Matthias Berninger | Influence 100

Matthias Berninger 

SVP Public & Government Affairs 



 Matthias Berninger walked into the top public affairs job at life sciences company Bayer in January last year, and straight into a storm. The German multinational’s acquisition of US agriculture giant Monsanto in 2018 – along with its headline-grabbing weedkiller, RoundUp – is set to dominate the firm’s engagement with its policy and political stakeholders at a local, European and global level for some time.

Berninger, a former German Green party politician himself from 1993 to 2007, is no stranger to the cut and thrust of front-line politics around controversial topics. His decision to suspend FleishmanHillard from its work with Bayer/Monsanto after the alleged data breach last spring shocked many in the communications industry, in-house and in agencies, but quickly cemented Berninger’s influence within the firm.

Before joining Bayer, Matthias Berninger held a variety of senior comms roles at Mars, including global public policy director, VP corporate affairs, and VP public affairs.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance
When the tobacco industry was successfully creating doubts about scientifically-proven negative health effects to postpone inevitable regulation (a defining example for all communicators of what not to do.)

What are the comms industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
We have to work together across platforms and brand owners to fix social media so that brands do not inadvertently promote hate, sexism, racism and lies.

What have you most admired about this industry in 2020?
The resilience of so many who were suffering from the direct and indirect impact of the pandemic.

What has most disappointed you about this industry in 2020?
We still haven't managed to successfully address the corrosive side effects of social media, most notably hate, sexism, racism and the propelling of lies.

How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
By getting more cycling miles than air miles under my belt while listening to books.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
Factfulness (Hans Rosling)

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
More chatty.

Sum up 2020 in one word.