Making global communications work: top insights from top global communicators

It's a small world

On Wednesday night I joined 30+ comms professionals at the IABC UK event ‘The world is your oyster: making global communications work.’

We heard from Claudia d’Amaoto about her experiences working in Brazil for Anglo American; Emma Thompson, an international communications consultant who’s spent more than a decade working in global communications; and Tom Blackwell, CEO, EM Communications who has more than ten years’ communications experience based in Russia.

This session was perfectly timed for me as I start a new role at Pearson next week, as an Employee Communications Manager. This will be my first comms role in a global organisation of this size so I’m really excited about the challenge ahead.

Here I’ve summarised some of the insights that I found valuable from Claudia, Emma and Tom:

  • Research the demographics of a country: find out about the education levels and skills levels. Remember, IT industry in some emerging countries is only 10 years old – in the US it’s 30 years old. So that affects things. Some people will have never worked in another company culture. The World Economic Forum is a good for country briefings.
  • Speak to local teams and ask them: what three things should I know about your country? What three things should I be doing to make comms better?
  • Spend time in the country you’re working with if you can. Live and breathe the issues. Shared reference points are crucial. If you don’t have the luxury of travel organise virtual coffee mornings / brown bag sessions / focus groups. Work hard to get to know the teams.
  • Identify your comms sponsors who’ll be your champions on the ground. Could be the sales guy or the GM. They can be a source of info and intelligence for you too.
  • Listen. Learn. And adapt.
  • Understand the practical elements that will impact what you do. Things such as working days of the week, religious holidays and their impact.
  • Focus on the outcomes you want from your comms and work with the local teams. Be prepared for longer planning cycles – if you launch something don’t expect it to be launched locally within even 8 weeks because of local activity.
  • ‘Double up and double down’. Emma told us that her team had carried out research which showed non-english speakers must hear a message 7-8 times in order to digest it and act. That’s versus English as a first language speakers needing to hear it 3-4 times.
  • Work closely with HR and leadership. You all play a part to help employees understand why a company is run and how it’s run, no matter where they’re based.
  • Think about the plan, but think about the relationships you need to build to ensure you’ve created the right plan and to help you deliver the plan.

As the session wrapped up, it was really reassuring to hear all three speakers say that in reality there is no perfect formula for making global comms work. It’s about using your gut instinct and having the conviction to go for it. Thanks to Emma, Tom and Claudia for your valuable insights – I’ll definitely be using what I learnt and applying it in my new role next week. Wish me luck!

Image: ‘It’s a small world, isn’t it’ by Dennis Jarvis. License courtesy of Creative Commons


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