From Passion to Profession
+++ Dieser Beitrag wurde von einem niederländischen Mitarbeiter verfasst und ist daher auf Englisch.+++
To Niels Stolte, Dutch and currently working for Mercedes-Benz Bank, blogging is nothing new. However, the last time he wrote a blog article it was from a different point of view: Before he started in Corporate Communications, Niels worked as a Social Media influencer. On our blog he gives insights into the activities of an automotive blogger and writes about how he turned over to the corporate side.
Winter 2016. It’s about -20 degrees Celsius and I am standing on top of a snow-covered mountain, knees deep. The sun is hanging low, spreading its soft orange rays over the scenic and snow-covered backcountry. I am in Swedish Lapland, where the sun peeks above the horizon for just a few hours a day during the winter. The Arctic Circle is for most automotive journalists and bloggers one of the first stops in the new year: almost all car brands have their own testing facilities there. Particularly the area around Arvidsjaur, where the roads are commonly dominated by reindeer, brand new cars in disguise and spy photographers, is bustling with activity during winter time.
12 months, 20 countries, 40 cars
My blog adventure started almost a year before that when I joined the blog’s annual tour through the Alps with cars supplied by Mercedes-Benz. The first kilometers of my ‘blogging career’ I spent behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Maybach – not a bad way to get started. During the tour I quickly got acquainted with a variety of cars from Mercedes-AMG. Putting those vehicles through their paces in the European Alps was a dream come true for a petrolhead like myself. Returning home to the Netherlands I landed back on planet Earth, but hungry for more after having gotten a first taste of it.
Although I really didn’t need to forget about my ambitious studying goals, 2016 turned out to be one of the busiest years for me as a blogger, in which I traveled to about 20 different countries and drove over 40 different car models. Highlights were the ice driving events I did at the beginning of the year in Norway and Sweden, a variety of track events over the course of the year including the new Mercedes-AMG E-Class at Portimao, but also getting acquainted with Motorsport over the summer, a very special and interesting world on its own. Before I realized I found myself interviewing legendary racing drivers like Mark Webber and spending time with Linkin Park in AMG’s pavilion at the 24 Hours of Spa.
Between college and driving events
Even though spending much time away from home, I managed to find time to study for my Graduation Management Admission Test while traveling. All of a sudden the rest of the year looked quite different – and I had to find out the hard way that traveling every other week and pursuing a full-time master’s degree was probably not the best combination. At the beginning of the year I would show up at campus with a packed suitcase on multiple occasions, sneaking away from mandatory lectures during the break and catching a taxi to the airport. That worked for about a month…
The press trips are fun but exhausting. Many driving or press events are just a day, some are two days and sometimes you are away for a week if it’s an intercontinental trip. Especially the one-day and two-day trips require flexibility and motivation, 18-hour days and short nights are not uncommon. I once got up at 2:30 AM to make my flight from Amsterdam to Madrid for a driving event, which included a press conference, 250 km scenic drive and six laps on the racetrack. I was back home at 23:00 PM – the review had to be live within 24 hours including a fully edited set of photos.
I soon started to focus more on my studies but made sure to stay close to my passion for cars: I wrote several papers on sustainability and innovation in the automotive industry and dedicated my master thesis to sustainable business models in the automotive industry. Still writing for the blog and visiting press events occasionally, I ultimately leveraged my network for a referral to this position at the Mercedes-Benz Bank to bring my skills in Corporate PR. I saw a great opportunity to get familiar with the other side of the industry and develop myself further. As a blogger you generally reach the ceiling rather quickly, whereas the possibilities on the corporate side are endless. Moreover, being able to be part of an organization that really has the power and influence to shape the future of the industry is what excites me. The first phone conversation with my future manager to schedule an interview happened completely in style: I was just making my way through Baden-Württemberg in the new Mercedes-AMG S-Class at the official press launch.
On the other side
One month later I settled in Stuttgart – I officially turned over to the other side, from journalism to PR. An internship in Corporate Communications now gives me the perfect opportunity to get to know the company on a wide variety of levels. I soon realized that things are running a bit different here. Editing and publishing an article for a blog with over a million monthly readers could be as simple as a few hours work, especially if deadlines needed to be met. I have experienced that the wheels of a large corporation can turn somewhat slower.
However, I was surprised how quickly I identified with the strong company culture and see its products from such a different perspective. It’s fascinating to be part of an organization instead of being just a visitor. To look behind the scenes and understand what’s really going on has made me see things in a different light.
See more of Niels' pictures on his Instagram @nielsphotos and on the Mercedes-Benz Instagram account @mercedesbenz.
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