PR Conversations talked to Silvia Cambiè (top left) and Yang-May Ooi (below left), authors of the recently published International Communications Strategy: Developments in cross-cultural communications, PR and social media about their new book and the changing world facing PR practitioners today.
One of the key principles of public relations is to keep your audience in mind. Who are the target readers of this book?
Business communicators and PR practitioners. The communication sector is going through unprecedented changes. We are experiencing a shift brought about by a combination of new technology and new practices coming from emerging markets.
What unfulfilled need do you think this book fills, or in other words, what is its unique selling proposition?
The termination of the one-way globalisation of Western culture is very much at the core of International Communications Strategy (ICS). This phenomenon has strong implications for communicators. The book gives readers tools and ideas for dealing with the new world order.
Given the social media revolution that you document, isn’t the appearance of this book and the current proliferation of PR books contradictory, or at least ironic?
Different media suit different forms of expression. Social media enables online conversations and allows people to take advantage of the immediacy offered by almost instantaneous online content publication and sharing. Books – whether in the form of print or digital form – offer time and space for longer discourse and in-depth explorations of issues. There will always be room for such different modes of communication.
The three phenomena that you highlight (the emergence of the BRIICS, technology and social media and so-called social businesses) are all vast topics worthy of in-depth consideration. Why combine them in a single volume rather than writing three books?
Change in our sector is happening fast. We needed to provide our readers with a comprehensive overview of all major trends affecting international communications while highlighting the interactions between these components.
In the section on integrative thinking, you oppose the concepts of assertive inquiry and advocacy. Which do you think this book is and why?
ICS is very much in favour the assertive inquiry model as a means of promoting effective cross-cultural leadership.
What are the main challenges that companies operating in an international context face in managing relationships with internal stakeholders?
The exposure to external stakeholders and their perceptions is certainly one of the main challenges. These days, thanks to social media, the messages companies send out are played back to their employees. Employers can no longer afford to segment their communication and differentiate between internal and external stakeholders. Messages need to be aligned and this requires a certain degree of openness and accountability. The additional difficulty in an international context comes from the need to be mindful of cultural nuances. The tone needs to be adjusted to the style of the environment companies are operating in.
You cite the Obama campaign as the textbook example of a political campaign integrating the full spectrum of social media successfully. Outside of the political sphere, did your research turn up any other examples of exemplary integration across the gamut of communications channels?
We came across many businesses and associations using social media innovatively and successfully but at the time of writing, seamless integration across a wide range of communications channels seemed to be fairly rare. One of the messages of our book is that social media needs to be taken seriously as one of the many communications channels available to businesses and organisations. The key is to integrate it within their overall communications strategy and not out on a limb by itself. We anticipate that as social media becomes part of the mainstream consciousness, we will start to see it absorbed much more widely into the fold of business communications and used as a matter of course in a more integrated manner within the next few years.
Critics of your book could claim that while you present a multitude of interesting case studies, your narrative is extremely anecdotal and provides little new data. How would you respond?
The book is not meant as a theoretical exercise but rather as a collection of concrete solutions to problems practitioners are dealing with on a daily basis. The case studies we present support a precise structure. To quote a recent review of ICS in Communication Director, “a specific case study is discussed to reinforce the points the authors introduce. Each illustrates communication techniques that have been successful – or, at times, unsuccessful – in a variety of situations and locations.”
The data we use is anything but old, but … is indeed controversial. Like the research conducted by Zayed University on the leadership style of Emerati women business leaders and their highly effective communication style. We are aware that references like this might attract criticism given the ground-breaking nature of the subject.
Your book has been nominated for the FT Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year. In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a truly exceptional business publication?
A publication with a vision grounded in the real world.
Questions were contributed by Judy Gombita, Toni Muzi Falconi, Joao Duarte and Kristen Sukalac.