Working Across Brands and Borders

Earlier in our careers, we signed onto a U.S. company operating under a singular, iconic brand. Within a few years, following a spate of acquisitions and international green fielding, we found ourselves coordinating internal communications for a collection of seven distinct (and sometimes competing) brands, across 12 countries. It ranks among the most complex situations of our careers, and we learned a ton along the way. We’ve outlined of few of the more compelling lessons below, and would be happy to assist any Communications team or company facing similar circumstances.

Culture is a multilayered concept. Every communicator understands the importance of respecting and learning about societal customs and norms when partnering with colleagues around the world. But that’s only the beginning. Business lines and brands that have operated autonomously – even if located in the same country as the parent company – will have their own distinct business cultures, too. Bridging this range of cultural differences requires the continual, concerted efforts of the communicators within all of your brands and across every border.

The translation station. There is no shortage of translation services and programs available, whether externally or within your company or department. After trying several approaches through the years, we landed on one that worked best: The Communications lead in each country was responsible for translating messages sent from the parent company. This ensured not only accuracy, but also the opportunity to account for regional dialects and other nuances that weren’t readily apparent from the mother ship. Worth noting: This requires proactive, upstream coordination among all parties.

Who’s line is it? Another piece of the puzzle you will likely need to address is how to handle strategic, companywide messages. One obvious answer is that these missives come from the very top of the food chain, the parent company’s overall CEO. However, you may find that country or business-line presidents prefer to be the source and face of major company news to their own employees. Our recommendation is that communications about the vision and strategy of the global enterprise should come from the CEO. However, with the appropriate level of coordination and partnership, distribution can be handled by the country and business-line chiefs, who then add a brief stamp of approval and tailored content to the meta-message (e.g., “Team, please take a moment to read the exciting announcement below from our CEO. I’m thrilled about our expansion into this new market because it creates opportunities for our manufacturing teams here in …”).


To see other examples of our work, go to Mini Case Studies.



Categories: Mini Case Studies

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