Women in PR: Joanne Bischmann


Joanne Bischmann guided Communications for Harley-Davidson Motor Company as well as oversaw the Business Aviation and Travel and Meeting Services functions for the company until her retirement in early 2019. She is a member of The Plank Center’s Board of Advisors.

I started my career in advertising at the bottom of the bottom. It was a great experience and gave me numerous opportunities in a variety of businesses. I moved up fairly quickly at the agency which is something that happens more with agencies than corporations. I heard about a Manager of Advertising position at Harley-Davidson and applied more for the new business contact, but fell in love with the job and the people in the interview process. Within 6 years I was made VP of Marketing and held that role for 10 years before moving to VP of Licensing followed by the move to CCO 5 years later. I retired from Harley-Davidson after 29 years and 8 years as CCO.

There are 2 things that made a difference in my career: first, I did anything and everything that needed to be done. Whether it was in my role or not. I “filled the gap.” There are times when there is simply too much work to get done by a team, or there is an opportunity to plug something and I made sure I filled that need. Everything from answering phones on a snow day or polishing bikes for a show to drafting a communication to a key stakeholder group. Be the go-to person. And the second learning was as you become a leader, surround yourself with people who are better than you. YOU are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Make sure they are the best.

I’m surprised at the statistics around women leaders because I know many of them. I think we are on the upswing and that the number of woman in leadership positions will be rapidly increasing. Visibility and recognition are beginning.

I think the industry as a whole needs to ensure it’s a place in organizations and then give everyone a chance, both women and men. The communication role is essential to strong companies and we need to continue to demonstrate that through our influence and ability to collaborate across organizations. Once we are recognized for the expertise we bring, then all communication professionals will benefit.

Young women getting into this field need to be prepared to work hard, long hours, focus on collaboration and being decisive in their actions and direction.

Teamwork begins with a shared purpose.  Make sure that everyone knows that they are essential to achieving the team’s goals.

There are a couple of givens in this world and one of them is that people and organizations cannot be successful without communicating well.  And when they don’t do it well, which is often, there is an even greater need for communication experts to correct misinformation and communication.  That is why this is such an exciting profession.  We will never not be needed.

Posted: March 7, 2019

More from Joanne: