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Last week, I recorded the 17th csuite podcast and the first in a series of specials that I’m producing on behalf of the World Public Relations Forum, an event I am very excited to be attending, that’s taking place in Toronto from May 29th to 31st and that has the theme of ‘Communication across Cultures.’
Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Janet Morgan, former Director for Global Content Strategy and Planning, GlaxoSmithKline were with me in the studios of markettiers and joining us on the line from Dubai was Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications and Reputation Manager for the Arabian Peninsula, Procter & Gamble and Vice-Chair, Middle East Public Relations Association.
The aim of the show was to preview the sessions that my three guests are going to be presenting at the conference in May and themes we discussed included:
- Modernising Public Relations Teams
- Understanding culturally aware communications
- Localisation challenges
- The Cultural Gap
- The Future of Public Relations
One of the areas Stephen highlighted, whilst discussing his presentation, was that professional organisations around the world are very much focussing on competency frameworks. He believes this is an area that the Global Alliance is firmly leading and said that they will be announcing their new competency framework, showing what excellence looks like for practitioners, at the Toronto event. You can get some background information on this by reading Wadds’ own blog post – ‘Defining competence in public relations’.
Adding to what Stephen discussed, Janet said that as practitioners, we need to find ways to become more responsive and faster, particularly to customer feedback and comments across social media, referring to a 2012 Crisis Management Study by Freshfields that, whilst based on crises that hit between 2007 and 2012, she believes is still relevant now. The report stated that a quarter of crises that were breaking on social media were going into international media within an hour and that two thirds were making it into international media with 24hrs, yet, once it’s broken, companies were taking an average of 21hrs to respond, leaving them open to ‘Trial by Twitter’.
Alex talked about his workshop, which is going to explore the importance of understanding culturally aware communications and highlighted some of the challenges faced by multinationals in localising global campaign content for a local market. He used Saudi Arabia as an example, where the majority of the population are under 24 years old, yet the average age, until recently, of ministers in Government was mid-60s, and so explained that tweeting a minister of that age group isn’t going to do the trick if you want to influence something in Public Affairs! You therefore need to understand how to tailor the approach and, whilst you may have the same messaging, it’s about pushing that messaging in a different fashion so that it’s understood by the people that matter in that country and location.
Alex also used the financial sector as a good example of how reliance on English as the global language of business can result in miscommunication with important stakeholder groups in regions where English is not the native language. He explained that it’s very difficult to translate certain financial communications from English into Arabic, but beyond that, there is Sharia Financing / Islamic Financing where you don’t have concepts such as debt or loans. Therefore, even as a conventional bank, Alex said that you have to take what you understand in English and not just translate literally but bring the meaning of what you are trying to convey to those stakeholder groups locally on the ground.
There were plenty more examples discussed in the podcast and it made for a really good show.
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