Monday, June 29, 2009

Intercultural communication


With the internet and the facilities that brought people of different cultural backgrounds together, the issue of culture has started to appear on the surface of every situation involving the interaction of people from different backgrounds. To understand what has become to be known as intercultural communication, we need to clearly define the issue of culture and what the concept of culture brings to the table when people talk and try to make sense of what is being conveyed.Clearly, the language plays one of the most important roles in communication; it serves as a vehicle that holds speakers’ ideas, beliefs, feelings, conceptions and above all cultural traditions and issues



Language here comes to announce how different words can mean different things to people of different cultural backgrounds. Other than words, different people can also interpret gestures differently. One striking example is the colors; different colors can be related to different feelings and emotions to different cultures. To compare Arabic to English, yellow in Arabic is always related to sickness and it is not a color of hope or love. Definitely, speakers of other cultures may find yellow a color of hope and they may relate it to good health and wellness which the complete opposite for the Arabs.The same situation appears with green which refers to envy in English while it can never be related to being envy in Arabic or any other culture. I myself have found it very difficult to relate green to being envy and I was surprised when I first heard it as “someone is green with envy”

It is interesting when people of different cultures get to communicate and try to make sense of each other’s speech. It seems that people try to use every single clue to get to the conclusion, the context of situation, the tone, the speakers’ voice and gestures all come into play and will help better understand what it is being communicated. However, the previously built misconception or stereotypes will always block that stream of understanding. It is believed that people will always try to think and build certain conceptions about the others before trying to meet them. These stereotypes seem to play a major role in the interpretations of every speech act. I found it difficult to think of a person from Brazil who does not know how to play soccer well. It is stuck in the back of my mind that Brazilians are great soccer player and I have always imagined myself if I get the chance to talk to a Brazilian, I will definitely ask him about football. These characteristics that are attributed to specific people before even getting to know them are called stereotypes.

Another issue, which hinders the process of understanding somebody from another culture, is “Prejudice” which is an unfair disposition towards something. It is unjust to try to generalize an issue based on one instance. For me, I do not feel comfortable dealing with people with heavy tattoos and piercing because American movies have always depicted those tattooed and pierced people as criminals or dirty police officers. Now, I am trying to work on this issue and I am trying to get myself accustomed to the idea of dealing with those people with some ease.

All these issues come into play when somebody would like to build an understanding of a speech said by somebody belonging to a different culture. It is important to get rid of these stereotypes and prejudices and start from scratch and try to build our understanding based on individuals who represent themselves rather than their whole community. Moreover, It is essential to develop some kind of inner sense that would make us differentiate between what can be generalized and what can not from the one situation we are facing. The world is getting smaller and smaller with the new technology and it seems that we should really start to see the world as a small village where everybody knows everybody else.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Internal Communication

Internal communication means the communications within the organization. It can also be called as an employee communication. This communication may be oral or written, face to face or virtual, one-on-one or in groups.

Today organizations have realized that employees have to do more with the success than any other constituency. So, along with customer care, employee care is more necessary. Today employees also demand to participate in any decision making discussions, this shows they are also supportive towards internal communication. Management must recognize this and provide information to employees and listen to their opinion. This act of better communication will make employees welcome the change rather than not accepting it.

So, the question is: How to create an effective communication in a company?

First thing necessary in creating good internal communication is to know the attitude of employees towards their company. This can be done by arranging a “communication audit”. Depending on the response from the employees the right kind of program can be implemented by communication professionals.

A good manager has to take more than one action in order to maintain an effective internal communication.

Communicating up & down – This is consider the best approach by giving employees an informal, fearless environment with supervisor to share information and ideas.

Face to Face – As we all read in the webct articles, there is no substitute for this type and employees can have the direct touch with the senior managers. Senior management must spare some time for arranging face to face meetings.

Online communication – This is the best and fastest way in today’s time for management to reach its employees for communicating and sharing information. Just like we do online chat in our groups, the companies also have their intranet on which employees can share their views.

Publication for employees – If the top level management will take interest in this, this could be a good medium in large organizations to give real story behind what is happening to the employees to keep them aware.

Visual communication – Everyone feels that visual communication is better than reading memos and information broachers. Large organizations are always equipped with television sets in their departments or if not they always have intranet to telecast their video film rolled up with information for its employees.

Internal Branding – This is also referred as internal marketing to keep employees engaged with their job. With this approach the company must recognize the need to sell the idea to employees along with the customers, this will make employees more focus in what they are doing.

Here are some links giving information related to the chapter:

Creating effective internal communication:

Seven Cs of internal communication:

If Face-To-Face communication not possible then HERE IS THE FUTURE:


As I said in my all experiences, I got good exposure to business culture by working with Cipla pharmaceuticals in India as a medical representative.

During those days, the flow of information from my senior executives was always there. I, at an entry level position, was always getting supervised and was also given a company cell phone with required company people’s contact list, in case if I need to ask anything at any time. We all medical representatives were involved in the meetings to share the objectives, give us new targets and to know from us about the any new and necessary information. So, there was always a nice two-way communication.

Here is a link having additional information about keeping employees informed:

Crisis Communications

A crisis is defined as a major disaster that may occur as a result of human error, intervention, or by natural forces. A crisis can include both tangible and intangible damage which typically share some common characteristics. These include the element of surprise, insufficient information, rapid escalation, and intense scrutiny. While in many cases these incidents cannot be predicted, they can be planned for. It’s important for companies to prepare for the unpredicted in order to be able to answer with an effective communicational response. For example when Johnson & Johnson Tylenol product was laced with cyanide, they quickly recalled their product. As a result they gained a reputation as a company that cares about public welfare. Without this coordinated response the public perception of Johnson & Johnson could have been negatively impacted, which certainly would’ve have affected their competitiveness.

The modern age of business has created a new dynamic of crisis and crisis communication. The use of the internet and modern technology has created more avenues in which a company’s information could be compromised. For example, many companies use the wireless devices to complete million dollar transaction and wireless transactions are more susceptible outside interference. Once a crisis happens the internet permits information to be spread instantly allowing the world to post their opinions all over the web and the voice of the internet must be managed in order to have a successful communications. Just as technology has made it more difficult to manage the situation, it has also allowed companies to strengthen their crisis communications. Companies now have more conduits to reach their constituents to keep them informed about the crisis and their response.

To prepare for a crisis a company must create a plan. Before a plan is drafted they need to analyze their risk, determine effect on its constituencies, and set objectives. The formal plan should be in writing and include who to notify, media relations, and a location for crisis headquarters. Once the crisis has occurred companies need to get control of the situation, gather information, centralize crisis management, communicate early and often, understand media’s mission, communicate directly with constituents, continue with business, and make plans to avoid another crisis.

My Example

While working as a program manager for a non-profit organization, I was part of a team that organized a field trip for participating students. The field trip involved taking a pre-ordered school bus to PNC Park for a tour. The tour began promptly at 11:00 and ended at 1:00 p.m. We were scheduled to board the bus at 10:00 a.m. in order to get there on time. However, the bus never showed up. While this is considered a minor crisis, it was already paid for and we didn’t want to waste the organization’s resources. While there wasn’t plan for this unforeseeable event, there was a coordinated effort to fix the problem. First, we had to call the bus provider to figure out if the bus was coming. Second, once we realized it wasn’t coming we had to quickly figure out how to get there through public transportation. Thirdly, once the route was mapped out we had to contact the Executive Director to get permission to provide each student with bus tickets to get there. Next we called the tour facility and notified them that we were on our way and may be a little late. Finally, once they were notified we organized the students, set ground rules for public transportation, and left for the tour. We separated the task amongst the managers and eventually we were able to participate in the tour on time.

Suggested Links

The following 2 link are blueprints and toolkits for crisis communications

This link is an article about crisis communications

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Government Relations

Unlike USA, China is continuing its policy reform, especially in the area of economy. Usually, government would guide organizations. Bus sometimes, government would rely on organizations. Especially when new policies come out, government would need the cooperation from organizations. Therefore, in China, government relations seem to be more important to companies than in USA. Sometimes, an dynamic interaction with government would even create business opportunities which did not exist before.

Life Experience Example

Gaea Gem is a business group which regards rice production as primary business. It is the largest organization in my hometown in China. My mom used to work for it, dealing with government relations. Because of the nature of farming business, the coordination with government has great influence on the corporate performance. Several years ago, the company planned to start a manufacturing plant to produce rice derived food product. And this plan soon got approved by the “pro-growth” government. However, some problems delayed to construction progress significantly. Those problems were with the land. Part of the Gaea Gem’s target land had already allocated for other purpose in previous government development plan. Therefore, the company needed to coordinate with different departments in government. Without any material progress for nearly half a year, the company appointed a manager who used to hold a senior position in government to take in charge. Due to the manager’s previous government working experience and good relationship with political leaders, he managed to solve the land problem. And the company was able to move on.

Here is an interesting article about lobbying in China:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Corporate Advertising: Enhancing corporation image, identity, and reputation

Corporate Advertising

Corporate advertisement is designed to promote the organization as a whole rather then promoting a specific product or service. Corporate advertising is used to enhance the corporation image and reputation among the target audience. Corporate advertising is the means to facilitate positive public perception of business. The main function of corporate advertising is to generate and enhance a sense of confidence and appeal among shareholders. Depending on the exact nature of the corporate marketing approach, the advertising may also be developed with an eye of enhancing the reputation of the company among its peers in a community or within a given sector of the marketplace. In today’s business environment, corporations are facing incidents or factors that are damaging the reputation of the company. Factors may include unsubstantiated claims made about the business practices of the company, or some aspect of the quality of the products produced by the corporation. In above case corporate advertisement can be used to re-strengthen the image and reputation of organization. Corporate advertising campaigns may also help to restore consumer confidence when a takeover or merger involving the company takes place. a well-crafted corporate advertising campaign is a powerful tool for use in damage control situations, and may be capable of restoring confidence after the public perception of the business has been stained in some manner.

Toyota Corporate advertising

My Experience:

I was working in Nokia during my internship. At that time there is growing concern about environment. As their social responsibility Nokia also took step to save the environment by using biodegradable materials like polylactic acid (PLA) plastics with plant or other biomass-based modifiers in its phones; thereby making least use of non-renewable resources. PLA also needs little energy for its production. Nokia also planned to make energy saving chargers. In a bid to make an environment friendly move, Nokia brought 40 models with bio-degradable components. The components in the model will be recyclable so that the customers can send their Nokia phones for recycling purposes by putting them in ‘Green Bins’. Green Bins will be provided by Nokia to all its Nokia dealers in India. Another step taken by Nokia at that time was to educate and train its care centers on environmental issues and recycling materials so that they can also educate customers; as a part of Nokia’s take-back program. The success of the campaign was pretty evident because we as employees can see growing number of consumers who want to be educated about this matter and who want to contribute in saving environment. With this step Nokia wanted to be leader in Greenpeace “guide to greener electronics”. Taking steps to produce eco-friendly products Nokia gained the confidence of the consumers who are concerned with growing environment problems. This campaign helped Nokia to strengthen its image and reputation among consumers.

Nokia goes green

Website links :

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Media Relations – Keep Moving Forward

Referring to chapter six of the book “Media Relations” the right way to present the own company nowadays is a good and elaborate marketing strategy. The public have to remember about a special kind of brand all the time. Most of the financial institutions have lost their reputation during the financial crisis in 2008 and the beginning of 2009. For the banks this means, they have to win back again the lost confidence of their customers.

Now, the customers are past the angry phase, and everyone is waiting to see what the banks will do. That means the banks have to be active. They must organize a direct advertisement about their products and the independence about coming financial crises. This can either be provided by specific advertising messages or by interviews put well. The banks use all kinds of media, for example newspaper, billboards, television etc. Especially in interviews, banks have the chance to give an awesome statement about the capability and the security for their customers. On the other hand, strategically unfavorable interviews or badly prepared statements can harm the bank more as help.

My main article shows the different kinds of efforts from financial institutions to reviewing their public image and to win their customers back. There are some examples about banks, like Citigroup or Bank of America, released a large campaign for its business. Furthermore, some video examples of smaller financial institutions can be seen with advertizing measures.

Every bank has to report the annual balance amount and the profit and loss. Therefore my financial institution also has to publish its annual result. We gave statements in newspaper, on press conference and sometimes on television. I support the management to create the statement. In additional, there are many principles how to make a good statement on television. The statement must be planned strategically and the information processed first of all exactly. The information must exactly and briefly be processed. This gives the CEO safety and a good stand for questions of the reporters. Till now, we have always achieved good successes with our interviews. “The success gives us right.”

My blog based on a currently "real-world" example from my occupation. The topic from the chapter six was pick up in an article from “The New York Times”, published June 8th 2009. Complete in electronic form – the link will give the whole article.

“In Ads, Banks Try the Warm, Cozy Approach"

I still have found some interesting videos about the basic principles of good interviews as well as examples about good and bad interviews on the Internet.

Interesting advices about interviews: “Media Relations Strategies - Chapter Four”

Positive example of an interview: “Crisis PR interview”

Negative example of an interview: “Interview gone bad”

Funny example of an interview: “Extremely Funny Interview Gone Wrong”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Identity, Image, and Reputation

Image Identity and Reputation go hand in hand. It is impossible to separate them from each other. All these three aspects are important for the Goodwill of the company.
Identity: An organization’s identity is visual expression of the organization’s reality which can express through the name, product, services, logo, motto or all other tangible pieces created by the organization and communicated to constituencies. Identity-building is the only thing an organization has complete control over. Therefore, an organization has to be aware of the aspects that contribute to a positive corporate identity.
Image: An organization’s image is an indication of the organization’s identity seen from the viewpoint of the company’s constituencies. Often, organizations have to change their names in order to adapt to changes in their environment. Logos are also an important component of a organization’s branding strategy. They can be simply symbols or just names or a combination of both. The most famous corporate logos are the Coca-Cola logo or the Nike “Swoosh”. A company must ensure that its logo and name somehow reflects the overall approach of the company’s strategy.

Reputation: Reputation is the opinion or a social evaluation of the public toward a person, a group of people, or an organization. It helps a company to attract more talented employees or investors. Furthermore, it gives an organization a higher acceptance among customers. A good reputation can also help in times of crisis. Johnson & Johnson, for example, survived the Tylenol crisis because of its good reputation.

Life Experience Example

The best example that comes to my mind is the Apple computers. They have gained fame in each and every aspect of their way in dealing with public image. Improved share price day by day, new quality innovations in every short span of time keep the consumer very well bonded to it and help the company to reinforce its image, identity and reputation. For example promotions among college students like one of their great moves to sell the Mac-book with student discounts of 10% and a free iPod helped them build their identity in younger generation with vigor. Apple recently changed its personal web service “.Mac” to the name “”. This name change was done because of the strategic importance of the iPhone division in the overall corporate strategy.

Another Example

Couple of years back, my company decided to change its logo (identity) in order to give the company a new image of professionalism for both primary and secondary constituencies and came up with a great combination of black and red color in its logo. While promoting my company, I placed an article about the company on Wikipedia. Soon after a couple of days there came in messages of several other administrators asking about the existence of the company and what the company is notable for. After replying to several of the e-mails the administrators agreed to place the article on the Wikipedia. This was because the company had a strong image, identity, and reputation in the hardware market. Had it been any other non-reputed company the administrators would not have agreed to place the article on Wikipedia. This example shows that a company must have strong reputation because tied to that reputation is the company’s identity and image.

Video: Beyond the logo- Branding through Identity Design

Video: How to Create a Corporate Identity

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Communicating Strategically

While managers usually think strategically about their businesses, they tend to overlook the importance of strategically communicating with their constituencies. In order to correct this, they must know who their constituencies are, the attitudes of constituencies toward the organization and what a particular constituency knows about the topic on which management wishes to communicate. The case study in Chapter 2 outlining an internal communication problem within the Carson Container Company is a prime example of how time, human resources and money can be wasted if a company fails to recognize and analyze their constituency.

Several years ago, as the marketing assistant for a scientific equipment manufacturer, I was appointed by the marketing manager to oversee the introduction and implementation of a line of plumbing fixtures into our existing product line. Early in the process, I failed to recognize, and was not informed of the importance of meeting with the estimating and sales staffs to give them details about the new product and discuss with them all new and impending developments. Instead, I sent out dozens of memos giving directives on related issues without asking for input. As a result, I alienated the very people who would be promoting these fixtures in the field. Because these two constituencies worked very closely, they each fed off the other's resentment and dissatisfaction. Morale plummetted. Time, money and resources were wasted because I had to rework a number of processes to everyone’s satisfaction. I had to recruit extra staff and lost valuable time “mending fences.” All of this could have been avoided had I recognized my constituencies, primarily the estimating and sales staffs, and analyzed what it would take for them to support my efforts. The following link is an article from Business Day that discusses the importance of effective internal communications.

Changing Environment of Business: The Marcellus Shale

Breaking news in Pennsylvania

Anyone who has picked up a local newspaper, turned on a local television news broadcast, or listened to a local radio station has probably heard about the 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves locked some 8900 feet below Pennsylvania’s surface, in a geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale. According to some experts, this reserve is the one of the largest in North America. This untapped reserve has enormous economic potential for the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.

A brief background of the history of Pennsylvania's natural gas industry

From a period spanning from the early 1900's into 2007, the industry standards for natural gas production in Pennsylvania were based on drilling large numbers of low volume production wells. These wells were drilled vertically to an average depth of around 3000 feet. Of course, this led to the rise of entire service and supplier based industries built around these standards. As the years passed, these support industries grew more and more complex and became heavily intertwined with the industry as a whole, employing tens of thousands of people ranging from high powered CEO's to rough necks working on the drilling rigs. Many of the natural gas production companies were small, locally owned and operated businesses, allowing for close and personal relationships between the service and support company owners and the producers. Business was done on "a man's good word and a handshake." Although there was much competition among the service based companies, it was not uncommon for these contractors to have exclusivity with the work. In other words, many producers developed what one might call a sense of "brand loyalty" and were willing to pay little extra to retain the services of companies that they trusted.

Major changes and shifts in the industry

The discovery of the Marcellus Shale reserves has dramatically changed the face of the local natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. Many of the cost of completing standard wells (from now on I will reference these wells as "shallow" wells) such as leasing tracts of land, permitting, environmental studies, drilling, and construction were long established by the laws of supply and demand. These expenditures had been very stable and predictable for many years. The news of the Marcellus Shale discovery, along with its astronomical profit potential, attracted the attention of several very large, NYSE and NASDAQ traded companies that could raise huge amounts of needed capital. The cost of completing Marcellus Shale wells (from now on I will reference as "deep-horizontal" wells) was significantly higher than those of drilling the shallow wells. This posed a problem for almost all of the small, locally owned companies that had the leases and reserves to drill the deep horizontal wells, but couldn't get the capital. Many of the large, publicly traded companies were coming to the area and making severely overpriced offers to local producers to acquire their reserves, along with lofty offers to Pennsylvania land owners to obtain new reserves. The industry wide dollar amounts in Pennsylvania literally totaled in the low billions. Also, the philosophy was shifting form a large number-low per capita production rate, to a small number-high per capita one. In other words, this meant a significant reduction in new construction projects. This posed a huge problem for the support and service based business in the region, including my own. The overpriced offerings have completely turned the local natural gas economy upside down in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of local jobs have been lost, due to the reduction of new construction volume. To compound the problem, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has taken notice to the increased demand for water in order to complete these deep-horizontal wells. Many new agency laws and restrictions have been recently enacted by the DEP such as requiring more intense environmental impact studies, water restrictions, and more strict requirements for drilling permits, driving the cost of Marcellus based drilling even higher. This means that natural gas prices have to continue to rise to make production profitable. Finally, the recent economic prices have sent natural gas prices plummeting. The industry is currently in "sleep" mode. Many of the remaining small, locally owned producers are unable to acquire new leases for shallow drilling because the overpayment for leasing has literally driven the per acre cost of leasing new tracts of land hundreds of times higher than in 2005.

This revolutionary change has driven many small local service based companies out of business. The new, NYSE traded producers do not care about the principle of "brand loyalty" I discussed earlier, or about building trusting relationships with experienced service contractors. It now goes to the lowest bidder. Every aspect of the projects is solicited for bid, even minuscule amounts by industry standards. Many of the local companies need a "steady and consistent diet" of work to survive. They are not accustomed to the sporadic work generated by the new "bid everything" policies. However, it would appear that the change is here to stay, at least for a while. If a company is to survive, its management has to recognize this changing environment and must adapt. I have made several fundamental changes to my consulting and construction business in order to survive. I have sat down with my partner and went through our budget line by line and cut out any and all unecessary expenditures. We also restructured our employee personnel by consolidating two of our construction crews into one, saving on vehicle and heavy equipment overhead costs. We also had to make minor adjustments to our employee health care plan to ensure the survival of our firm. I have sharpened my skills immensely at scrutinizing every project we bid to determine the best profit margin I can work with, but still be competitive. I still work on the same basic principles, just changed my style. To quote Thomas Jefferson, "in matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."

Communication Theories

During the 2008 Elections, I noticed than many peoples' opinions on the presidential candidates, and the whom they voted for constantly changed between the Primaries and the General Election. No matter how fit or unfit a candidate was to lead this country, America still chose to support the candidates that they could relate to the most and who shared mutual values. With this being said, many Americans from all demographics had different perceptions on each candidates' morals, objectives, foreign & economic policies. Many Americans felt that the Gulf War was the greatest concern compared to others thinking that the global economic recession was more important.

After the Primaries, there was a lot of speculation about who would better represent the United States. Each candidate openly exclaimed what their top 5 concerns that they planned to address immediately on their first day in the Oval Office. The three month period before the General Election was very dull and the news was redundant. There was relatively no new information about either candidate. However, during the Summer and early Fall last year, Many celebrities and well-known politicians were endorsing each candidate. President Obama was considered to be a celebrity ONLY because he was the most popular candidate. Major endorsements for President Obama were Oprah Winfrey, Ex-Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell (Former Republican), Paris Hilton, Will Ferrell, Chelsea Handler, and the list goes on forever. Major idolized celebrities have more power of persuasion than the experts on CNN or MSNBC. This method of politics supports Katz & Lazarsfeld's Model of 1955, which found that the political messages sent over any medium had little effect on voting decisions. People have minds of their own and are influence more by opinion leaders (i.e. celebrities, politicians, family, and friends) than mass media.

Celebrity endorsements are not always good politics.
List of Obama Endorsements