Gerhard Kürner began his career at the voestalpine Group as Group Content Manager in 2001, and was responsible for the Group's first unified internet presence. On the occasion of 20 years of the corporate website he talks to us about key milestones and the digital transformation.
Gerhard Kürner started working in IT and communications in the Automotive Division at voestalpine before being appointed Head of the Communications Department in 2006. Since 2015 he has been a managing partner at the Lunik2 agency in Linz.
What were your responsibilities as Group Content Manager, and what were the challenges you faced in this role back in 2001?
As Group Content Manager—a term which is as in vogue today as it was then—my major challenge was to create an online portal without a computer; my computer only arrived three weeks after I took up the position. When I asked what I should do until then, I was told: “Work!”
The main difficulties lay in explaining to the decision-makers that this wasn’t an IT project, together with coordinating the proliferation of various websites to form a unified presence. But the effort was worthwhile, and over time we were able to create the basis which has made digital communications so important within the voestalpine Group.
How do you think the role of the traditional corporate website will change?
I believe corporate websites will shift away from a one-way form of communication to becoming business and dialog platforms. Currently, companies are still largely concerned with optimizing their websites for mobile use, and providing content relevant to each target group. Innovative companies are already a step further, and are considering how to link their own business strategies—both in terms of communication and directly—to a digital business process.
What do you believe were the most important digital milestones for voestalpine during your time as Head of Communications?
Creating a structured web presence, which I started back in 2001, and establishing the related framework conditions, such as the domain structure and online CD guidelines, served to create the foundations for today’s activities. From developing the first social media activities through to the international focus—this was an exciting time.
"But the most important digital milestone was, of course, setting up an excellent online team."
If you think back to the early days of social media, what was the main reason for an industrial enterprise to establish its own social media presence?
In 2008 this was a new and exciting topic. Right from the start, I was fascinated by the option of communicating directly and globally. Using social media has hugely expanded our reach. We were regarded as pioneers in the industry, and these activities—especially in Austria—have made a substantial contribution to creating the image of voestalpine as an international technology and capital goods group, rather than “steelworkers” from Linz.
How do you think this digital transformation will progress? What are the challenges and demands that the company must be prepared to face?
It is still important to consider and enable mobile access, to reduce complexity, to offer intriguing content for the target groups and to enter into dialog with them. The “next big thing” is already here: the trend is towards chatbots, and they will replace several apps and website elements in future.
Microsite: 20 years of the website, see www.voestalpine.com/www1996