Category Archives: Language

LATAM to Europe + Fearless Girl – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with President of McCann Worldgroup Europe

Interview starts at 20:49

In my final csuitepodcast interview from Cannes Lions, I spoke with Pablo Walker, President of McCann Worldgroup Europe where we talked about the culture differences he’d experienced since moving from Latin America to Europe, plus his thoughts on the 3 x Cannes Lions Grand Prix winning campaign, ‘Fearless Girl’.

Chatting with Pablo Walker , President of McCann Worldgroup

Chatting with Pablo Walker , President of McCann Worldgroup

Pablo has been at McCann for about 25 years, with much of his career in Latin America but moved to Europe a few years ago.

In terms of cultural differences between the two markets, for Pablo, the obvious one in terms of the consumer is language, as in Latin American there are two main languages – Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese and as both are similar, he said that if you speak one, you can understand the other.  However, by contrast in Europe there are more than 30 languages. Therefore, he thinks that in Latin America, there is a lot of cultural activities, such as music, TV and literature that works everywhere in the same way, so there is a regional culture there, but in Europe it is country by country culture, and so he thinks that this makes it much harder to have regional level impact in Europe with the same kind of communications.

From a business perspective though, Pablo cited labour flexibility as a key difference, as he said that in many countries in Europe, it is very inflexible and so in today’s market, where you need to reshape your business very quickly because it may be changing in a very dynamic way, you need flexibility to adapt your structures and he thinks that, compared to Latin America where it is easier to do, he thinks it is very difficult to do this in Europe as it’s slow and very expensive, making it harder for companies to invest, meaning it’s not good for employees either and therefore he believes that this is a dangerous situation.

One thing that is the same across the markets, however, is that the clients are looking for the same everywhere – they all want to improve their top line and want ideas that have an impact in their market that can be measured, whether that market is developed or emerging.

From a creativity perspective though, Pablo said that both regions can learn a lot form each other.  He feels it is more comfortable in Europe, possibly due to the wealth of the region, but in Latin America, you may be able to develop ideas that are more difficult to be acquired in Europe, but then you can implement them more easily in Europe as it may be more difficult to do so in Latin America due to cost. Overall though, he feels that Multiculturalism is an asset in the industry and so believes we need people from different nationalities and gender as his business is one of ideas and those come from everbody.

It was great timing to be speaking with Pablo given McCann had picked up multiple awards at Cannes Lions for their Fearless Girl campaign, including 3 Grand Prix awards and naturally, Pablo was extremely proud and happy with the recognition it was getting.

Fearless Girl (image via Wikipedia)

Fearless Girl (image via Wikipedia)

Fearless Girl was created for McCann’s client, State Street Global Advisors, a New York investment firm, and involved the commissioning of a statue of girl of around 12 years old, that was placed directly opposite Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture.  The aim of the campaign was to promoting gender diversity, whilst raising awareness of State Street’s ‘SHE’ fund, which invests in businesses with female executives, among financial communities and was launched to tie in with International Women’s Day, which took place in March.  Pablo said that whilst the initial idea was to place the statue in Wall Street for just one week, due to it being so popular, the aim now was to now keep it there for at least one year.

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

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Understanding language & culture when managing International Crisis Communications – csuitepodcast 20

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Show 20 of the csuitepodcast discussed a new report that I actually helped write for translation and localisation agency, Conversis, on the importance of understanding language and culture when managing an international crisis.

I was joined in the studios of markettiers by Conversis CEO, Gary Muddyman and Francis Ingham, who is Director General of both the UK & MENA PRCA and Chief Executive of ICCO.  We also had Neil Chapman on the line – Neil is a partner at WPNT Communications, an agency that specialises in Crisis Communication Leadership, plus within the show, I included some audio content from an interview I carried out whilst I was at PR360 the previous week with former Editor of numerous BBC TV and Radio news programmes, Simon Waldman.

We began the show by discussing why we felt that almost half of the UK and US Communications executives who manage international crisis communications and had responded to the research survey admitted to having experienced a cultural faux pas due to a mistreated or wrong cultural reference in a campaign and the fact that, in over 68% of those cases, it had led to severe ramifications.

Gary felt that this all linked to the general lack of language and cultural awareness amongst executives in the US and UK.  He believes that one of the best ways to understand the culture of a country is to really understand their language and that whole attitude affects us, whereas a number of our competitor countries are real global citizens who understand the language, culture and what they are dealing with – we just don’t have that kind of education.

Francis agreed and picking up on the comment he made in the report that ‘the findings are a wakeup call to the industry on both sides of the Atlantic’, he added that too many people who think that, because English is our first language we have it covered and so there isn’t a need for planning, resources or trying to get inside the mind set of culture and the language of the people we are doing business with, this sometimes leads to us being a little bit arrogant.  His conclusion from having read the report is that we simply don’t invest enough time, effort and money in communicating in other languages and embracing other cultures and that is a risk to the continued growth of the PR industry in the UK and US.

As Neil was on the show, I obviously took the opportunity to ask him about his time at BP, where he was involved in the crisis communications during BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in April 2010.  This was actually an incident flagged in the report because, as well as people quite rightly taking offence to the comments made by the CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, when he used the phrase “I’d like my life back” at the end of a TV news interview, this after 11 workers lost their lives in the disaster, there was more reputational issues to deal with when the then BP Chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, followed that comment up with a cultural faux pas.

In another interview, Svanberg tried to translate a phrase from his native Swedish that was a figure of speech that means something along the lines of ‘the common person’, but ended up saying “We care about the small people”, which just came across highly patronising in English.

Neil said, in relation to that issue, that what he teaches executives is that it’s all about empathy, and that language plays into that.  You need to show you are human and that you realise they are hurting and it’s all about how you demonstrate that empathy.  He admitted that those two executives at BP didn’t do a good job in that respect and it was because they did it in a crass way.

Neil’s advice to anyone in a crisis situation is to ‘get some dirt on your hands’. In other words, if you can, speak to the people who have been impacted in a crisis, listen to them, really meet them and go eye to eye and see the impact of what has happened – then the tone of what you say will change and will become much more human and empathetic.

Other areas we covered that are featured in the report including monitoring of comments on social media and speed of response to both media and comments across social, in the right languages.

Another topic we covered was that of Language Migration, and it’s relevance in Crisis Communications.  Neil explained the importance of knowing information about the community around where you are based.  He used an example that he was involved in and how, after an explosion at a refinery, they discovered that, when meeting members of the community, over a period of about five years, it had gone from a dominant English speaking to a dominant Spanish speaking, but they only found this out at the time of the crisis.

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