Reflections On A Conversation Across The Ocean

I’m just reflecting on a great conversation (#iabcacrosstheocean) we had between the IABC members in San Francisco and the UK. We will post a full recording of the conversation soon.

We set out to explore how we manage communication in the UK and in the USA. Rather than having an expert come to talk to us about the cultural differences and the implications of these we decided to use the knowledge and experience of our members to explore the theme.

So, what came out? First of all, thoughts on the role of communication:

  • We all agree (not just on the panel, but also in our pre-conversation survey) that communicators are increasingly acting as business partners and that our role encompasses
    • Helping to connect people to make them feel part of one company with shared goals
    • Helping leaders communicate effectively so that they share that narrative
    • Support line managers by supporting leaders – more effective leadership communication helps provide the knowledge and role models that support line managers in making connections with their people
  • What it is not: communications professionals should not be responsible for the communication skills of line managers, but we influence through the way we help leadership communication

On the challenges facing communicators today the conversation covered:

  • It’s important especially in large global organisations to be very clear about the boundaries and responsibilities in communication teams
  • One of the key challenges of new technology is helping leaders understand how they need to adapt to exploit it fully. This is not just about responding to an “always on” environment by managing different channels, media and responsibilities; it is also about a change in mind-set and a change in style. We talked about the need to be bolder and more informal
  • Demographics is an issue. Young people strain at the leash and are keen to learn and get involved, older people provide an invaluable resource and pool of experience that we would be foolish to ignore

What do communication people need to help them in their roles?

  • Less of us may now come from journalistic backgrounds, but we need to keep the key competencies and values of attention to detail, checking facts, being truthful and honest
  • We need global mind-sets. It’s not just about managing large organisations with offices all over the globe, it’s about sensitivity to the needs and demands of people in different places operating in different time zones and in different cultural environments

What are the cross-cultural perils?

  • We need to pay attention to language. Catherine supplied a great story of an acquisition in which the American parent celebrated the UK company’s habit of an annual event in which UK employees threw pies at leaders (don’t ask!), describing how they wanted to honour the tradition of tossing at the boss

It’s difficult to capture in a few bullet points the richness of the conversation that we had. These points are my take outs from the discussion. There were lots of us involved so please add your comments below.

We did not address in depth the central hypothesis that there are major differences between the UK and the USA in how we manage communication, other than Catherine’s story about the language problem. We also ended up focussing on internal vs external communication challenges – a reflection perhaps of the experience of the panellists. So, there is much more to explore in this debate and we hope to have some more of these conversations designed to put the I into IABC at the chapter level.

Finally, a big thank you to the panellists who helped in the conversation and who were brave enough to face a live audience. They were:

  • Catherine Rudiger, Vice president of ICF in San Francisco
  • Howard Krais, Communications Director, GSK plc and President Elect IABC UK
  • Daniel Schraibman, Independent Consultant and Board member IABC UK

I’d also like to record a big vote of thanks to Gay Flashman and her team from Formative Content whose technology made the whole thing possible

Mike Pounsford

President IABC UK

 

 

 

So You’ve Moved to London, Eh?

A two-parter with resources for recent London arrivals – compiled by past IABC Chair, Michael Ambjorn.

Once you’ve sorted out the essentials (visa, bank account etc. etc.) here are some ideas for a quick start.

Quick start

Get ahead of the culture shock

(Even if you don’t think it’ll happen to you):

— And whilst it is intended as humour, this cuts close to reality… Anglo-EU translation Guide.

Adapt your pitch

Review and update your CV – correct spelling as appropriate – and remove anything that doesn’t have a result attached to it. Think through your portfolio stories (Situation, Task, Action, Result – or STAR for short) and practice them. Then make sure your LinkedIn profile matches. Yes, people do look you up before they meet you.

Build your network

Join your relevant professional body: IABC, CIPR, CIM, IAF etc. and attend events. The networking bits are always a great place to practice your STAR storytelling skills.

That said, doing a lot of listening first is never a bad move. You might want to read this book as a fresh take on that topic. Don’t be fooled by the cover.

And … look out for interesting MeetUp events beyond that – meetup.com/

Find a headhunter

Before you approach them, be absolutely clear about what you’re looking for (something that interests you; you’re good at; and others will pay for). Respect their time.

The Japanese call it Ikigai and the World Economic Forum has a useful article on this with a beautiful Venn – but I digress. The point is: cement your personal Venn with STAR stories. That alignment will make all the difference. And having interviewed 100s of people in the last 20+ years I can confidently say that following this format is the key to impressing any interview panel.

Senior gigs in general – a selection of firms

Spencer Stuart, Green Park, Penna, Veredus, Gatenby Sanderson, Perrett Laver, Odgers Berndtson etc.

Comms specifically

VMA, Ellwood Atfield Harkness Kennett etc.

Don’t just send your CV. Call them up. Get an appointment. It is a people business.

+ Also, check out the aggregators (to name a few):
iabcemena.com/jobs/ marketingweek.com/
prweekjobs.co.uk/
jobs.theguardian.com/
uk.linkedin.com/jobs/
allthingsic.com/jobs/

Do your due diligence

If a listed company, read the annual report and listen to the latest investor call. You’ll be surprised what is hidden in plain sight – useful for the interview process. If it is privately held, look them up: Companies House. Or if a charity, use the Charity Commission website. And you may want to check out Glassdoor and Crunchbase too – and if you’re willing to spend: a service like DueDil. If not, general Googling is useful – including news.google.com/

Land the job

Work through Slate’s Negotiation Academy + We Have a Deal early in the process. You might also want to use a Negotiation Canvas. Temper all that advice with the cultural insights from your reading of the resources mentioned up front. Or if you want to comprehensively overthink it, have a look at the Empathic Negotiation Canvas

Good luck! And look for the next in the series which focuses on how to settle in long term – and also has a set of useful ideas and resources for those freelancing.

In the meantime, follow @michaelambjorn and @IABCUK for ideas in-between – and be sure to come to the next IABC UK event and meet your peeps!

Communicating with Governments

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Sitting on the plane back from the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta gives me time to reflect on the challenges that the world is facing, writes IABC UK Board member Marcie Shaoul.

This time the 53 Heads of Government from all over the Commonwealth, from Tuvalu to Tanzania, New Zealand, Botswana, Canada convened on the tiny walled and beautiful country of Malta to discuss the pressing matters of the Commonwealth for the next two years.

Notoriously at CHOGMs the country becomes locked down. The fringe events that happen in the wings, the Commonwealth Youth Forum, the People’s Forum, the Business Forum and for the first time the Women’s Forum are shunned by leaders as they sweep in for a two day retreat and a dinner with Her Majesty The Queen who is Head of the Commonwealth.

People Power

However since the controversial CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013, the world has continued to change. People power is increasing, reportage by the person on the street via social media is rife and the world and its leaders is having to sit up and listen. The civil society event, the Commonwealth People’s Forum, where NGOs gather and debate now not only feeds into the Foreign Ministers, but also engages with ministers in the run up to the biennial meeting.

But these events are seldom ground breaking. Whatever you think is on the agenda usually gets surpassed by current events, so in this case terrorism and climate change were the hot topics and planned interactions from young people, NGOs and women’s groups can be left floundering in the wings of the debate.

Flying people in from around the world to generate ideas is one thing, but the perception that they may be there to influence the agenda is a fallacy. If people want to communicate with their governments, they need to think smart about how they do that. Change doesn’t happen at one meeting, pressure is not always the best way to bring about change, and placards rarely make a difference.

Opening up debate

As a trained facilitator I often watch these events with a heavy heart. Knowing what they could achieve and watching what they don’t achieve is frustrating for the whole world. Demanding rarely makes people listen in an open-minded way, and locking intelligent and specialised people out of high level meetings causes them to rally. To my eyes this creates a non-productive log jam, out of which tenuous compromise is the only viable solution.

If governments opened up the process before the meeting to interact formally with groups to gain expert advice on the discussion topics (current affairs dependent) then they would be better informed and discussions could be streamlined.

And when lobby groups are invited to the table, demands should become discussions, conversations should be fuelled by people who are listening and responding, rather than those who are trying to say their piece. Fruitful conversations, common ground and alliances are what will change the world. Demands and ultimatums rarely do.

Marcie Shaoul is a senior facilitator in multi-stakeholder processes and has worked as an international civil servant specialising in areas of international concern. Prior to founding Communications for Development, Marcie was Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Communications at the Commonwealth.

 

The Power of Global Communication

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The Power of Global Communication plenary at #EuroComm Conference, explored the need for greater awareness of cultural difference in international business.

The panel was chaired by Anisha Jhina, Director of Internal Communications at Mars Global Petcare and a self-confessed ‘transculturalist’. Having lived in three continents from a young age, Ms Jhina launched proceedings by speaking of her awareness of a Western-centric mindset in European and North American business environments that can thwart or limit successful intercultural relationships.

Dr Barbara Gibson has undertaken qualitative research with CEOs from 12 different firms that suggested that nearly all business cultures – not just Western ones – suffer to some extent from what she called an “ethnocentric arrogance”. Such imbalances frequently lead intercultural business relationships to fail or work at sub-optimal efficiency.

By identifying trends in her research, Dr Gibson outlined five “intercultural competencies” that successful intercultural communicators possessed:

  1. Adaptability: The ability to change one’s behaviour, communication style or business strategy as needed to fit the circumstances.
  2. Cultural self-awareness: An awareness of one’s own cultural influences, tendencies and biases, and awareness of how one’s own culture may be perceived by members of a different culture.
  3. Cultural sensory perception: The ability to recognize when cultural differences are in play, utilizing a range of senses to spot verbal and non-verbal cues which may differ greatly from those of one’s own culture.
  4. Open-mindedness: The ability to suspend judgement based on one’s own cultural biases and accept that other ways of thinking and behaving may be just as valid.
  5. Global perspective: Viewing the business from a transnational perspective, rather than as “domestic first, rest-of-world second.”

In addition to these competencies, Dr Gibson believes it is the communicators and CEOs with the greatest capacity to reflect and improve upon their intercultural competencies who perform best over time.

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