When Jen Hartmann was growing up in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Northwestern Illinois, she dreamed of working at the John Deere headquarters in nearby Moline, Ill.
She attended Northern Illinois University with the intention of becoming an English teacher. One day, her class took a field trip to Edelman in downtown Chicago, about a two-hour drive from the university. “I was hooked,” Hartmann remembered. “I immediately shifted my career direction toward public relations.”
During grad school, she landed an internship at Edelman. “I remember being on the train reading an alumni newsletter and thinking that, someday, I would lead PR for John Deere.”
And that’s exactly what she has done. Hartmann, who has worked in public relations for 30 years, has been global director of strategic public relations and enterprise social media at John Deere since 2020. She was the guest on Oct. 17 for the Strategies & Tactics Live broadcast on LinkedIn from PRSA’s ICON 2023 in Nashville, Tenn.
At Deere, a company that manufactures farm combines and harvesting equipment, “I couldn’t have asked for a better first job,” she said. In her initial role there, she was responsible for the company’s “Gold Key Tours” at its factory. Hartmann met and hosted customers and guests from all over the world.
The tours were “an opportunity for farmers who have purchased a new combine to come in and see the production process,” she said. “They can even start their combine for the first time, on the assembly line. I got to see, up-close, just how emotionally connected customers really are to our brand, which has been around since 1837.”
Serious business, sometimes playful tone
John Elsasser, editor-in-chief of Strategies & Tactics and host of S&T Live, asked Hartmann about John Deere’s social media strategy and how it is informed by the company’s relationship with its customers. On X, formerly known as Twitter, the John Deere account is playful and uses humor, in tune with its audience of farmers and manufacturers — who, in turn, show their enthusiasm for the brand, Hartmann said.
“One of the most valuable things our team does is hold a social media huddle every morning to check the news for any conditions that might be relevant to Deere,” she said. “We’re listening to our customers to see how planting [their crops] is going or how harvesting is going. If farmers are experiencing drought, that’s not the time to be cutesy or funny on social media.”
In an era when news developments and social conflicts boil up fast online, at Deere, “we take a pause,” she said. “We’re not quick to react or to get out ahead of something. We want to make sure that if we are going to address something, it’s relevant and credible for our company to be part of. Sometimes you see brands jumping into the fray much too quickly,” before they’ve strongly considered whether their organization has a role to play or a voice on a given issue in the news, she said.
With crisis situations now developing quickly for many companies, she’s glad to have her PR and social media people on the same team. They put the company’s purpose and its customers “front and center, before there’s an issue.”
On social media, John Deere’s strategy is “more about celebrating that fan base than it is about selling our product.”
You can watch the playback on LinkedIn here.
The post S&T Live Recap: John Deere’s Jen Hartmann on Her PR Dream Job and Social Media Strategy first appeared on PRsay.