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We are all different... so don’t treat me the same

We are all different... so don’t treat me the same

The last few weeks have seen me travelling a lot.

Now, I'm used to travelling many miles a week as I visit clients up and down the country. Indeed, I am no stranger to the delights of the GB motorway network or indeed the vagaries of public transport.

But recent weeks have seen my travel taking me further afield - first Germany, then the USA, then Northern Ireland and finally London. Twice.

I've experienced the delight of flying six times within 3 weeks and I am just beginning to work out the time of day without resorting to looking at my watch and calculating 'what time it is at home'.

You may have guessed by now that international travel is not a regular part of my life. But this blog isn't about jet lag and compression stockings; it is about culture and communication.

As I travelled I have spent time with people from different walks of life and from different cultures. And it has made me realise that whilst on a base level we are all the same, the circumstances in which we are raised, both at a micro and macro level, shape the way we communicate with others and like to be communicated with.

This presents some interesting challenges for a communicator. Not only are there basic issues like language and spelling but there are more fundamental issues like etiquette and business culture.

HSBC's well known TV advertising on the theme 'the world's local bank' highlights these differences in a powerful way.

But as I have sat on aeroplanes or in airport lounges I have considered the issue of cultural differences within our own shores. All too often it seems organisations try to communicate with us as if we are a homogenous mass. And that is simply not the case.

In the same way that different countries have different customs and beliefs, the same is true within different areas of the UK. The oft quoted North-South divide is a case in point. And, whilst many practitioners would recognise the need for localised communication approaches to external audiences, I wonder how seriously this is really considered when pulling together communication programmes.

Yet the same messages and business practises can be interpreted in such different ways by people in different parts of the UK.

Probably the most interesting challenge I find working in communication is that everyone approaches it from a perspective that they can communicate effectively as an individual. We all simply assume that we are good communicators yet generally speaking we are not!

For my part I'll be the first to accept that there is still much for me to learn and sometimes the lessons come from unexpected places. My recent trips overseas, for reasons that were not apparent at the time, will change how I go about communicating back in the UK.

They say that travel broadens the mind. It has certainly opened my eyes to the diversity right in front of us here and to the need for different approaches, not only in terms of communication channel but also tone and approach, if our communication is going to be truly effective.

Philip 17:42

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