By: Kalina Leiling
Whether you work for a multinational company or have colleagues from diverse backgrounds, culture in internal communications matters. Understanding the fundamental differences between different cultures will help you understand others and yourself and how these dynamics affect the workplace.
Let’s get back to business…or people
According to the International Association of Business Communication, individuals in Southern Europe, South America, India and the Far East put an emphasis on honor, reputation and keeping one’s word at the workplace. For example, lifetime employment has been the norm and large-scale layoffs remain a social taboo. After demand slows or a product becomes obsolete, workers are placed in a “boredom room,” an office where they work just on paper. This way the management keep their word.
“Me” or “Us”?
Individualistic cultures (the U.S., Germany, the U.K.) value and reward an individual’s uniqueness. Collectivistic cultures (China, Korea, Japan) stress harmony and cooperation. A study shows that appointing team leaders within the individual sales groups in Korea disrupts the harmony of the groups, which leads to poor performance.
Objectives vs. relationships?
In the U.S., the U.K. and the Netherlands, staff is focused on initiatives to move the business forward. The objectives of a particular project or mission are paramount. In Latin America, however, internal communications are designed to address the needs of their employees, who see the organization as a “family.” For example, Healthy Pfizer Puerto Rico significantly expanded dependent involvement through a customized cultural campaign. In the U.S., launch events were only offered to employees, but for Puerto Rico, the team created festive launch events for families that included games and prizes for children.
When words don’t say it all
There are many internal communication differences between high and low-context cultures. High-context cultures (found in the Middle East, Africa, and South America) are more relational, intuitive, and contemplative. Low-context cultures that exist in North America and Western Europe are logical, individualistic, and action-oriented. In low-context cultures, the context (external factors) is not so important to the total message. The words spoken provide the message. With high-context cultures, the message is implicit, with valuable meaning not only in the words but also in the gestures, the relationship between people, and the status of those involved. For example, Americans may wait for a Japanese colleague to request something explicitly before they deliver it. On the other hand, Japanese employees may create relational confusion by reading unintended meaning into American behavior. This creates a spiral of incompetent exchanges, according to Dr. Bennett from the Intercultural Development Research Institute in Milano.
How personal is too personal?
Many low-context countries consider information such as age, religion, marital status, and salary to be private and personal, but this information is often used in high-context cultures to get to know the person.
Say it or write it?
High-context cultures will appreciate an e-mail with a personal touch by the supervisor or face-to-face talks. Employees in low-context cultures tend to prefer the opportunity to engage with upper-level leadership in formal written messages.
Does it work?
A multicultural team produces a more effective approach to internal communication practices for multicultural organizations. The rewards of successful communication help companies not only reach financial goals, but build trust among employees, and develop a highly motivated and productive team loyal to your corporate goals.
Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. What brand of peanut butter did you buy? Chances are, it’s the same brand you’ve purchased for years, maybe for your entire life. Even if it’s not the cheapest, the healthiest option, or even the most visually appealing option, you continue to purchase peanut butter from that same brand again and again. Why? You are loyal to the brand.
Brand loyalty is a customer’s dedication to a particular brand, so much so that they will not purchase products from competitors. For every brand, the goal is turning every individual in their customer database into a loyal consumer.
The challenge that all brands face is that these consumers are also potential advocates, critics, and consumers of competing brands. Here are some ways you can foster brand loyalty among your customers:
Remind people about your brand: People can’t become loyal to your brand unless you remind them that it’s time to purchase one of your products or services. For example, let’s say your company sells athletic apparel. You probably have a database with records of all the sneakers purchased in the past 6 months and most important, the email addresses or phone numbers of the individuals that purchased the sneakers. Send those individuals an email or text and let them know that the sneakers they purchased 6 months ago could probably use new laces or sole inserts (and while you’re at it, send them an electronic coupon).
A simple reminder can increase the chance of customers returning to your brand for a second purchase.
Tell a story: Everyone loves a good story. Why not share the story of your brand? Whether it’s about humble beginnings, adversity, or even how your brand changed someone’s life, people will feel more connected to your brand if they know the story behind it. Splenda’s story, shared as an interactive scrapbook, is a great example of brand loyalty built through storytelling.
Maximize word of mouth marketing: Everyone’s influenced by what their friends, family, or coworkers think. That’s important to remember when you hear the statistics that a dissatisfied consumer is likely to tell three times as many people about their experience than a satisfied consumer. Generating positive word of mouth is a great way to encourage individuals others to purchase products / services from your brand. Not only will this generate new customers, but increase the chances of repeat business.
Brand loyalty is important because it encourages individuals to become repeat and even lifelong consumers of your brand. And with the right combination of awareness, story-telling and word of mouth, consumers are more likely to purchase from your brand and not the one across the street.
Washington – TMNcorp, a full-service marketing and communications company based in Silver Spring, MD, recently established a teaming alliance with ServiTodo USA, a multilingual provider of professional services with offices in Atlanta and Washington, DC.
Established in 2005, ServiTodo USA provides professional services to businesses in fields ranging from public health to telecommunications, facilities maintenance and financial services.
“A partnership with ServiTodo is an invaluable opportunity for our company,” TMNcorp President and CEO Nhora Barrera Murphy said. “Working together, we can provide our clients with the best in multilingual services across fields and sectors.”
As ServiTodo’s official provider of marketing and communications services, TMNcorp looks forward to broadening its client base while helping ServiTodo to extend its own range of capabilities.
Since 1999, TMNcorp has provided innovative solutions in marketing, branding, strategic communications and social awareness through expertly coordinated media. Our success comes from a well-researched history of connecting with diverse audiences and remaining current in emerging technologies and new media. For more information, please visit www.tmncorp.com.
About ServiTodo USA
ServiTodo USA is an SBA Certified 8(a) & HUBZone contractor that has provided professional services to commercial businesses and the Federal government since 2005. Sectors served include public health, defense, banking, financial services and taxation. For more information, please visit www.servitodo.com.
By: Andrea Moreno Acosta
Anyone who knows two languages can translate. But what makes a good translator? Once, I heard an announcement in English that said “If you see an abandoned bag, bring it to the attention of station personnel” Immediately after, the Spanish-language version of the announcement told people to “bring the bag to the station personnel’s attention.” How could the messages be so different? The answer is not having a good translator.
A good translator is a constant work in progress. A good translator understands that his or her profession requires continuous study, research, and cultural immersion. Those skills allows him or her to not just to change words from one language to another, but also to accurately convey the meaning of the original message so that that anyone in the target audience can understand it.
As a Spanish-language translator, I know that this is no easy feat. Spanish is a language spoken in 21 different countries, each of them with its own dialects and local jargon. Writing for Spanish-speaking audiences is complex because, depending where you are, the same word can either get you a fruit (and not always the one you expected) or it can get you in a bind. So, how does a translator become a good translator? Here are a few tips that have served me well in this quest:
- Literal translation is a No, Nein, Non. This is a common issue for some of us who live outside our home countries. We become so used to thinking and speaking the language of our host country that, when translating, we get a case of what I call “writing English in Spanish.” How to tackle this? Continuous study is your best ally. Read books in your native tongue, read newspapers to stay current, and always do some research for context before translating. It sounds like work but, then again, it is your work.
- You have resources, use them! The Internet offers fantastic tools for translators such as Wordreference, Linguee and ProZ. These websites not only offer links to dictionaries, glossaries, and reference documents, but also the opportunity to interact with other translators who share knowledge about word choices and cultural nuances that you may not be aware of.
- Google it! I often use Google to search when I’m uncertain about a word or phrase. I then look at the number of hits and most importantly the sources of those hits (newspapers or reports vs. random pages) to make the best language choice.
- Avoid using colloquialisms. We all come from somewhere and that influences how we speak and translate. But if a portion of your audience has to reach for the dictionary to understand an expression that’s only used in your hometown/region-or country-, there is an alternative word. Find it.
- Use Anglicism’s carefully. Words like mouse or email are commonly used worldwide – though not always accepted by linguists and editors- When in doubt, research the context and the target audience to make the best choice, but also be open to your client’s preferences.
- Test your translation! This can be done in two ways:
- Read it out loud to yourself.
- Ask a friend or family member to review it. Gather their feedback, edit, review and repeat.
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough: spell check is your best friend. Always use it before turning in any document. This practice can mean the difference between getting client referrals and having a phone that never rings.
By: Gayle Wiegand
When we think of crisis communications, we often think about what the crisis is, not how it will impact an organization’s infrastructure. But what if a storm leaves your office without power? Or what if you cannot even get into the office due a bomb threat? In these situations, a continuity of operations plan (COOP) is invaluable.
A COOP will allow communications activities to continue despite an emergency or disaster that prevents you from entering or using your offices. Consider taking the following steps to start your COOP planning process:
Step 1: Identify a Alternate Operating Facility
Although technology may make it possible for necessary operations to be performed remotely, you need to be prepared for a lack of power or Internet availability. That’s why it is important to identify an alternate operating facility and prepare personnel for the possibility of unannounced relocation to the facility
The facility should be in an accessible location that:
- Can accommodate your organization spontaneously, quickly and efficiently
- Is equipped to operate during power outages.
- Can provide controlled access to media and press.
- Have technologies that allow you to monitor news coverage.
- Can remain open during an emergency.
- Has adequate parking for staff and possible visitors.
- Will incur charges for your company based only on actual use.
Hotels are often remote facilities of choice for emergency headquarters. Other options you may want to consider are:
- Facilities that offer temporary office space
- Community organizations
- Shopping malls
Step 2: Ask and Address Key Questions
An important part of planning for an emergency is having the right information. For this reason, answering the following questions can help you ensure smooth operations from a remote location during an emergency:
- Will staff have remote access to intranet?
- Are mobile copies of files going to be available?
- Is remote access to files an option?
- Is it possible to redirect calls to a remote location? If not, can staff access messages from a remote location?
- Are there enough laptop batteries for sustained use during a power outage?
- Are there provisions for staff to telework if needed?
Step 3: Develop an Emergency Planning Prospectus
Prior to any emergency, you will want to develop a prospectus of what the actual needs may be. Could you need any catering? What equipment do you anticipate you will bring? What equipment will be procured from the facility?
Armed with the prospectus, you should meet with the preferred facility and establish a formal agreement to ensure everything is in place if an emergency happens.
Step 4: Prepare a Go-Kit
The last step is producing a go-kit with the tools you need to operate. These may include:
- A list of staff and clients contact information
- A regularly-updated external hard drive with files
- Extra laptop computers and batteries
- Phone chargers
- Office supplies
It’s best that the team member who would lead an emergency operation keeps the go-kit. It should not be left in the office. After all, if the office is inaccessible, so will the go-kit!
When it comes to an emergency, nothing is certain. But in times of crisis, having a plan in place can mean all the difference.
Word of Mouth (WOM) is a tool that many businesspeople have found to be an effective marketing resource when they want to generate buzz about a product, brand or service. Many companies rely on WOM to raise awareness about a product, build more business through customer referrals or make a video go viral.
Ultimately, the goal of WOM is to provide customers with a product or service that is so fantastic, that they have to tell people in their social circle about it. And with the ever-growing importance of branding and image, it’s no wonder that more and more companies integrate WOM into their business models.
Brooks, an athletic apparel company known for its running shoes and gear, spends less on expensive media strategies and focuses its efforts on word of mouth marketing tactics. The company invests in events where there target audience is likely to be on the lookout for sports-related products. For example, Brooks is the title sponsor for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, which host runs across the country. Not only does this garner national attention for the brand, but places running products front and center during running events. In other words, these events are perfect opportunities to talk to others about the product.
Whether your company is looking to integrate WOM, or your current strategy needs to be freshened up, consider the following three strategies to generate great WOM for your business.
1. Going above and beyond: Think about the last time one of your friends told you about an experience they had at a restaurant. Chances are, they told you about their experience because the restaurant went above and beyond in service, food, and atmosphere. The key to generating word of mouth starts with the experience, and if your customers enjoy the experience that you offer, they’ll share that with others.
2. Turning customers into brand advocates: Developing a customer base that includes repeat customers (and even better, lifelong customers) is something that all companies strive for. So make customers feel like you’ve known them forever. Offer your loyal customers special deals like access to products not yet available to the general market, or gifts for holidays and special occasions. Happy customers are talkative customers, and their words will bring more people to your business.
3. Zigging while everyone is zagging: When it comes to generating buzz around a product or service, think outside the box and provide customers something different and refreshing. Feature new items on the menu. Host in-store entertainment. Sponsor a “secret sale” with deep discounts for loyal customers. Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you offer customers something they can’t help but talk about.
For more tips on generating word of mouth around your business, check out this recent Forbes article on word of mouth and why it works.
By: Lynn Halverson
Scenario #1: You need to educate older adults about new Medicare benefits under the Affordable Health Care Act. You’re trying to decide how best to reach them – a print brochure, a website or perhaps TV/radio ads.
Scenario #2: You’re developing a video on the dangers of smoking that you would like to test with teens to see what images and messages resonate with them.
Reality check #1: The budget is limited.
Reality check #2: This project needs to be completed yesterday!
In either scenario, focus groups would achieve the goal without breaking the bank. They provide a relatively inexpensive and timely way to brainstorm with target audiences about how to reach them, or to test messages and advertising concepts.
The key to getting the most from your limited focus group dollars is to plan ahead and to use the right tools… and the right people. Here are a few key ingredients you need to make the most of this valuable research tool:
1. Qualitative Research Consultant/Moderator
If you know you will use focus groups at some point in your project, make sure that a trained qualitative researcher/moderator is working with you from the start. She or he can help you budget correctly, decide upon how you want to segment the groups, determine whether in-person, phone or online groups are most appropriate for your study, and figure out the best way to present your concepts in a focus group setting.
To find a qualified moderator, contact the Qualitative Research Consultants Association or get recommendations from colleagues. Don’t forget to ask prospective moderators if they have received professional training.
2. Effective Recruitment Strategies
Good recruitment strategies are an essential part of having successful focus groups. Use qualified market research firms and cooperate with them on incentive or screening recommendations, as they have extensive experience trying to reach the very people needed for your project.
You may decide that you want to hold groups in three or four different geographic areas in order to see if people in Los Angeles react the same way to an advertising concept as those in rural Alabama. How do you do that? You hold focus groups in several different locations and compare the responses. Use the Green Book website or Quirk’s Marketing Resource Media site to find professional focus group facilities nationwide. They’ve been in business for years and know what firms are out there.
3. Appropriate Incentives
It’s unlikely that someone will participate in a focus group for free. That’s why determining the appropriate incentive for your groups is important. Offering less than the going amount could end up costing you money in the end, as market research firms base their own recruiting costs in part upon the intended incentive. Lower incentives can mean higher recruiting costs, or the need to recruit more people for the group in order for an acceptable “show rate.” Paying a reasonable incentive is a sure-fire way to ensure that respondents will show up and participate.
4. Adequate and Realistic Timelines
The best gift you can give to yourself and your project is time. Proper planning will lead to a better research approach, more exact research goals, better testing materials and adequate time to identify the right respondents.
You also need adequate time between completing the groups and submitting the final report to ensure that the moderator/qualitative researcher has enough time to time to read and process transcripts, enter data into qualitative software programs, and fully analyze the data.
Often, however, time is limited. When developing a focus group timeline, be sure to include a realistic amount of time for:
- Obtaining Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval (if the project is funded by Federal funds)
- Developing recruitment screeners and moderator guides
- Developing materials to be shown/tested in the focus groups
- Obtaining bids from focus group facilities
- Recruiting participants
- Getting transcripts made from focus group recordings
- Analyzing data
- Preparing the report
5. Compliance with OMB Process for Federally-Funded Research
Any focus group project that is funded by Federal money needs to be approved by OMB. Most Federal agencies have an office that works with OMB to ensure that all projects comply with OMB requirements. Incorporating the OMB compliance process into your research plan will ensure that the project meets OMB requirements and the client’s needs at the same time.
Good luck! And if you have questions about how to structure a successful focus group project, be sure to contact TMNcorp’s qualitative research team. We have researchers with 25 years of experience in this field, and we would like to help you make your next focus group project a huge success.
By: Nicole Pulley
The cherry blossom trees blooming around the Tidal Basin are a clear sign that spring has hit the Beltway, and what better way to welcome warm weather and sunny skies than with a little cleaning. E-cleaning, that is.
What do I mean by e-cleaning? Well, just as you take time this season to tackle cluttered closets and give walls a new coat of paint, spring is also a great time to set aside time to refresh your online presence.
To start, take a moment to think about the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile picture, checked in to a location, or wrote a post for your blog. Come to think of it, are you having trouble remembering your passwords to all the accounts you’ve created over the years? If so, perhaps it’s time to put some spring into your step and do some e-cleaning….and we’re here to help.
Just like you clean your home room by room, we’ve put together the following e-cleaning checklist for tackling many of the pieces that make up your personal e-presence.
Many social media sites provide users with a space for uploading a profile picture, and in some cases, even a background photo. Be sure to upload a recent photo of yourself that reflects the industry you are in. Norine Dagliano from Careerism recommends wearing your most complementary color and choosing a photo with a background that isn’t distracting. After all, the most important part of personal branding is, well, the person!
Make a list of all the accounts you have created on different social media sites over the years and ask yourself questions about them. When was the last time you logged in to that account and posted something? Or the last time you updated the content? How about those daily subscription emails that go unopened? After you’ve made a list of your accounts figure out which are worth keeping, and if you haven’t logged in within the past 6 months, consider deleting them. Once you’ve made a list of accounts to delete, check out this article by Eric Griffith on deleting accounts from any website.
Now that you’ve successfully logged into your blog account on the third try, head over to the settings or My Account tab to look at the privacy settings and other account preferences for that platform. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, privacy policies can change after a user creates an account and that they may not cover third-party applications that interact with that site. If you don’t feel safe using that website or social medium, delete your account.
And while we’re on the topic of privacy: see that sticky note with the list of passwords stuck to your monitor? You’re better off memorizing them, or storing them in a location with less eyeball traffic.
One of the most important parts of e-cleaning is updating the content on your social media sites and accounts so that it reflects accurate, up-to-date information. Have you recently switched jobs? Has the topic of your blog changed? Be sure to read through the text on your profile accounts and replace outdated pieces with relevant information. Don Campbell from Expand2Web recommends you update the content on your blog and other websites as often as possible. Not only will this keep your visitors happy with new information but will improve the listing of your page in search engine results.
So after the basement boxes and garage shelves have been taken care of, refresh your online presence with a little e-cleaning. It will give everything a fresh and clean look, just like spring!
Melissa, our new research analyst, offers over 10 years of experience in designing, conducting, and evaluating public health research. She is also an instructor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of Population, Family & Reproductive Health.
Melissa took part in our “One Minute with TMN” interview to share more about herself and her work. Check out her answers to our questions:
What’s the connection between research and communications?
Research can discover, describe and predict important information. But, without effectively communicating the findings to the people or community who can most benefit from the information, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
When did you know you wanted to work in public health?
I went to Emory University in Atlanta, GA and was fortunate to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the four years while I was a student. Freshman year, I worked in the epidemiology division on a research study exploring listeria contamination. Before that experience, I didn’t even know what public health was. After working at the CDC, I knew I wanted to study public health.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation requires conviction and leadership to think about ideas or methods in a new way and to persuade others it’s better than the old way.
What communicator inspires you the most?
My dad. He passed away when I was 19 years old, but I have hundreds of letters he wrote to me throughout my childhood. When I reread the letters I’m inspired by his humor, wisdom and great advice he gave to me as a kid. It’s so helpful to me now that I have my own children.
What are you most excited to bring to TMN?
I am excited to jump in and support TMN’s current projects. I look forward to bringing a perspective that focuses on reducing health disparities and on the promotion of health and healthy behaviors in communities.