To clear this up immediately: no, I am not proposing a return to the era of 1920s Chicago with its ban on alcohol and preponderance of illicit “speakeasy” bars.
The following is a list of habits and behaviours which I would ban if I could; and whose prohibition, I believe, would make the world of pan European PR coordination a far more effective and agreeable place to work. I would be very interested to hear feedback from both sides of the curtain (“coordinator” and “coordinated”) on whether you recognize or could add to this list…
1. The coordination “Cockney” – just because I was born within the Bow bells of London may make me a Cockney, but it does not mean that I possess the skills and sensitivities to manage multiple markets. Being a native English speaker has many benefits (English remains the “lingua franca” for business in most of Europe), but pan European coordination requires many other skills and experience
2. Unacknowledged success. A half page article in the Financial Times may not be the only definition of success; coordination teams who ignore or discount local achievements are doing themselves and their network a disservice. ‘What does this radio slot mean to the local market’? ‘How long has the team been pitching this vertical title typically dominated by the competition’? ‘What does this endorsement from a powerful local blogger mean’? As Shakespeare noted about the quality of mercy, such acknowledgements are “twice blessed”; to the coordinator and the coordinated.
3. Forgetting who actually does the work. The most amazing, compelling and creative PR plan in the world would remain just that – a plan – without the support of the local markets; they are the ones whose role it is to implement. It is their local market and media knowledge, their relationships, their long hours and good humour that bring the plans to life and generate the results against which we are all measured.
4. Ill conceived conference calls. Has humanity ever wasted so much time as the hours spent on interminable conference calls which are not preceded by an agenda, have no relevance or call to action for participants and no follow up summary? Think of the things we could have done with that time . . . . I for one could have learnt Chinese, recreated the Sistine Chapel in my bathroom or, even, updated my timesheets with all the time spent on meaningless calls. Keep calls regular (not ad hoc), keep them brief (30 mins max) and ensure that they are “sandwiched” by an agenda and a follow up note.
5. The surfer´s voice. If coordination teams are guilty of conference call inflation (increasing ubiquity matched by decreasing value), countries are sometimes guilty of “multi tasking”. There is nothing more irritating that presenting over the phone against a chorus of keyboards typing, alerts sounding , lunch orders being taken. In terms of distraction, this is the equivalent of trying to deliver a presentation in a nightclub complete with pumping music, strobe lighting and dry ice. Keep calls to a minimum but make them count.
6. Clichés and Colloquialisms. Let’s “hunker down” and plan for the “end game”; if we bring our “A game” it will be a “slam dunk”. Apart from being incomprehensible (even to a native English speaker), this type of dialogue simply reveals a paucity of clear thought and is wide open to misinterpretation and confusion. Genuinely clear thought is typified by language and terminology which can be understood in any country.
7. Focusing on what can’t be done instead of what can. I appreciate that this type of response can be culturally driven and a way to manage (central) expectations, but I have found that focusing on the negative can be self-fulfilling and destructive. “There will be strikes planned for this day . . . it is a Bank holiday weekend . . . there is not local customer reference . . the journalists do not speak English . . . we have no local spokesperson . . . .” These may all be legitimate observations, however, a focus on what could be achieved given these constraints is far more effective and fulfilling. “Given the above, we could propose an exclusive with one English speaking journalist . . we would propose embargoed meetings with trusted press to provide them with time to prepare . . . we would position the story in the context of a local competitor. . . we would research some local market data to add context . . . etc.”
8. “Yes but that will not work in my market . . . .” see above.
You make recognize a few of these; once again they are not behaviours I regularly see in my agency, however I’d love to hear about your “prohibitions” and how they would implore the world of pan European coordination.