Hello, I'm Kate

Explore My Site

Recent Articles

The Hands Behind John Deere’s Thumb-stopping Content

When Russia invaded Ukraine, John Deere halted all shipments heading to Russia. But someone had to tell them. Someone was charged with the task to send out a news release to inform the whole world of John Deere’s decision, including Russia. Someone typed the words on behalf of John Deere that landed in the hands of Vladimir Putin. Someone was the reason the Agriculture Minister of Russia reached out to the company.

The “someone” behind the high caliber news releases and thumb-stopping content that landed on Putin’s desk is Jennifer Hartmann, Global Director of Strategic Public Relations and Social Media at John Deere, headquartered in Moline, Illinois.

Hartman started this job amid a pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, and President Biden taking office. She said it hit like a ton of bricks. On March 1, 2020, she took over a position that had previously been held for 21 years by her predecessor.

Every morning when she starts work, the public relations and social media teams have a “social media huddle.” This quick 30-minute call is an opportunity for them to review what is happening in the world to set the tone on social media for the day.

“We don’t want to be tone deaf to what farmers are experiencing or seem unsensitive with our content,” Hartmann said.

John Deere’s social media platforms shifted from a photo dump of free advertising to cultivating a community when she took over. Her first order of business was telling everyone they could no longer use John Deere’s social media as free product advertising.

To her, she said, John Deere is more than a product. It is a lifestyle.

The strongest brands have emotional attachment to customers. Prior to her current job, she was the Gold Key Coordinator for John Deere Harvester Works.

Generations of farmers who had been passed down land are invited to come into the factory. Together, the farmer and their family watch their new, bright green combine come straight out of John Deere’s factory. They are the first ones to turn it on with their new gold key.

“The farmer might bring their 70-year-old dad and their 10-year-old son. They would cry. Maybe it was the first time they could afford a brand-new combine. It’s a very emotional moment for that family,” Hartmann said.

In all departments, she said there is nothing but love, commitment and dedication to their customers. A unique, companywide trait she and Brian Torrey, Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager for John Deere in Kansas City, pointed out is it is not driven by profit. Instead, they do what is best for the farmer.

“What is common among all locations is our commitment to serving our customers with integrity and support — doing what is right. And because of that, there’s tremendous loyalty among employees and customers to the John Deere brand,” Torrey said.

Even outside of John Deere’s agriculture market, she said everyone has a story about their grandpa giving them a ride on a zero-turn lawn mower. A real challenge the company is facing is people are moving away from rural America and forgetting their roots.

“Deere touches the whole world,” Hartmann said.

Over the next six years, Hartmann has a public relations plan to reach those young people living in apartments who will never own a lawn mower. John Deere aims to keep people connected to the land and remain a lifestyle.

“She’s changing our social strategy all for the better,” Torrey said.

She and her team try to be as relevant on social media as possible, even on the weekends. Hartmann said she has even monitored Twitter on Christmas.

“Deere is not competing for readers or social media followers from our competitors. We’re competing against Netflix, Thursday night football, the Super bowl, and the World Series. We all only have a short amount of time to grab people’s attention,” Hartmann said.

To effectively win over readers, Hartmann communicates regularly with Torrey. They text and share and craft tweets together. Other conversations consist of discussing industry trends, brand opportunities and social media topics.

Inside and outside of the office Hartmann said she never does anything halfway. She said her brother called her “Save the World Jennifer” because she was always trying to save all the animals and give to all the charities.

With her motivated personality, Hartmann can be found managing, advocating and raising money for her non-profit, the Royal Ball Run for Autism.

Lyric, an avid Disney Princess lover with autism, is Hartmann’s oldest daughter and the driving force behind the non-profit.

Hartmann strategically made the Royal Ball Run for Autism a typical 5k race to bring in runners who aren’t as familiar with the disability. She said “autism walks” just attract local participants who already know about it.

Since starting the non-profit, it has grown into a community that directs and supports people who have been given lifechanging news that their child has autism. Hartmann connects families who need guidance, so they know they are not alone.

Hartmann and her husband, a John Deere employee for 23 years, just bought a two-story building. The bottom will be home to the Royal Ball Run for Autism office. The second story will be four independent living spaces designed for adults with autism, and their daughter Lyric will be the first resident.

The Royal Ball Run for Autism was not “Save the World Jennifer’s” first experience with a non-profit. For eight years she was a Vice President at United Way, a non-profit that fights for people’s the health, education and financial stability.

She said she fell in love with her work there and had great networking opportunities. Coincidentally, United Way’s board chair for communications was also the head of communications at John Deere at the time.

“Deere is so involved in the community, so I had a lot of partners there,” Hartmann said.

Still, she said there are days when she can’t believe working at John Deere is her life.

“The other day I sent out a statement and Elon Musk emailed the CEO of Deere because of a news release I sent out. I called my mom and said, “it is so mind blowing to me that statements I release end up on Musk and Putin’s desks,” she said.

Hartmann said working for John Deere can be stressful, intense and overwhelming. She fills her office with lighthearted reminders, like the “choose joy” plaque on her desk, a canvas on the wall of an antlered deer wearing pink glasses reading a newspaper and pictures of her kids.

Another way she stays grounded in such a fast-paced job is by managing the Twitter account. She gets direct interaction with farmers who remind her what is important to the company.

“When I get on my phone at night to browse the Deere Twitter feed, that is why I am still here. The purpose of Deere is so meaningful,” Hartmann said.

Customers keep employees motivated, especially on the social media team. They get to engage with fans, repurpose content from followers and be a part of a real community. On Instagram and Facebook, the pictures of smiling kids driving their battery powered John Deere tractors around are always a hit.

Hartmann describes John Deere as a blessing and a curse. They are an iconic American brand that is always put on a pedestal. She makes sure John Deere’s point of view is always a part of the conversation.

“I get mad when people have bad things to say about Deere. That is probably my weakness because I am so passionate. I take it personal when people criticize us,” Hartmann said.

Her passion overflows into her leadership style, too. Hartmann said she is not a leader who writes out a five-page business plan or a leader who stares at spreadsheets all day. She leads from her gut.

Most of her workdays are spent managing big issues in the world and daily issues at the office.

“Somehow I ended up in this job, and I hate conflict. I hate confrontations. I think that’s why I am good at this though. I am always looking for the diplomatic solution,” Hartmann said.

Since she started in this role, she said one strength that has remained consistent is her ability to understand how an audience is hearing a message. She said she can take a complex subject and break it down into ways people can understand.

“People always ask me to write their eulogies because I can sit with someone as they talk about their loved one, and I am able to take what they say and put it into something meaningful,” Hartmann said.

If John Deere can tell stories in captivating ways that resonate with their audience, she said no one will stop reading. Hartmann finds out what she can share that will mean something to their audience.

Now, the world has calmed down since Hartmann started in the storm of 2020, but “Save the World Jennifer” continues full force managing her nonprofit and communications team at John Deere.

Hopefully, her next new releases aren’t about a pandemic, social injustice or politics. But, with her attitude, she will always be ready to send a statement to anyone, including Vladimir Putin and Elon Musk.