How to Build a Global Communications Strategy
When international companies begin to wrestle with the many challenges of global branding, marketing, and corporate communications, a few common questions always seem to pop up around the conference room table. The first question is, “How do we best structure our global communications?” And the next question always seems to be, “How do we implement our global strategy in a way that balances the need for a consistent message with the ability to be responsive to local differences and market conditions?”
These are difficult and complicated questions. While there are many varied approaches, there are commonalities among companies that have proved to be successful in global communications strategies, tactics and organization. These companies have typically struck the right balance between centralized message management and the flexibility required to address the many differences that arise along the borders of their markets.
These common approaches can be defined in a framework which we call ACT. It’s a formula for approaching the development, implementation and integration of global communications in a way that solves the questions raised above. ACT stands for three strategic elements. The first is Adaptation, which takes a global strategy and amplifies it by leveraging a company’s products or brands through exploiting their local relevance. The second is Coopting, which establishes a global communication operation that endeavors to standardize communication practices and procedures so the company can act independently at the local level, but at the same time, always remain in sync with central command. Lastly, the third element is Transference, which enables opportunities for successful global communications to flow up from the local markets, rather than always being pushed down from headquarters.
The ACT framework can be useful to both large multi-national companies as well as to smaller companies that are looking to expand internationally. The framework not only provides a means to develop or refine a global communications program, but can also be used to set up milestones and performance goals to measure improvements over time. Additionally, the framework can also help in times like today, where budgets are being carefully reviewed to ensure the value is being maximized.
Learning How to ACT
Building a global strategic platform that follows the ACT model of Adaptation, Coopting, and Transference involves a process that combines all elements of the company’s communications capabilities, and at the same time works from the top down and the bottom up. The following steps can simply describe the process:
Step 1: Define the Corporate Strategy
- Establish the core messages
- Understand the strategic levers you have to differentiate your brand and products
- Identify where these levers may differ in each local market
- Inventory local competitive advantages that can be exploited
Step 2: Configure the Communications Function
- Determine how to best connect global operations
- Create procedures for collaboration and cooperation
- Organize horizontal and vertical relationships among communicators
- Build economies of scale for international communications
Step 3: Establish Controls
- Create a centralized “brand watch” to manage consistency of message
- Put in place standards and “rules of engagement” to ensure both consistency and flexibility
- Implement training programs to imbed strategy, messages, and procedures throughout the organization
- Enable local communicators to “train” corporate management on market-based differences and local conditions
Step 4: Identify Obstacles to Coordination and Consistency
- Find and address impediments to change
- Eliminate silos
- At the same time, avoid excessive standardization
Step 5: Set Up Tools and Analytics For Measurement and Feedback
- Utilize technology to track message penetration globally and by market
- Create forums for feedback
- Schedule regular reviews to adjust strategies and tactics
This is a simplified summary of the ACT process and the steps needed to transform strategic global communications using the framework of Adaptation, Coopting and Transference. For more information about the ACT formula, please feel free to contact me at MJP@Qorvis.com. We would be happy to provide you with an analysis of your current communications structure and program and offer recommendations for future improvements.