17 and a Half Questions With Dr. Sabine Hückmann

We ask inspiring people 17 and a half questions. This week we have Dr. Sabine Hückmann, the CEO of Ketchum Germany. She shares insights and thrills behind PR, her passion for crime stories and cold cases and what links her to the bestseller author Don Winslow 

17 and a Half Questions With Dr. Sabine Hückmann

1.  What I like about my job

That I never end a day less clever than I started it. As a person working for an agency, you have the privilege of gaining insight into many different companies and institutions, their products and strategies, their business models and cultures. So I never just stew in my own juices. This enables me to establish better connections in discussions and further allows me take a more informed position on a great many issues in life.

2. What sometimes frustrates me

I tire a bit of having to explain that PR does not in fact stand for ‘press and media relations’, nor does it stand for ‘earned media’ and that communication can add value of its own accord and thereby contribute to a company's success – even a measurable one. But only if you let it. That means it can’t just be regarded as a type of announcement system ensuing corporate decision-making. It is time Communication had a permanent place at the decision-making table. Especially now, when many business models are up for discussion.

3. My secret alternative job

Adapting 'Hawksmoor' by Peter Ackroyd for the screen. I can just see the pictures in my mind! But he refused to sell me the film rights. Or to set up an interdisciplinary cold case unit. I'm a big fan of recombination strategies. So I'd be very interested to know what comes out when non-criminally trained people look at case files. What do they look for? Where do they perhaps make completely new connections? What can criminologists learn from communicators, from confectioners or from business people?

4. Best strategy to survive a really bad day at the office

In the age of the home office: go for a run around the block once or do a load of laundry. Custard twirls and coffee will do the trick too.

5. When are you in the famous flow

Either when I can concentrate fully on one thing and work away happily all by myself, or the extreme opposite – when I get to work on something together with others, so that each person can contribute their strengths. For example, I'm much better at sorting and structuring than I am at a creative process, but I love working with creative people who can't sort through their great ideas as well. With perfect matches like that, I'm totally in the flow. And so are the others.

6. Biggest success so far

From a professional point of view, a definite highlight of my career was working with our client EnBW in the communications support for their Castor transports. If you communicate on the subject of nuclear power, you really don't have to fight for attention. And when it comes to Castor transports, critical support is guaranteed. All the more so when the transport is to take place on a German inland waterway for the first time. For five such transports, EnBW was able to build trust among the population and key stakeholders with continuous process communication over several years. Through this an acceptance was created for a project that had never before existed in this form in Germany.

Personal-interpersonal: My family.

7. Biggest defeat

Oh, alas! There are many. I haven’t bothered to put them in a list.

8. Worst buzzword

I can't decide between 'effortless' and 'moment of pleasure', or when sentences from fellow collegiate English speakers start with "Look, ...". What follows rarely shows much appreciation.

9. Best reward after a hard week at work

My 'Nothing Box', my place where I just do nothing.

10.   Home office or in-house

I would very much like to have both options once they are available again. At the moment 100% home office.

11. Most important traits a colleague/business partner must have

I have to be able to have a good laugh with my colleagues, even in the biggest of catastrophes! And if those around me can put up with me even when I'm overwhelmed, then that's all I can ask for.

12. Your creative hack

When a problem area reaches a certain level of complexity, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal that’s trying to be achieved by solving a particular problem. I then consciously place the problem area and its sort of sub- and side-problems far back in my mind and visualize the goal. Then the thoughts don't go around in circles anymore. And then I go to sleep.  Quite often in the course of the following days I’ll suddenly have an epiphany about how I can get one step closer to the goal again, without having consciously worked on the problem’s solution the whole time. That's a great feeling when it works.

13. First website to check in the morning

At the moment I always have RKI and the Johns Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Center open, as well as Twitter.

14. Favorite digital tool

My Kindle. I just adjust the font size to fit and then I no longer need glasses to read! Plus, if I  can't find an end to my reading because it’s all just too exciting to put down, the built-in display light doesn't disturb my husband while he's sleeping either.

15. In which book or series have you learned the most for your (work) life?

I had to think about that for a long time. I learned a lot about geopolitics and the mechanics of and within hierarchies from the so-called Cartel Saga by Don Winslow ('The Power of the Dog', 'The Cartel', 'The Border'). Star Wars or the stories from the Marvel universe are legendary lessons in storytelling. At the end of the day, nothing works in my profession without Simon Sinek.

16. Which series, book or podcast can you generally recommend?

'The Bureau' is great and unfortunately a far too underrated French series about French foreign intelligence. By the way, that was a recommendation from my colleague Simone Hoch. I can blindly follow her movie or series recommendations. One of my favorite fiction books of all time is 'Hawksmoor' by Peter Ackroyd (see question #3). NDR's Corona Virus Update with Christian Drosten and Sandra Ciesek is, in my opinion, the "must hear" for all science aficionados when it comes to podcasts.

17. Most prominent follower on a social channel?

Definitely Don Winslow (@donwinslow) on Twitter, bestselling author of compelling and also educational crime fiction and more for fans of hard-boiled plots (if you don't know him, see question 15 😊).

17 and a half: What has always...

...fascinated me: Water Bears. I love these survivalists. They even landed on the moon last year. Let's see if we can 1) find them again and 2) reawaken them from their cryptobiosis.



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