Jan 14, 2021
Jeffrey Kuhlman is Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at Bentley Motors, Inc. Jeff was serving as communications chief for the U.S. arm of the British luxury automobile brand when he added marketing responsibilities in 2016. He reports to the president of Bentley USA as well as the U.K.-based global communications director.
Jeff is an auto industry comms veteran, having worked for several automobile brands during his career. In addition to Bentley, which he joined in 2015, he’s filled communications shoes at Nissan, Audi, and General Motors. GM was his longest stint, extending 22 years until 2006 when he began a five-year engagement as chief communications officer at Audi. He handled jobs from speechwriter to environmental communications for Cadillac, GM Truck, and other divisions.
Here are some key takeaways from this interview.
You can still have events safely during a pandemic if you follow health guidelines. As a brand that emphasized in-person events as a key marketing channel, Bentley needed to find a way to keep bringing customers and prospects together with its cars and people face-to-face. They found it in the form of limited-contact get-togethers with small numbers of people where effective social distancing was observed along with effective exposure to the brand and the vehicles.
If you’re looking for a mentor, don’t look far. The best mentor is probably someone you’re already working with or for. This person will be familiar with your work and be senior enough to give you some insight into what you’ll face as you ascend the ladder; and, ideally, a push from behind if you need it. Start by just hanging around and asking questions. If the connection is there, then and only then inquire about the prospects for being mentored.
Addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion starts as an inside job. If your brand isn’t working to be more fair and just with its own employees, it won’t be perceived as credible by those outside the company. For Jeff, this starts with discussing what diversity and inclusion mean to your team members and identifying the current challenges and opportunities there.
To craft the professional future you want, stay curious, and close to your passion. Jeff’s career with General Motors took off when he was challenged to master advanced automotive technology. That showed him the value of learning and staying interested and curious. Later, when he returned to the U.S. from Japan, he was motivated in part by a passion to return to a more boots-on-the-ground mode of working than he was getting as global head of communications for Nissan.
If your brand is celebrating a major anniversary, focus as much or more on the future as the past. For Bentley’s “Beyond 100” initiative, marking a century of existence, the brand naturally looked back at its legendary designs but also emphasized what it was doing to attract tomorrow’s buyers. One result was the determination to go all-electric by 2030.
Thank you for listening! Don't forget to subscribe.
Produced by Simpler Media