Last week, Mitchell Communications Group had the honor of sponsoring a PRWeek roundtable discussion at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Leaders representing some of world’s top global brands such as Walmart, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Tyson Foods Inc. came together as our President and CEO Elise Mitchell spoke about best practices for connecting global brands with local audiences. The following are some of the thoughts she shared with participants.
Global companies work very hard to build a brand that is identifiable, consistent and valued across many borders. But how can a global brand connect with local audiences that can be vastly different from one place to another?
Public relations professionals play a vital role in bridging the gap between global and local with our own version of the three R’s: relevance, resonance and relationships.
Relevance: Does it matter to me?
Brands make promises all the time, but they must understand how to make the promises relevant to consumers with different needs that are at least partially driven by where they live. What is relevant to someone in Indiana can be entirely different to someone in India or in Indianola, Miss.
The key to being relevant is to know your customers. Research them. Listen to them. Your ears and your eyes can be your most important tools. Without this knowledge, you will miss opportunities to find meaningful ways to meet their needs.
Resonance: Does it speak to me?
There is so much noise in the marketplace. In order to make sure a company’s messages break through, we have to be very intentional about what we say, how we say it and how we reach our audience.
- What we say: People want to hear stories that bring brands to life – stories about how products and services make a difference, about people, about their communities.
- How we say it: It is vital to speak in a way that sounds familiar and comfortable. This means focusing on tone, style and even dialect. There is no quicker way to turn off a potential customer than by speaking in a tone or with messaging that doesn’t fit their lifestyle.
- How we reach them: We reach customers in a variety of ways: traditional media, social media, online, on location or by phone. Of the primary media channels – earned, owned, shared, paid and promoted – public relations leads the way in the first three. These are powerful channels we can leverage to reach customers where they are and where they are willing to engage with us.
Relationships: Are we connected?
Every brand wants more than just customers; they want brand fans. Trust and consistency are the only routes to accomplish this, and there are many things we can do it earn it.
- Equip and empower a local go-to person for the community to put a local face on your brand.
- Provide support for local causes that show your brand appreciates and supports what matters to local customers.
- Source local products and suppliers somewhere in the supply chain to show your brand values things that are available in a customer’s hometown.
Beyond this, there is a secret weapon every company can use: Put a spotlight on your best brand ambassadors, your own associates and team members. Many times, their stories provide the authentic connection customers are seeking. They illustrate how we have helped our own people, given them opportunities, allowed them to make a difference in some way.
If you can find a story like this, you’ll get relevance, resonance and relationship all in one.
What other tips do you have to connect a global brand with a local audience? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet them using the hashtag #mcgblog.
In Part 2 of this series, we discussed the importance of keeping your focus on the end goal. Because we have set our sights on where we want end up, we recognize that we must be life-long learners. That means there will be questions along the way and as a leader, you must do what it takes to find the answers.
“We have this dilemma. What are we going to do?” Leaders face this question from their employees all the time. The problem is we often don’t know the answer, but we feel like we are supposed to. What do you do when you don’t know the answer?
Leaders who look through the turn are not afraid to admit they don’t know. When you’re on a journey, you’ll encounter many twists and turns you don’t expect – or that you don’t know how to navigate. The same is true at work. It’s okay not to know the answer to every problem, and you should not be afraid to say so when you don’t. It’s worse to pretend like you do or make a decision that doesn't deliver what’s really needed.
But you have to decide something at some point. You can’t just stand there wringing your hands wishing you knew and never taking action. This leads to self-doubt, and as a leader, self-doubt can be paralyzing for you and for everyone around you. It is a dark place to be. You must find answers, and you need to do whatever it takes to find them. Your team needs you to push through these times of uncertainty to a point of resolution in as timely a manner as you can.
Here are four things I do when I face dilemmas and don’t know the answer.
• Clarify what is needed – If the answer is not apparent, it could be there is a deeper issue. Identify what the real root of the problem is and determine how to fix it for the long-run. Avoid the temptation to put a patch on something that needs a bigger solution, even if you need to take a bit of time to put that in place. Better to fix it now than have to revisit it again, and again.
• Benchmark – Do your homework. Read selectively looking for examples of similar challenges, solutions tried and results. Talk to peers, various stakeholders and industry experts to find out how they have addressed something like this. Identify what worked, what didn’t and what could if you made some modifications.
• Leverage expertise – Hire smart consultants who have deep knowledge about your need. They are worth their weight in gold if they can help you fix the immediate problem AND teach you how to avoid situations like this in the future.
• Don’t try to go it alone – The best leaders surround themselves with those who bring unique knowledge and skill sets to the table and include them in the decision-making. I turn to my senior leadership team frequently for input and group problem-solving. We often come up with better solutions together and ones that will work for our unique situation as a company. By being inclusive in your decision-making, you also have the opportunity to share with others how you think and make decisions, which helps those around you understand and feel comfortable with your leadership style.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were unsure how to solve a problem? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box below or on Twitter through #mcgblog.
Topics: Updates from the agency
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Topics: Mitchell Team
One of the things I learned early on about riding a motorcycle is how to control your bike in a curve. "Looking through the turn" is a fundamental principle of motorcycling that also offers a great business insight. As you approach a turn, you must look where you want to go rather than fixating on potential hazards within the turn itself. The challenge comes in keeping your eyes focused on where you want to end up while using your instincts and experience to make necessary adjustments -- all at a moment's notice.
Topics: Mitchell Team
I've never felt more optimistic about the opportunities we have as public relations professionals to lead businesses into better times. My optimism is a result of time spent this week in New York with fellow board members of the Council of Public Relations Firms. I'm new to the board, and I was invigorated by the robust debate and appreciative of the camaraderie of the group.
Topics: Mitchell Team