In December 2018, I began my 21-hour journey from Boston to Singapore to embark on a two-year international assignment. Until this point, my career had been built on corporate communications roles, working at my company’s U.S. headquarters.
In my new role, I would be responsible for building the company’s reputation through digital media in Asia Pacific (APAC), including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
In APAC, I spent a lot of time listening and learning to get a full understanding of the current online activities that were either diluting, damaging or improving the company’s reputation in each country. From there, it was my job to identify how to harmonize digital content creation and optimize social media channels to drive consistency in alignment with global brand principles.
This experience has changed the way I view communications in three ways:
One size does not fit all.
When it comes to building a strong reputation, quality and credibility are critical – and those are only established through consistency. However, consistency is a big challenge in a global organization working across varying digital channels. At the global level of the organization, brand principles exist to inform all marketing, sales, and communications teams on how to represent the corporate brand to external stakeholders.
These principles are designed to drive consistency. However, adopting these verbatim in every country may not drive the desired results for local teams. Instead, it is necessary to strike a balance, by using brand principles as the basis in all content creation, while localizing the language, tone of voice or relevance to local culture. Ultimately, local customization is as important as global oversight when it comes to reputation and branding.
Leverage local channels
Some countries in APAC have unique messaging or social media apps specific to that country, like China’s WeChat, Japan’s Line or Korea’s KakaoTalk. In order to understand these tools better, I started to use them personally to communicate with colleagues.
Using the apps actually helped give me a deeper understanding of the cultures and communication behaviors. From internal to external communication plans, we were able to expand our channel strategy to meet the audience on their preferred app. This created additional work in translating and restructuring content, but always resulted in higher engagement with those online communities.
Relationships really do matter.
Relationships are important for any role, especially in APAC. It took me about six months to establish the right network of stakeholders and a common understanding of what we were aiming to achieve. Each country has such unique customs, languages, and communication technologies that it is simply not possible to move work forward without the right people by your side. More notably, having strong relationships helps safeguard changes and inform decisions along the way.
For two years I have been challenged, excited, and curious. Being global in outlook and local in attitude is easier said than done, and it often requires an “on-the-ground” experience to fully comprehend the complexities that exists below the surface.
However, I believe the above learnings are valuable to anyone who is looking to become a more empathetic and effective communications professional.
Posted by Lauryn Granara, Alumna