, our press work is not always properly understood and evaluated” – because it was confused with product advertising and because it was considered dispensable when business and orders were good. The survey participants were also of the opinion that Siemens’ press work was far too restrained compared to other large companies. In addition, they criticized the lack of “a specific concept and long-term planning” concerning press work as well as binding guidelines for dealing with press inquiries.  

 

The media representatives criticized above all the fact that – in contrast to other large companies – press work was not bundled in one place and that the publication of information was often inadequate. 

 

These survey results – which were sobering in some areas – led to an about-face in the organizational structure of press work. The plan was to bring the previously separate departments closer together again and to combine them for the first time in a joint department. 

Recentralization of press work

On July 1, 1968, the time had come: the Corporate Information Office was founded and assumed responsibility for, among other things, the areas of the Economics and Corporate Relations Policy Department concerned with press-related information tasks and the Technical News Service of the Central Advertising Department. For the first time in its history, the company therefore had a central point of contact and information that provided both media representatives and interested members of the general public with product-related, technical and business information. The Corporate Information Office, which served as the company’s press department, reported directly to the Managing Board.

More than in the past, public opinion is being shaped by the mass media: press, film, television and radio. In line with this development, press and information activities, which had previously been carried out from time to time by many departments of the company, or by some departments on a regular basis, are to be intensified and coordinated.
P Circular No. 13/68, June 10, 1968

In organizational terms, the Corporate Information Office was divided into the following groups: trade press, television and radio, daily and general interest press, economics department and business press. Although the two press offices at the Siemens locations in Berlin and Karlsruhe were not assigned organizationally to the Corporate Information Office, they were supervised by this office in functional matters.

 

 

The Corporate Information Office was to serve as an interface between the mass media and the company. In addition, the Corporate Information Office was to contribute to the clarification and improvement of the Group’s public image and to promote and coordinate regional press and information work in and outside Germany. The Corporate Information Office also prepared and implemented central press projects and participated in the preparation and design of the economic and business policy sections of "Siemens-Mitteilungen" (Siemens News). In addition to Information for the Daily Press, the Corporate Information Office issued a second press publication under the title Current Picture Service from 1976. 

 

On October 1, 1988, the Corporate Information Office was incorporated into the newly established Corporate Relations Department, which united all units that maintained contact with the public and/or shaped the company’s public image. In addition to the Corporate Information Office, these units included the Corporate Advertising and Design Office as well as the Corporate Economics Office. Corporate Relations reported to the President and CEO, just as the Corporate Information Office had done in the past. 

Report on the Corporate Information Office’s press activities

In 1992, the Corporate Information Office reviewed its press activities of the last few years. The two news services Information for the Daily Press and Current Picture Service were issued to all German-language newspapers – including those in Austria and Switzerland – as well as to various journals and numerous journalists, with a total circulation of around 700. In addition, there were current reports that the daily press group passed on to news agencies. In total, the daily press work of the Corporate Information Office generated 3,000 to 4,000 publications per year in Germany alone.

 

In addition to preparing and presenting the Annual Report and quarterly reports, the Business and Financial Press Group’s activities included compiling the press review Corporate Information Office News. This document provided a summary of the daily analysis of international business newspapers and magazines. At that time, 7,500 copies of the press review were distributed throughout the company worldwide. The trade press group prepared and delivered around 500 technical press releases a year. In addition, it was involved in placing around 600 technical articles per year with the independent trade press, acting as author for up to eight percent of these articles. 

 

Our media work has to support our business policy. This policy is intended to ensure that we gain the necessary understanding and a high level of acceptance for our activities among all the target groups of importance to our company, both in and outside Germany. Our technical, corporate and social performance must be presented worldwide in a consistent, consistent and credible manner.
Z Circular No. 31/1989, September 25, 1989

Press work as a key element within Corporate Communications

Effective October 1, 1993, there was a trendsetting and, from the Corporate Information Office’s point of view, overdue improvement: "Zentralstelle Unternehmenskommunikation" (Corporate Communications Office) was founded. Over the course of the following years, all corporate units that dealt with external and internal communications were consolidated in the Corporate Communications Office. The former Corporate Information Office, which now operates under “Press,” was a founding member of the Corporate Communications Office from the very beginning. 

 

The introduction of international designations for all Siemens units was also reflected in the Corporate Communications Office, which was subsequently called Corporate Communications (CC) throughout the company and, from 2017, Communications (CM). As a result, the Press Office of the Corporate Communications Office became the CC/CM Media Relations Department (CC/CM MR). 

 

 

 

Dr. Claudia Salchow