International Communications Strategy: Development in Cross-cultural Communications, PR and Social Media

Strategic Direction

ISSN: 0258-0543

Article publication date: 13 April 2012



Cambie, S. (2012), "International Communications Strategy: Development in Cross-cultural Communications, PR and Social Media", Strategic Direction, Vol. 28 No. 6.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

International Communications Strategy: Development in Cross-cultural Communications, PR and Social Media

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Strategic Direction, Volume 28, Issue 6

Silvia Cambié and Yang-May Ooi,Kogan Page, London, 2009, ISBN: 978 0 7494 5329 9, 222 pp. (Hardback)

Communication is one of the most important functions to master in order for any organization to succeed in today’s globalized social and economical environment, particularly for firms doing business internationally. As such, international and/or cross-cultural communication strategies play an increasingly important role in determining a business firm’s profitability. Recent findings in business research demonstrate that to relate effectively to people from diverse international cultures one must have knowledge and show respect and appreciation for diversity. However, from time to time top managers in companies working internationally neglect the significance of the invisible barriers, namely cultural differences, that exist in communications.

It has been widely recognized that cultural factors play an important role in business, functioning as invisible barriers for international business communications. Even as the world is becoming globalized, many nations have increasingly voiced their claim to a right to culture in international businesses. It is inevitable that national culture will be a critical factor affecting economic development, demographic behavior, and general business policies in nation states around the world. Such claims at the macro level will be important for making trade policy, protecting intellectual property rights, and creating resources for national benefits. At the micro level these claims could be invisible barriers for firms working in or wanting to enter international markets.

On the other hand globalization and the rise of emerging-market multinationals have had a profound impact on the work of practitioners in the field of public relations and corporate communications. PR agencies are unexpectedly confronted with clients who, having bought a business from another part of the world, need to reach out to customers and engage employees in cultures of which they have limited knowledge. As such, corporate communicators are requested to develop strategies for markets they have never worked in and audiences they are unable to relate to. Complete with real-life best practices and hands-on case studies from around the world, this book gives communication practitioners essential information enabling them to offer strategic guidance to senior executives.

By offering practical advice and compelling insights into the changing world of cross-cultural communication, International Communications Strategy includes guidance on current and future trends in international communications; new forms of journalism; the global language of corporate social responsibility; leadership communication; cultural intelligence and integrative thinking; mentoring across cultures; communications for social enterprises; the role of social media in international communications; online multimedia, video, and podcasting; and Twitter and other mobile communications.

The authors, by providing information on alternative approaches as well as including hands-on case studies and best practices, give the readers points of reference and ideas that one is able to use every time when asked to provide strategic communication guidance to senior management/clients. It is about the cross-cultural challenges currently facing business communicators and PR practitioners. The authors address the fact that the rises of emerging-market multinationals, China and India, as well as off shoring are transforming the communication sector beyond recognition. The authors argue that new channels of global communication are also being opened by the interactive web, bringing different communities across the world together instantaneously online and creating new audiences. Therefore, understanding cross-cultural aspects of communication includes understanding online and offline cultures and the global uses of social media.

According to the authors, the focus of the communication profession is shifting from content creation to relationship management of the study of social ecosystems. While in the past corporations seemed to need communicators only for colorful brochures and press releases, they now expect them to provide strategic advice and help senior executives to engage effectively with stakeholders in different parts of the world. At the same time, they are required to be knowledgeable about social media and internet audiences and to be able to link on-line and off-line communication work successfully.

The book is divided into two parts and contains eleven chapters. The first part includes five chapters discussing international communications. Chapter 1 begins with a detailed discussion on the changes in the world:

Change is still happening. It is drawing everybody closer to other parts of the world. And it is making us realize that we need to look at them in a different way. We can no longer expect people in other cultures to adopt the way we think and communicate (p. 3).

In chapter 2, the authors probe the relations between PR and social media, particularly the new interactive media, such as the internet, because the “interactive media are transforming PR into a two-way conversation between a company and its audience.” (p. 28). According to the authors, creative cross-cultural communication is all about observing the world changing and distilling the cultural elements that produce specific behaviors:

The next step then implies mixing communication practices already applied to other contexts with strong local components (p. 30).

Chapter 3 is about corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to the authors CSR is a product of globalization and differs among countries. They discuss that in order to successfully operate in foreign markets firms need a broader understanding of the world, which includes the ability to recognize the needs of local communities and the art of establishing a sustainable relationship with them. In chapter 3 the authors discuss the significance of leadership communication cross-culturally. They argue that the new developments in the world “are signaling the need to leave behind old leadership models based on hierarchy and secrecy and begin to adopt new ones … communication as an integral part of effective leadership is at the centre of it” (p. 63). However, this requires constant effort and genuine commitment to nurture cross-cultural leadership. Chapter 5 briefly probes the role of social entrepreneur and social business in the changing world by looking at evaluating the communication strategies adopted by the social business organizations.

Part 2 is about the role of social media in international communications and includes six chapters. Chapter 6 is about the cultural landscape of social media and explores cross-cultural communications with a focus on cyberspace as another diverse cultural landscape. It examines the internet culture and how it is relevant to the business and PR professionals. Social media as a part of life is the subject of chapter 7, in which the authors demonstrate how social media become part of our life from shopping to searching for news and expressing ourselves. For business professionals the authors suggest that they need to consider a social media strategy as part of business life:

If many of your stakeholders and customers are engaging in social media, then you need to be over on their side of the street, too (p. 125).

Chapter 8 discuss authenticity and trust, two serious topics in the business world, from a cross-cultural perspective by showing and analyzing the data from the Edelman Trust Barometer 2008 survey:

Trust can only be built up over time through consistent action … someone who you see behaving authentically over time is going to be someone who you are more likely to trust (p. 136).

Building and enhancing social network through social media becomes a new trend to the business world. Given the new technology, consumers today are no longer passive but become more active by using social media. In chapter 9 the authors advise that social enterprises should “use social media tools to build online communities not just around their business but as their core business itself” (p. 159). Chapter 10 discusses the ways of expression in various media. New technology is continuing to change the forms information and news being delivered:

The rise of social media has been changing the communications plying field, leveling it out to include the participation of many (p. 184).

In chapter 11 the authors explore in more detail about the convergence of multimedia, social media, and mobile communications. They predict that the means for human beings to communicate will be continuously changing and improving, we need to prepare for the new forms of communications in the future.

With plentiful hands-on case studies and best practices form all over the world, this book equips communication professionals with the skills needed in order to get up to speed in the era of global interconnectedness. The book is written by two experienced professional communicators with their accumulated knowledge and findings. Cambié is a cross-cultural communicator and journalist, and advises clients on strategic, stakeholder relations and social media. She serves on the boards of two organizations with global outreach: the International Association of Business Communicators and The International Alliance for Women. Ooi is a writer specializing in cross-cultural issues and social media. Her cross-cultural blog, Fusion View, has been featured on BBC Radio.

As a reader and reviewer of the book, I do agree with the authors that in today’s business world, to be more competitive, it is necessary that we have exceptional cross-cultural sensibility and world-class communication skills. In my view, this book inspires an intense level of appreciation for contemporary practice models and methods in communications. Moreover, it succeeds in expanding our understanding of how the social media and cross-cultural approach provide key insights into communication and PR professions. As such, this book has definite appeal to students of communication, business administration, and marketing, as it aids understanding of the contextual underpinnings of public relations and communications. Ultimately, this book represents a useful “how to” guide for both the business practitioner and the educational professional on how to put into practice of social media principles and cross-cultural approach in the fields of communications and PR. Clearly it represents a useful resource for anyone looking to understand the significance of the social media and cross-cultural issues in communications and PR.

Reviewed by Robert Guang Tian, Medaille College, Buffalo, NY, USA

This review was originally published in Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 Issue: 3, pp. 242-44

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