Today’s post continues from yesterday’s piece on the subject. Once an organization understands the message their presence would send in their new environment, they can make strategic business decisions and take actions considering the communication value they hold.  Such actions send specific messages to the various publics in the new context, and it is the job of the decision-makers to strategically engage in actions that send the desired messages.

Hypothetical and Real World Examples
For example, a company affecting a variety of local stakeholders may sit down with such groups and dialogue regarding concerns and ways to leverage each other for a positive result. Manufacturers potentially impacting the local environment negatively can make strategic decisions regarding operations that minimize negative impact and go above and beyond required measures. Similarly, companies employing local people or those that have local employees in their supply chain can make policy decisions that improve working conditions above what is required.

From there, businesses can utilize public relations to extend the positive impact and reach of messages sent out by the businesses through overt means or by way of actions taken. Reframing does not minimize the reality of the challenges as they still are present, but doing so changes the mindset, approach, and strategy to overcome them. Several real world examples illustrate such opportunities. I discussed a recent development with Foxconn Technologies, a Chinese electronics manufacturer, in an International Business Times piece. There were concerns about labor practices and pressure came from contracted companies, such as Apple, for the manufacturer to improve standards. These companies were and still are in a situation to make a statement with their actions.

The non-manufacturing technology sector is not immune either when it comes to the cultural implications of operating in a different context. Google experienced it in Germany when they rolled out Google Maps amid much push pack from many German citizens regarding privacy concerns. Dialogue with those raising concerns was achieved, but more stakeholder outreach beforehand could have sent a better message early on and diffusing any potential issues.  This highlights the importance for any tech firm expanding into international markets to fully understand the rules and regulations regarding digital issues, especially privacy, before entering the new markets. Check back in tomorrow for the last installment of this post offering implications for internet marketing.

SEO in Hong Kong

Many businesses expand into Hong Kong.

I’ve touched on the fact before that conducting business in international markets forces much change on a company. From adapting to new political and economic structures to understanding different legal systems and how they all impact your business model, the way you run your business from top to bottom simply changes; you adjust it according to the local context. This is a must, but the key is realizing this before the transition abroad, whether you are a manufacturer or an SEO company establishing this understanding early is best.

Reframing
Needless to say, communication, the thread that runs through all business operations, is also directly affected when operating in new markets. As there are so many facets to its impact on communication (e.g. internal communication with local employees, communication [PR] with the businesses’ publics/audiences, and communication [marketing] with customers), the goal is not necessarily to minimize its negative influence but instead use cultural and communicative differences to your advantage. Rather than asking, “how badly is the language and cultural barrier going to impact us[?],” ask “how much can we leverage our ability to adapt and deliver a locally relevant experience for our customers to further separate us from our competitors?” That is redistributing the power back to your business, framing a challenge as an opportunity to excel. The reality is many businesses in a new market will simply not capitalize on the fact that they are an outside entity operating in a new context. This is a powerful opportunity, but before we can address how to positively leverage it, we must understand the communicative value of your mere presence in the new context.

The Communicative Value in a Company’s Simple Presence
Even with how interdependent nations currently are in terms of commerce and trade, the very presence of an outside entity in a different country still carries a message in and of itself. Your presence says that the company is confident, it’s expanding, and it feels the business can thrive in a new environment.  This presence is received by all of the businesses’ publics (e.g. established customers, future target customers, regulators, competitors, partners, etc.) in different ways, both positive and negative. If there is positive brand awareness at the outset, then the transition will be much smoother in terms of a PR outreach standpoint. If more negative assumptions exist about the ability of the business to function in the given context or the potential negative impact its presence may have on local competitors, there are additional barriers to overcome.

A business first needs to assess how their presence is being received, or ideally, will be received as the business should undergo research in this new context (country) to understand what they are getting into before they arrive. Why? -Because strategic communication can be structured into business decisions from the first moment the business’ eventual presence is known in the new context. This way, a business can strategically plan actions and make business decisions that carry communicative value and give a certain message (to achieve a certain goal). Contrived? – No, because perception is often reality, true intentions can be overshadowed, and messages can be misunderstood. So in an environment where misrepresentation can happen so easily (like in a new country) and its potential negative impact on image is so great, both overt communications (e.g. press releases, adverts) and its more impactful alternative, actions that when taken give off a specific message, should be strategically planned from the very top of an organization, hence “strategic communication.”

Check back tomorrow for the second installment of this post…