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Boardroom beckons global communicators.

It's your company's boardroom. And you (or perhaps your boss or your boss' boss) have been invited to sit in on the discussion --a discussion led by your CEO and driven by a deep-seated concern. Despite your company's well-conceived strategy to send out more than half of your manufacturing work force to overseas locations, something has slipped through the cracks. Nobody in senior management gave a lot of thought to how the company would overcome barriers of language, land, time and culture. Just three years later, your CEO's dream of communicating the corporation's global vision has hit a wall.

So that's why your crossed legs are dangling nervously beneath the six-inch mahogany boardroom table. Because the wall blocking your CEO's dream looks like something you remembered from a documentary of Berlin. Will you be ready to reply when your CEO turns your way and says, "How do we communicate with our entire global audience? How do we break down cultural barriers? What are we going to do to get every employee to buy into our corporate strategies and visions?"

If you're sitting there with the same answers most corporate communicators have had in the past, you'll probably sound a lot like Groucho Marx's brother Harpo. But silence isn't golden when your career is on the line.

Even though there are no sure-fire solutions to the growing concern of how to communicate globally, you could start by surfacing several discussion points that should at least secure your seat at the table for a while:

"Think globally, act locally" invites disaster.

Empowerment takes a backseat to cultural sensitivity.

Diversity offers a gold mine of opportunity.

Once you've delivered your three-point theory with the right amount of aplomb, you can keep up the momentum by introducing a few fundamental facts that reinforce those points. For example:

* Corporations have discovered that when they ask local international managers to bring the corporate message to employees, it seldom trickles down below the English-speaking layer. And there's rarely a professional communicator available to get the words right.

* Corporations have also discovered that you can't extend empowerment and work team concepts to employees overseas without being keenly sensitive to cultural differences -- recognizing that American-made theories don't often apply to non-American work forces.

* Corporations have yet to discover that diversity -- including the cultural diversity among the countries where they do business -- must be exploited like any other business opportunity and turned into a bottom-line contributor.

If your theories strike the right chord and your CEO is ready for more, it may be time to list typical communication pitfalls. Consider these:

* Centralized corporate employee publications have limited reach. These publications are doomed to failure because even when translated into other languages, they are written and produced by Americans who don't have the cultural sensitivity necessary to meet the needs of their international audiences.

* Corporate messages are too often delivered in a technical abyss. With few exceptions, print is still the primary medium for global communication despite obvious language and literacy problems. Electronic mail, facsimile, video and interactive telephone and PC are making inroads but still trail the traditional message-delivery systems.

* Few corporations attempt to measure the effects of their global communication efforts through surveys and other feedback methods.

* A domestic communication focus still prevails, with few global communication strategies in place -- despite a proportionately greater number of international employees than ever before.

If, by now, your legs are no longer dangling nervously, and if, in fact, you're now standing on them and preparing to propose your own global communication strategy, take a brave leap forward by beginning with these winning words of wisdom:

"CEOs are taking the lead -- by recognizing the need to proclaim their corporate vision globally, by voicing concern over cultural differences in their employees from country to country, by showing a willingness to increase their international visibility, by finding ways to take advantage of the diversity that makes up-their work force."

Great start! Now, you're on your own.

Rich Federico is a consultant, with William F. Mercer, Inc., Stamford, Conn.

Editor's Note: If you're already holding your "Best Practices" global communication strategy proposal in hand and waiting for your boardroom to beckon, please share it with us. Communication World would like to promote your program to your peers as part of our effort to encourage a multicultural approach to communication.


10. Ask the human resources staff overseas to head the employee communication effort.

9. Communicate your U.S.-developed "core values" to your international operations.

8. Select the media that you think work best in countries throughout the world.

7. Translate your U.S.-written employee publication into six languages (and have it translated by American translators to boot!).

6. Translate your policies and practices handbook verbatim, them distribute it worldwide.

5. Conduct no-holds-barred focus groups in Indonesia.

4. Staff your overseas locations with U.S.-trained communicators.

3. Provide local management with corporate messages, then ask them to disseminate the messages to the appropriate people.

2. Send your single-language-speaking, U.S.-raised CEO on an international management-by-walking-around mission.

And the Number-one way to communicate globally (and fail miserably):

1. Develop a global communication strategy that doesn't involve your international employees in the process.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Frederico, Richard
Publication:Communication World
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:Global communication comes into its own.
Next Article:All right is all right, but alright ain't.

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