Just Like Individual Human Beings, Countries Are Open Only to Multinationals That Are Listeners, not Broadcasters

At the Ketchum Global Media Network conference last week (Twitter #Ketchumgmn), a panel of four public relations experts from the BRIC countries were asked “What is the biggest mistake clients are currently making in your local markets?” To a person, Russia, India, China and Brazil answered “Multinationals need to stop thinking their global message has any meaning in the local market. People don’t care about your global thinking. They are only interested in information that is relevant to them in their local situation.”
While this is certainly useful for multinational brands to be aware of, as a learning professional, I find it the same human issue between individuals – Does that other person speaking to me have any interest in my situation or what might be of value to me? Or is the other simply talking aloud about ideas that interest him/her and using me as a dumb receptor? We all are acutely aware of this difference when another is speaking to us, but we can sometimes be unaware, when we are speaking, how it is coming across to the other.
For your message to get across to the other, first you build a bridge of understanding – you in a sense go to their side of the river and look around – usually by asking a question that gives them an opportunity to speak first. Then you validate that you’ve heard them by repeating the information or connecting to it authentically. Now you’re “bridged” and can communicate your POV by connecting it to their first response. They have a reason to listen to you, and you’ve done your homework to make the information relevant.
It’s not so different at the national level – none of the BRIC countries really care about another country or brand’s global view – they only care about how it connects to their local situation.
So the next time you need to counsel a brand to speak with a local voice, connect your listener to their individual personal experience. It’s the same thing, just at different levels of aggregation.