The leap from student life to corporate communications in an international business bombarded me with a constant flow of new impressions during the first few weeks of my internship. So to start with, it was a case of listening, storing information and remembering names! I can remember one of the first team meetings particularly well, where everything was just gobbledygook to me in terms of the vast array of new terminology, product names and abbreviations. It was all very confusing. And on top of all that, everything was done in English, which took quite some getting used to. Prior to that, I had been working part-time as a freelancer at a small-scale local newspaper whenever my studies allowed, but now there was an unbelievable number of new departments to contend with and a building where you could easily get quite lost in the corridors. However, my colleagues in Monheim kindly helped accustom me to my new surroundings more quickly than I would ever have thought possible at the outset.
But let’s get back to how it all started – how I ended up at Bayer… I had always been interested in corporate communications while studying journalism and media communications in Cologne, where my course also covered subjects such as public relations and corporate publishing – a broad and exciting field. Just as I was completing my course, a job was advertised at Bayer that really caught my eye. Until then, I had thought that traineeships in communications were only stepping stones for careers in newspapers, radio or TV. I thought the communications program offered by Bayer would be an excellent opportunity to learn as much as possible and find out how the communications department in a large corporation really works.
I ended up in Bayer CropScience by coincidence, really, as external communications was looking for a new trainee. Having grown up on a farm and being familiar with agriculture, I already knew that part of Bayer’s work involves crop protection, pest control and seeds. Apart from that, agriculture and food were also the subject of my bachelor dissertation on “The public focus on food scandals”. When I was invited to an interview at Bayer CropScience in Monheim am Rhein, I still had to google the address, though, to find out where it is. It’s actually not that far from Leverkusen, but rather more rural and green – as I discovered a couple of weeks later in among the wild geese and various different institutes and research institutes at the “Monheim Campus”.
By now, my 24 month placement is almost at an end, and I can look back over an interesting and educational time here. One of my responsibilities has involved overseeing communications for the “Baylab plants” schools laboratory, where school classes come along on Tuesdays and Thursdays to gain hands-on research experience and put what they learn in chemistry and biology lessons into practice using pipettes and petri dishes. Many different events and activities center around this student laboratory throughout the year, and I get to run the communications, as well as planning and organizing the events. There was the “Discovery Day”, for example, when the four top school classes in a youth chemistry competition met to compete against each other. The competition awards ceremony, presented by 1LIVE presenter Michael Imhof a few weeks later at the winning school, was a particularly enjoyable experience. It was all about having fun. The schoolchildren got the chance to win tickets for a concert by taking part in a quiz, and they relished the diversion from their usual curriculum.
As well as the student laboratory, I also provide support to the external communications team, of course, for their ongoing projects and day-to-day activities. External communications are mainly about press and public relations, and this constantly involves issuing press releases and providing journalists with statements. Another important element of our work is nurturing good relations with journalists. Of course, there are plenty of areas and events that need coordinating and planning in-house, too.
One of the highlights in this respect is the annual press conference that takes place every September. Some 200 journalists from 20 to 30 countries converge on Monheim to learn about the latest developments at Bayer CropScience and gain an insight into that field of business. The weeks of preparation are always very intense. My input so far has involved planning and putting together the press folder – including all the relevant images, information, presentations, background reports and dossiers, along with people’s résumés and the program of events. All of this content needs coordinating, collating and then sending to press. We work right down to the last second. I also provide support in many other areas, such as organizing the supplementary program for the journalists and being around to assist at the hotel as they arrive and depart. Organizing the press conference requires a real team effort, and it is a wonderful feeling at the end of the day when everything has gone according to plan.
The “Vegetable Future Forum” was another great project in the form of a conference all about fruit and vegetables attended by more than 200 employees and guests. This was an opportunity for me to plan the event communications bundle myself before refining and finalizing everything with the aid of the team of experts involved. From the general planning of the event, press release, agency relations and shooting of the video to an extra brochure for the event – I was actively involved in the entire communications package.
Of course, 2013 was an exciting year for all graduate interns – all 13 of us, as we number in total right now across the various subgroups, service companies and holding company, were able to witness Bayer’s 150th anniversary celebrations first-hand. In an anniversary year, the communications departments are those most strongly involved in the planning of individual events, campaigns and press relations. Not only did we get to learn a great deal, but we also gained direct experience of the effort involved in organizing this kind of anniversary and saw how to successfully put individual measures into action.
This report was written by Valerie Pütz. On this blog Bayer employees from different subgroups and service companies tell you about their personal experiences. So you can get a little insight into the company. Why are we doing this? Please visit our Facebook-Blog.
This post is also available in: German