Turning “Across the World” into “Down the Street”

Posted on October 2, 2012 by Marian Salzman

This is the third in a series of posts about the rebirth of our agency as Havas PR North America.

It wasn’t that long ago that distance actually meant something. We all thought of countries across the ocean as exotic places where anything was possible. Sure, we heard stories about other cultures from TV, newspapers and National Geographic, but for all we knew everyone on the other side of the pond was walking around on their heads. Traveling internationally to, say, Paris or London was something reserved for the very rich and looked upon with awe. Even receiving a postcard from a foreign country would make you the coolest kid in school for at least a day.

But that’s not the case anymore. In just a few decades, we have gone from a world separated and segmented by distance to one united by technology and shared interest. Email, video chat and a growing list of other tools have bridged the distance gap and made communicating to a place thousands of miles away as easy as if it were only a few blocks down the street.

It goes without saying that this has meant a lot for the nature of the corporate world. In our digital age, companies are expected to have a constant flow of information through their global network. Have a client who wants to simultaneously market a product in Hong Kong and Warsaw? No problem. In just a few minutes, the two offices can link up and begin collaborating on ideas.

And yet, even this isn’t enough anymore. A global network is invaluable, but to truly connect with employees and clients, businesses still have to act locally. This means actually leveraging your global position and network to allow your company better local insight. Does this seem like a completely insane paradox? Maybe, but it works.

In looking through a recent list of the best 25 global corporations to work for, I saw that what unites them is their use of global positioning to create a united network of better-informed employees, even at the local level. Staffers in Rio or Amsterdam experience a relationship with their global company and their local office, and they have the combined resources of both.

Take Marriott. At every worldwide location, Marriott employees begin each shift with a “stand-up” meeting where leaders not only point out what members of their specific team have been doing well but also discuss news about the global company as a whole. John Chambers accomplishes a similar remarkable feat as CEO of Cisco. Every two months, employees with birthdays during the two-month period are invited, in person or by chat, to a casual Q&A with him about the goings-on of the company. These are the combination of local and global in its simplest form: uniting employees with the co-workers they see every day and giving them a sense of being part of a much larger family that they might never see but can still fully experience.

That glocal blend is seen even clearer at the innovative tech powerhouse Google. As Fortune’s article about its 25 best global companies says, “The company also provides mentoring programs for its workers: In … gWhiz, any Google employee globally can register to answer questions or provide mentorship on an area of expertise.”

Glocal isn’t abstract, C-suite jargon at Havas PR, either. As part of our TrendsU initiative, employees from every one of Havas Worldwide’s 316 offices in 75 countries are presented with a distance-defying site that allows them to communicate the trends they’re seeing develop in their geographic area. This has the incredible dual benefit of pulling everyone together into a shared discussion while relaying global experience that would otherwise be neglected within the realms of the office.

It’s this need to combine a global network with local know-how that was the driving force behind our rebrand as Havas PR. By better identifying ourselves with the Havas family, we get all the resources that come with having a presence in almost every part of the world. Those global resources give us a remarkable range of experience that then allows us to work better locally with one another and with our clients.

This global-local mix has practical benefits for my team and me every day. Just a few weeks ago, we found out that we were being given the opportunity to pitch to a highly desired potential client. The global company was seeking new PR representation for a cool product it was introducing into the U.S. market. We were all really excited about the pitch but discovered that we were going up against five other agencies. Each wanted to win, but no one knew exactly what the client was looking for.

Except us. All we had to do was speak to our office in London, which had already dealt with the product when it had premiered in the U.K. In a very short period of time, we were able to use the experience of colleagues 3,000 miles away and go into our pitch meeting with a much better understanding of what the company was looking for. That’s how a global network directly influences our local behavior and gives us an advantage daily. (We won the account.)

Being part of a global community, when used properly, is the greatest tool a company has, even when dealing with clients and employees who are local. I believe the future will be about the complete synchronization between global and local, a serious game changer that our rebrand fully embraces. A decade ago, Havas was the first major communications company to center itself around the new digital mediums, and we’re changing the game again now. Watch this space.

[photo: creativecommons.org/Mishel Churkin]

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