Arun Sudhaman 01 Jul 2013 // 4:05PM GMT
I had planned to post a round-up of a panel discussion I moderated last week for MHP Communications, which focused on how companies are handling cross border communications as 'emerging markets' play an increasingly pivotal role to their operations. MHP, though, has beaten me to it, so I would recommend that everyone reads the firm's excellent round-up of the key points raised by a panel that featured comms heads from Rio Tinto and Unilever. The one thing I would note, however, is how much of the discussion focused on risk-related issues. The discussion was conducted according to the Chatham House Rule so I cannot attribute comments, but all of the panellists agreed that managing the board probably represents the most important challenge when issues and threats surface. This takes on added resonance against a backdrop of increasing nationalist rhetoric, where MNCs are often targeted because of their foreign origin. Often, said one panellist, companies simply get it wrong when they face an issue in a market thousands of miles away. "The capacity to make poor decisions is quite huge," noted the panellist. "You have to really know what's happening on the ground." Perhaps the best way to deal with this, the audience heard, was to start with a better idea of "what good likes like." "People will always hate you," aded a panellist. "It's about getting the mindset of the board in the right place." That is complicated by the fact that most companies are "still run by accountants and engineers," who are not exactly well-versed in dealing with routine reputation issues. How else can senior communicators deal with board-level concerns about the latest PR crisis in an faraway market? "Valium", quipped one panellist. Judging by how many companies stumble when it comes to cross-border comms, I'm not sure it would hurt.