How to communicate across cultures

Do you manage internal communication internationally? If so, you’ll know the importance of thinking through the nuances of language and ensuring you get it right across cultures.

What works well for one country or language may be inappropriate for others.

Russ GoldsmithI’ve got a guest post for you today by Russell Goldsmith, @RussGoldsmith, Director, Conversis (pictured). This topic was discussed at the recent World PR Forum and he’s here to tell us what we missed.

Over to you Russ…

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the World PR Forum in Toronto.

It was organised and hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) on behalf of The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.

The theme was ‘Communication Across Cultures’ and it was good to see that the programme featured presentations that focused on this issue from an internal communications perspective as well as external.

Internal communication is a key part of the work that I focus on at Conversis, a company that provides translation and localisation services.

For example, as one of our clients, Elisabeth Tanguy, Sector Communications Manager at Rexam Beverage Can Europe explained, “Many of the Rexam employees throughout Europe work at one of our 20 plants, and English is not their first language.

It is therefore crucial to translate key internal documents into one of our nine European languages’.

Whilst Elisabeth’s brief is to ensure the translations are both accurate and consistent with regards to the use of terminology within her particular company, what’s really important for all managers responsible for internal communication, is to ensure the content, be it documents, announcements, videos etc is localised. This means taking into consideration all local and cultural nuances and not just literal translations.

Understanding a culture and not just reverting to stereotype is key. 

In the conference, Paulo Soares, Director, Corporate Communications, at Vale, presented on ‘Challenges In Internal Communications Across Cultures in Global companies.’

As he’s from Brazil, which is where his company’s head office is based, he shared a really funny video to explain this exact issue:

Internal comms challenges
ValeVale has over 110,000 employees across 30 countries.

That creates huge challenges when communicating internally when considering the different languages and particularly the cultures across countries as diverse as the ones they are based in.

Paulo believes the key for successful global internal communications is to:

‘Think globally, act locally’

So at Vale, they look to work with their colleagues around the world to co-create internal communications solutions.

An example of where this has come together to benefit the business is in the company’s internal ‘Day of Reflection’ which aims to unite the company around the importance of safety by showing a series of sombre videos of people who have lost loved ones at work – none of whom worked at Vale.

Vale’s number of fatalities is decreasing and this campaign works as Paulo believes empathy connects people.

The video certainly impacted the mood in the conference hall. But it delivered an outstanding message about the power of video and how some things certainly do cross cultures and how it can be used for a positive impact in the business.

Post author: Russell Goldsmith.

Thank you Russ. What is your experience of this topic? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Dr Seuss

Further reading

Russ was recording his CSuite podcasts series during the World PR Forum.

You can access them for free via Soundcloud and listen to a couple below:

First published on the All Things IC blog 20 June 2016.

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