Reprinted from PR News, February 26, 2017

PR and communications teams increasingly are pressured to own their brand’s earned media space beyond their borders to keep up with – and stand uniquely apart from – competitors. This is becoming true for non-profits competing for donor dollars and has been a constant for the private sector.

Here are steps for building and increasing global earned media visibility for your brand:

Understand the why: What is prompting this need for more global visibility? Based on the answer, work with leadership to determine what a successful outcome looks like. In addition, decide the long-term level of financial and resource investment the company or organization is willing to make. Will you be able to expand the team by hiring staff? Can you afford to hire a global agency or will your budget support a regional firm? Be pragmatic in determining what combination of tools, agencies and staff you will require to be successful.

Establish metrics: Collaborate with leadership to establish the goal(s), audiences and priority markets to target and develop a timeline. Reach agreement on what metrics will be most effective to measure success and how often and in which form those metrics will be produced.

Understand the media landscape in priority markets: What are the prevalent outlets? How do target audiences get their news? What angles/stories appeal most? Will the approach be entirely earned or is there a pay-to-play model? Are there government-owned outlets that need to be considered and managed differently? Do the research or hire an in-market PR agency to help you develop an in-depth understanding of where and how your audiences engage with media in key markets and which media outlets are most trusted.

Plan your earned media strategy: Determine what pitches and storylines are most relevant for each market and what spokespeople will appeal – either internal to the organization or external. External representatives could be brand ambassadors in the form of board members, celebrities or even digital ambassadors – popular digital stars or platforms that appeal to your target markets.

Determine messaging: This is vital. Conduct messaging exercises with senior leadership covering organizational narratives and those for key projects/products. Ensure spokespeople are well versed and messaging is consistent across owned and shared media platforms. Provide on-camera and off-camera media training for all spokespeople – including media veterans – to ensure they stay up-to-date and comfortable with your messaging.

Audit your content strategy: You will need to develop content and expand your approach so that digital content supports earned media campaigns, targeting audiences where they engage. In some countries, the web is still king as it is seen as a source of trust. What appears in the media should be reflected on your digital properties. Your owned and shared content must reflect earned and paid efforts.

Try to remain as flexible as possible. Each market is different and approaches to earned media may be very different from what you are used to. Leverage your country offices or local vendors for their knowledge and hire or contract local PR talent to help build trust with local, national and regional outlets.

How engaged with your brand and your products are your employees?

Most CEOs would answer very engaged; however, the reality may be much different from the desired level of engagement and that may be a direct result of your work culture.

I recently led a webinar on global employee engagement. The majority of the questions focused on whether company culture impacts brand perception. And the answer is: absolutely. A positive culture equates to engaged and passionate employees who are respected, trusted and encouraged to share ideas. A negative culture is the polar opposite – a culture of fear, suspicion and degradation of ideas.

Here are several tips for changing your work culture to help inspire your employees to be engaged with your brand and to become ambassadors for it.

  • Recognize employees for their accomplishments, publicly and individually in person.
  • Align expectations between employees and management. This is very important. Employees must know that the projects they are working on and their objectives align with management’s expectations and goals.
  • Proactively address and develop solutions or incentives for overwork.
  • Eliminate cliques and favoritism by encouraging social interactions with others and ranking inclusiveness in performance reviews.

Next, ensure your company is clear on its purpose, values and behaviors.

  1. Define your company’s purpose. Why do you exist? What do you hope to solve?
  2. Survey your staff and customers on the values they identify with your purpose. You will often see the end result of this defined in a tagline (“Fly the Friendly Skies”, “Think Different”, “We Try Harder”).
  3. Describe the behaviors which reflect those values in action. How can you live the purpose of your brand?
  4. Establish an employee engagement pilot program to help you define purpose, values and behaviors and to embody those characteristics in their daily interactions at work, internal and external.
  5. Hire for culture first, skills second. Ensure your new hires demonstrate and believe in your values through group interviews and problem solving exercises.

 

It is the one question I am often asked, “how did you start your global career?”

After university, I was lucky to work for a firm that invested in building global leadership skills among its staff. It is a great way to get started and many companies, like Alibaba, are actively training young employees on global leadership skills as part of their overseas expansion strategy.

Here are several skills that I have found invaluable working globally that will help you standout in a competitive global landscape:

Communication skills. An ability to speak clearly, write clearly and to listen intently will be the key to your success. Remember to slow down and be much more clear in your use of your native language than you would normally be to ensure all of your colleagues understand your message. Work to acquire a common second language at working proficiency (French, Spanish, Mandarin).

Critical thinking. An ability to analyze different scenarios, data and research as well as patterns in behaviors or systems is vital. You will constantly be assessing projects, goals and expectations across many countries; an ability to identify trends or outliers will enable you to be more efficient.

Cultural dexterity. This one takes practice and it is what I call “leaving your country behind on the tarmac.” You must be able to step outside of cultural constructs. A great tip for doing so is by telling yourself – constantly if needed – that you may be the only Canadian, Singaporean, South African that your colleagues and/or clients ever work with, so leave them with a positive experience.

Ethics. You may be surprised by the standard code of ethics in the countries you will work in and some of the conduct you encounter may be considered unethical or corrupt in your country of origin. My advice is to stay true to your moral compass and remain calm when faced with such conduct. Acting outraged and indigent will make you look somewhat dramatic and will get you nowhere. Use it as a way to start educating your team on other ways they may consider achieving their goals.

Global mindset. Being open to new ways of working and seeing the world is essential as well as being able to view challenges and opportunities through a global lens. It will also make your day-to-day interactions with your colleagues more pleasant; however, do not expect to be a pro at this from the outset. That comes with practice.

Team adaptability. Having a team mindset and experience leading teams is a must. Your management style may need to adjust depending on the business culture. Mastering an ability to be patient – observe and listen when in meetings and in your daily interactions with your team – will help you decipher expectations, cultural understandings and ways of working.

 

Marina Monzeglio

Marina Monzeglio has over eight years of experience in digital communications. She is currently a global communications consultant in Washington, DC. Prior to her consulting career in the States, Marina worked with  the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition both based in Geneva, Switzerland. Follow Marina on Twitter @marinamonzeglio.

Like most internet users, I have visited multilingual websites before. It’s convenient to surf in your own language, and the uses go beyond. Where the translation on a website appears a bit “uneven”, I have sometimes compared language versions to better understand the content.

So, going multilingual must be simple, right? Just replicate content with translated materials? A successful multilingual website is dependent on a series of factors, and I will outline here what I have found to be the most important.

1. Use simple, powerful language
When writing content for a multilingual website, it is particularly important to use simple and effective language. Be consistent with your terminology, and avoid jargon. This will not only be appreciated by online readers, but it will also make the translators’ task easier.

The relationship with the translators is crucial: news announcements and other updates for the web are usually time-sensitive and a roster of reliable and fast translators is needed to keep a website relevant and up-to-date across languages. A good relationship with translators can also help improve the original content – translators will flag and ask clarifications if the original text is obscure or incoherent.

2. Adjust the layout to reflect the length of the text in translation
Always remember that a translation can be significantly longer or shorter than the original text, according to the pair of languages. Schedule time for adjustments to the web page layout if needed.

3. Adapt structure and content management
The structure of a multilingual website is more complex than the structure of a monolingual website, and requires a robust content management system that can be regularly updated.

To ensure better SEO results when using Google and other search engines, as well as maximum accessibility through assistive technologies such as screen readers, every web page should be properly labelled in the correct language.

Pay particular attention to URL syntax, so they follow a clear and logical structure in each language and across the site.

And your SEO strategy should include each language, allowing users to input keywords in their language and presenting results in their language only.

4. Monitor website usage by language
Analytics can give you good insight into how users navigate the site in each language. With this data, you can make improvements to the site to optimise their experience. The sites that are driving traffic to yours will often also vary by language. Your approach to outreach must be multilingual, too.

5. Be prepared to handle requests generated by the site
A successful website is a dynamic one, that does not only broadcast information but encourages reflection and reaction. Website users will likely be sending you requests in all languages, and a process for handling requests in all languages needs to be put in place.

Creating a multilingual website does have a price tag, from cost of translation to additional staff time. However, it may be better to see it as an investment with the potential to deliver returns that dramatically expand your global reach and engagement.

When was the last time you reviewed your crisis response plan?

Whether they would admit or not, many organizations either do not have a crisis response plan or have one that is barely, if ever, reviewed. In the changing political and global context of today, having a dynamic crisis response plan that aligns with your business and is integrated across channels is critical to your operations.

In my experience, crises have a higher tendency to occur as a result of actions taken by an organization or in response to their mission or philosophy. You may, without realizing it, trigger a crisis by your actions – the releasing of a statement, a comment, a change in direction, an exit from a country, an issue with a program, funding, etc.

Rule number one with a crisis is that it will be incredibly fast-moving and will involve both digital and traditional media. Rule number two is that the issue that becomes a crisis will shock you – it will not be what you expect. Rule number three is that the press will seek comment from anyone with a relationship with the organization, past and present.

Some important tips:

  • Ensure senior leadership is committed and involved in the development of your plan (or updating your existing plan) and is actively engaged in live drills across the organization at least twice a year.
  • Be ready to respond and take control of the message with prepared spokespeople – not associated with the organization – who can speak on your behalf and to have supporters counter accusations on digital or start counter campaigns if needed.
  • Respond quickly – do not sit on the issue or bury your head in the sand – the longer you wait to respond, the more intense the crisis will become. Publicly provide action steps that you plan to take, the timeline in which you will take them and keep apologies short, and only apologize once.
  • Avoid becoming social shy – several recent crises showed that organizations and individuals tend to avoid digital when the heat is turned up, locking comments or maintaining scheduled posts throughout. You cannot – no matter how negative the comments or the campaigns or the memes – avoid your digital platforms.
  • Monitor digital, emails and calls so that any press that contact you are directed to the media team taking charge of vetting incoming calls and one spokesperson who had previously been trained and selected as the crisis spokesperson.
  • Stick with your talking points each time your spokesperson is interviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the facts. If an error has been made, admit it and state the necessary steps to ensure it will not happen again in the future – and make those steps publicly known.

The more visible you are, the more others may try to use your visibility for their own objectives and to advance their own agendas – for both positive and negative reasons. Recognizing the power of the collective and engaging with it will enable your brand to stay flexible and aware of changing trends and sentiments. But being prepared, and ensuring your leadership is prepared, is your ultimate strategy.

 

Do you have a speech on the horizon? Do you feel prepared? Are you anxious?

It’s normal to be slightly anxious and nervous prior to a speech. It happens to everyone although it comes out in different ways. Some boast of how terrific they are, others ask other presenters if they are nervous, some go buzzing about, others sit quietly and everyone has their heart racing and rate of breathing increase. Anxiety around speaking is a normal human reaction and everyone – I mean everyone – experiences it, some have just mastered how not to show it.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was by a director when I studied acting in my early days of college. He said to me “everyone gets nervous and anxious before a public performance, your job is to accept that as a normal human reaction and use that nervous energy to improve your performance.”

Here are some tips on preparing for speeches and dealing with the anxiety that comes along with it:

Watch the pros. Before a speech, I often go straight to YouTube and watch several public personalities deliver speeches over the life cycle of their days in the public spotlight. You can learn a lot from their evolution – from speed, intonation patterns, emphasis points to speaking aids.

Practice to build your confidence. But not so much that you are emotionally divorced from your words while actually delivering the speech to your audience. We’ve all seen that happen. The person is there in body but their personality has left the room. Breathe, take a pause, and remember that your goal is to inspire, educate and motivate. Smile, make eye contact, release your hold on the speech and remember why you are there.

Connect with your audience. Interact with them by involving them in your speech. Mention several audience members by name, ask questions, or poll the audience through a show of hands. Constantly take the pulse of the room so you can react to the audience by changing your speech and your approach.

Know when to stop talking. Have you ever been in the audience when a presenter fell in love with the beauty of their own words right before your eyes and forgot you where there? Or perhaps it was a meeting. Painful, wasn’t it? Don’t be that person. Watch body language clues for audience reaction and respond appropriately.

Seek feedback either through videotaping your speeches or by surveying your audience afterwards. Incorporate what you learn into your next speech and remember that the more speeches you give, the better you will become.

When Apologies Backfire

December 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

What do architects and supermodels have in common?

Beyond being generally approved of by the general public, they were the first to experience reputation damage in the wake of a growing, global culture shift.

The day after the US presidential election, The American Institute of Architects released a statement expressing their willingness to work with the Trump Administration. For the AIA, it was business as usual – a statement that is always released after a presidential election.

The groundswell was immediate and vocal, leading to the launch of the #notmyaia digital movement with members voicing long-term concerns that the Institute had been tone deaf. The AIA released an apology two days later but it did little to stem the tide. Four days later, they followed up with a second video apology that fed the media storm further, and finally a third apology to their members that went public.

Several days later, supermodel Gigi Hadid hosted the American Music Awards. In her opening monologue, she mimicked the future First Lady, Melania Trump – the backlash was sudden and even more vocal, forcing herself and her mother to lock down social comments.

In reaction, the supermodel released a hand-written apology letter through her father’s Instagram account. The apology letter received more criticism as it failed to apologize directly to Mrs. Trump.

In both cases, the apologies created more problems than they solved, why? Here are three guidelines when considering whether to/to not apologize after a crisis you caused:

  • Is it warranted? This will take some hard thinking internally to determine whether your actions align with your mission or business philosophy. Is it a market over reaction? Will time be beneficial to you and your brand? Don’t immediately issue an apology until you have assessed the context completely.  Shoot from the hip apologies don’t work.

 

  • Is it sincere? If you are going to apologize, you must really want to and it must really show. This is where acting will fail you. Audiences are smart, people are smart, they will see right through the veneer which will further inflame the situation. Only apologize if you truly mean it and you are comfortable doing so.

 

  • Is it owned? Will your key audiences agree with your apology – the approach and the content? Have you checked in with them? This could be loyal customers, partners, investors, Boards, and employees. If not, they could turn against you under the pressure of a growing call for action.

Are you challenged with extending your company’s brand awareness through global media with a small staff and budget?

Last year, I spoke with the head of media relations for one of the largest tech firms in Silicon Valley. To my surprise, they faced the same challenges as smaller firms and non-profits – how to effectively manage media relations in multiple countries.

Outreach to journalists in multiple countries needs to be handled differently in order to develop effective relationships around the globe. A brush stroke approach will never work and may even set you back. Do not assume what works in one country or region will work in others.

Here are five tips for working with journalists globally:

Know the media culture. Your in-country staff and/or consultants are the experts. Have conversations with them to understand how press operate, how they view the work of the organization, who the most prominent journalists are in your subject area and what interactions they have had in the past.

Approach journalists as is expected in their country. Find out from your own research, in-country staff, partner organizations and other experts on how journalists prefer to be approached. Your professional network can be extremely valuable here – mine it for those who have worked in-country.

Hire a local consultant to initiate relationships. A local consultant will often be a former journalist with existing relationships with the press. They can help with introductions and with briefing you and your team on how to best approach the media to ensure a successful foundation.

Have a member of staff present for informal and formal briefings. If you have a country director/manager, they will have the history and the context of the organization’s work and how it has been covered by the journalist and perceived in-country. They can serve as the content expert and prevent you from falling into any traps.

Always follow-up. Distance should never be used as an excuse not to continue a connection. Use Skype and email. Send thank you notes at all times. Keep the conversation going and keep them up-to-date on your company’s work globally so they feel included and valuable.

Remove geographic borders from your planning. Include these journalists in your overall media outreach strategy. Do not think in terms of geographic borders, planning just within the boundaries of where you are headquartered or located.  Think globally every time you plan media outreach and develop a strategy for each country. It’s time-consuming, but it is an investment that will pay off in the long-run..

Missing the Message

November 9, 2016 — 2 Comments

As last night’s election coverage results came in, many were shocked, none more so than the media.

In real-time, we watched many network reporters struggle through their emotions with dismay written all over their faces and haltingly in their voices. The failure went deeper than a campaign, it was a failure of a profession to adequately deliver on what it was created to do – to understand the pulse of the people.

As the graphics in the background depicted the march of the red, the verbal commentary seemed not to match the reality of what was happening.

How did we get here?

Not very long ago, journalism was a revered profession. In journalism school, reporters were taught to do the hard work – to research and get to know their local communities, what people were thinking, what challenges they were facing. To get out of the newsroom, talk with people, ask the hard questions.

As newsrooms were privatized in the 1980s, the profit agenda began to rise within newsrooms. Jobs were reduced, beats were reduced, and investigative reporting was no longer the norm. As a result, journalists began to spend more time in the newsroom seeking out other stories online to expand on – not spending as much time out in communities, interviewing and understanding what people were thinking.

Over time that has expanded to become the media bubble that is New York and Washington with an over reliance on pundits and the pressure of the 24/7 news cycle to seek out experts who may not truly be so in their field.

How do we move on from here?

The chasm between those covering the election and those voting was obvious. To close it, national media outlets must strive to reconnect with the American people – to understand their lives, their challenges, their hopes and dreams from all corners of the country. They must re-invest in the basics of reporting and recommit to the ethics of journalism – to present the news in a fair, impartial manner.

In short, they must re-invest to regain their relevance in the eyes of the public.

We’ve all seen it – the Fiat travelling the streets of Washington and New York with the Pope waving from the back seat.

I was on my way back from a meeting – Starbucks in hand – when I encountered the Pope and his Fiat.

What struck me was the respect shown by the motorcade – the slowest moving, most silent motorcade I had ever seen – and this little Fiat with a very hunched over Pope (he looked uncomfortable) surrounded by numerous SUVs.

It was clear from the reaction of the people around me that he is adored and is creating a new awareness and affection for the Catholic Church among all denominations. Just a few years ago, the Church was beset with scandal and the Vatican was appearing increasingly out of touch.

So what have they’ve done to change perception?

Establishing a Strong, yet Simple, Brand. Pope Francis is very much the everyman Pope. Taking seriously a vow of poverty and becoming the voice of the voiceless. That is his brand. With every speech, he exemplifies and expands upon his brand, and with every appearance, he symbolizes his brand.

Using Symbolism to Reinforce Message. The Fiat exemplified symbolism in action. It was simple and everyman while also underpinning the message of his visit – addressing climate change. It was a powerful message that was shared via social countless of times – further extending the message.

Ensuring Image and Actions are Aligned. There is a story making the rounds that an aide to the Pope carried his luggage on board one of the flights. The Pope asked him to bring the luggage back so he could carry it onboard. He is very aware of his image and works to ensure his actions are consistent with his image.

Being Straightforward and Honest. The Pope has been straightforward on the issues facing the Catholic Church and has taken these issues on directly as opposed to ignoring or hiding from them. By doing so, he has engendered trust and respect among the public not only for himself, but also for the Church.