Profile: Roland Klein, Ericsson - Getting in touch with mobile phone users/Roland Klein is relinquishing the world of cars for a future in telecoms

Roland Klein’s exhausting schedule as head of global corporate media relations at DaimlerChrysler might have qualified him for a new role in some advisory capacity to the airline industry. With an office in Stuttgart and one in the US, he commuted between the two almost every week. Instead, Klein is joining that other industry beloved of the busy corporate executive, the mobile communications industry. He will join the Swedish company Ericsson as senior vice-president in corporate communications next March.

Roland Klein’s exhausting schedule as head of global corporate

media relations at DaimlerChrysler might have qualified him for a new

role in some advisory capacity to the airline industry. With an office

in Stuttgart and one in the US, he commuted between the two almost every

week. Instead, Klein is joining that other industry beloved of the busy

corporate executive, the mobile communications industry. He will join

the Swedish company Ericsson as senior vice-president in corporate

communications next March.



He joins Ericsson at an interesting time as the company re-locates from

Stockholm to London and plans a corresponding increase in its

international activities. The move is reminiscent of that which saw him

go into PR at Daimler-Benz back in 1992 after 14 years in journalism.

David Waller, who was then the Financial Times’ correspondent in

Frankfurt, saw Klein grow into his new PR role just as Daimler-Benz

similarly developed increasing confidence as an international

corporation. ’He joined the company at a difficult time and I think it

is true to say that his career grew in parallel with the success of

Daimler at establishing itself as an international company,’ he

says.



Waller dealt with Klein when Daimler became the first German company to

list on the New York stock exchange. This involved the company accepting

much harsher financial strictures than before and Klein’s job was to

explain to both internal and external audiences the importance of this

for its future growth.



’He has a very sophisticated grasp of the interaction between the press

and financial markets and this was particularly apparent when Daimler

was beginning to become an international company,’ says Waller.



His major challenge at Daimler came in 1998, when the company merged

with US auto giant Chrysler. The merger - at the time the largest in

corporate history - went smoothly from a press point of view, but

characteristically, Klein plays down his role in this.



’We were lucky in that it was a positive merger - not one involving

loads of redundancies. We quickly identified the stumbling blocks and

addressed them proactively and I think this is mainly why it went down

smoothly with the press and the public,’ he says.



Part of the job was also communicating with the new company’s two very

different audiences: that of the press and public in the American

Mid-West where Chrysler was based, and that in the rest of the world.

But one of Klein’s skills appears to be an ability to pick up local

tastes and it is one that he will need in his international role at

Ericsson.



He sees his new role as involving three main elements. First, the

creation and enhancement of the corporate brand. Second, all parts of

the international organisation having the same understanding of the

corporate brand and how products fit within it. Third is the importance

of the company’s employees as ’ambassadors’ of that message. At

DaimlerChrysler there were 430,000.



At Ericsson it will be 100,000.



Another colleague from his newspaper days, Markus Will, who now runs the

centre for corporate communications at St Gallen university in

Switzerland, says that his approach is ’one of the most complete’ he has

come across in a corporate communications professional. ’He really

understands what issues management is about and the importance of

strategic planning to the positioning of a company.’ Will goes on to

add: ’He also has that understanding which you cannot learn, about the

political implications of everything a company does.’



Klein worked with Will ten years ago when he was the London

correspondent of the leading German financial daily FAZ. But despite

having happy memories of the city, Klein says he has no regrets about

his move from newspapers to PR. ’When I had the Daimler offer I had to

think very hard about it.



It was not a planned career move, it just came up and I did it because I

was curious. I found it was a totally different job from on the other

side - the only common factor was that it involved news.



’I have found to my surprise that I really enjoy PR. You have to

convince people that what you want to do is right and I enjoy that.’



In his new role Klein will have plenty of opportunity to deploy these

skills as the company faces the challenges of the fast-moving telecoms

scene and prepares to become more global.



Not having to cross the Atlantic every week and being able to spend more

time with his young family and playing tennis, his favourite sport,

should also make the move rewarding.



HIGHLIGHTS

1992

Director, financial and business relations, Daimler-Benz

1999

Vice-president head of global corporate communications, DaimlerChrysler

1999

Senior vice-president in corporate communications, Ericsson



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