Creating and implementing effective B2B marketing and communications campaigns requires a deep understanding of your business and industry. Our associates offer our clients decades of combined experience and a passion for complex industries. Julie Exner, senior vice president, discusses working with and interacting with international partners to develop marketing and communication strategies that resonate with a global audience.

How has global communications evolved in the last decade?

Demand for communication beyond English-speaking North America has notably increased. In other words — our world has shrunk. There’s increasingly more desire to reach international audiences, so companies are seeking partners to help companies communicate more effectively in different countries.

When Fahlgren Mortine joined IPREX, a global communications network, it was because clients wanted to know we could operate in other countries, if needed. But today, clients regularly access those global capabilities. For example, we are currently working with IPREX partners to plan and execute a media buy across eight countries on four continents for one B2B client, and we are helping to stand up an organic search program in multiple languages for another.

The partnership approach is more cost-efficient than working with an agency with its name on the door in multiple countries. Additionally, having personal relationships with our counterparts abroad matters. In my experience, those relationships don’t always exist in multinational agencies, but they are paramount to being an IPREX partner. When we send a request for a project plan and estimate from Anu Gupta, who works for our partner agency in Singapore, or David Mache from our partner agency in Germany, these aren’t just people we email or see over Zoom. These are people with whom we’ve shared intercultural experiences with, such as barn-dancing together in Cork, Ireland.

What’s the biggest misconception about communicating globally?

I’ve received requests for communications in multiple countries to be handled by a single country’s team. While there are select instances where this can work — for example, Gulf Cooperation Council countries, where language, proximity and culture align — a more customized approach is generally much more effective. 

In-country teams are best equipped to know their media landscape, protocol and even language nuances. The strategy used in the United States is absolutely not a cut-and-paste solution, even in other English-speaking countries. This is especially true in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, where publications are trying to establish themselves and all editorial placements require paid support. The more I learn about the nuances of our partners’ home countries, specifically media landscapes, the more grateful I am to have those partners to call on for their on-the-ground expertise. 

“Communicating globally” is a misnomer in most cases. To achieve the objectives of connecting with audiences in multiple countries, it comes down to communicating effectively in each individual country. When combined, those efforts add up to global communications.

What have you learned from your experience leading IPREX and working closely with global partners?

The most heartwarming story involved a friend and IPREX director from Australia, Alexandra Mayhew. She moved to the U.S. in 2019, and I lamented to her about the perception of Americans around the world and wondered what our partners might think of our reputation. Alex vehemently countered my worries about Americans’ bad reputation and assured me that Americans are overwhelmingly kind. And although she likes to taunt me with Instagram videos mocking Americans' work habits, she also points out that when there is a need to be filled in IPREX, Americans are always first to step up.

I’ve also learned that the pillars that make up culture can’t be overestimated when you want to communicate effectively. For example, picking up the phone and calling directly anywhere in the world isn’t always met with comfort. In countries in the Asia-Pacific region, where power distance is high compared to the “flat” power structure in the United States, starting communications with the most senior-ranking individual is preferred by all.

This is just one example, but for me, it emphasizes the need to understand the cultural dynamics at play before plotting your course – even in the context of a small group or internal communications. This Hofstede model country comparison tool is useful and interesting to easily spot the differences to account for.

What questions are important to ask when embarking on a multi-national communications effort?

Prioritizing your target countries is so important. In most cases, companies’ dreams for geographic reach are bigger than their budgets. That’s where prioritization comes in. After setting clear objectives by country, being open to on-the-ground advice about adapting your strategy and tactics to fit each country is key, and this approach requires both humility and trust.

Finally, working through one agency to coordinate agencies in-country relieves the burden of coordination. When your main agency works with a network, you also get the benefit of reach and flexibility. As they do domestically, agencies have different specialties and focus areas. A network like IPREX provides known partners in countries around the world, but also referral resources for branching out if existing partners aren’t a perfect fit. And it’s comforting to get a referral from teams we know and like.

Click here if you’d like to get in touch and learn how Fahlgren Mortine’s B2B experts can leverage our partners to help you effectively communicate on a global level. Also, connect with Julie on LinkedIn.