Russell Goldsmith reviews his trip to the World PR Forum in Toronto, where the theme of the conference was 'Communication Across Cultures'
Last week I had the privilege of attending the World PR Forum, organised and hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) on behalf of The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.
Golin created the concept off the back of Fred’s personal background and how he built his own career, which, as he says himself, was quite unauthodox. After reading his book ‘Improvise: Unconventional career advice from an unlikely CEO’, the General Manager of their Dallas office said she would never have hired him in a million years, and they therefore realised it was a problem that they are always looking to hire people who fit the same mould. The unternship was their answer, and runs as a competition to find different kinds of people, and the winner gets to travel at Golin’s expense for three months all around the world, doing things they’ve never done before. Fred explained that they’ve just finished their second unternship in the US, have just chosen their first in London and are now in the process of choosing one in China.
Now I’m not suggesting that Conversis copy this initiative (we’re a little smaller than Golin) but as a concept I think it’s fantastic. What we do have, though, is a very multicultural office - at last count we had 13 nationalities represented in our Bicester office - and that brings its own benefits in a similar way to what Golin are looking to achieve. We get to take advantage of all those different backgrounds and cultures and that makes for a great working environment, both internally, and with the key relationships we’re building with our clients.
You can listen to Fred talk about this topic in the podcast I recorded with him:
Independent Consultant, Janet Morgan, was the keynote speaker on the Day 2, the Monday (yes, we were working on a Sunday, which was Day 1!) and she talked about ‘The Culture Gap’. In her talk she highlighted research that showed the top obstacles to communications, the top two unsurprisingly being Language Barriers and Cultural Differences.
Saving the best til last though, for me, the highlight of the conference was Tuesday’s keynote by Paulo Soares, Director, Corporate Communications, at Vale, described by The Economist as “the biggest company you have never heard of”.
Vale are Brazil’s largest logistics operators and one of the largest mining companies in the world.
I had previously interviewed Paulo for my podcast before the event, in those initial conversations, Paulo came across as a well-mannered but rather quiet individual. Then he got on stage for his keynote....
... before talking about how different people see each other, and given the fact he’s from Brazil, one of the funny videos that he used to explain this situation was ‘Things Brazilians Are Sick of Hearing’
Vale have over 110k employees across 30 countries and that creates huge challenges when communicating internally when considering the different languages and particularly the cultures across countries as diverse as the ones they are based in.
Paulo believes the key for successful global internal communications is to ‘Think globally, act locally’ and so at Vale, they look to work with their colleagues around the world to co-create internal communications solutions.
An example of where this has come together to benefit the business is in the company’s internal 'Day of Reflection' which aims to unite the company around the importance of safety by showing a series of sombre videos of people who have lost loved ones at work – none of whom worked at Vale. Vale’s number of fatalities is decreasing and this campaign works as Paulo believes empathy connects people.
The video certainly changed the mood in the hall, but delivered an outstanding message about the power of video and how some things certainly do cross cultures and how it can be used for a positive impact in the business.
Aside from attending an incredible conference, meeting some brilliant people in the industry, and getting to see Toronto (I also hired a car on the Saturday, my day off, and drove to Niagara Falls), I would say the highlight for me was meeting and interviewing the CEO of McDonald’s Canada, simply because he gave me the best business card ever – check it out below – FREE BIG MAC!
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