Don’t let your international projects get lost in translation

Denise Hofmeister

25 April 2019

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An Italian, a Spaniard and a Brit walk into a Skype meeting…

The beginning of a joke, or an insight into the day to day of working on a multinational project? At Good Rebels, this is our reality.

Working on a multinational project, you have to interact, daily, with people of all different nationalities, who speak different languages and live in completely different timezones. Managing a multinational project effectively is not without its complications, and you’ll need the help of a strong, highly-evolved people management team.

Let’s use an example – a multinational retailer that uses social media as a way of attracting the attention of possible talent. It’s a project that runs across 11 countries, 9 different languages, 8 brands, 4 time zones and 4 different social media platforms – and the whole thing is being controlled through HQ. What’s the correct strategy here – local or global? What kinds of content should you be publishing in each market?

There are actually two things you need in order to successfully tackle a multinational project; a global strategy and an efficient workflow.

Think globally, act locally

What do places like the Netherlands and Italy have in common? Well – not a lot as it turns out. It’s important to remember that even if your goals are the same across different markets, strategic differences must be taken into consideration. Even if the target audiences are similar (age, interests, etc.) their social media preferences may differ. To appeal to audiences in both markets, you need to optimise the resources you have available as part of a ‘global strategy’.

A previous market study can help to inform the structure of your social media plan. For a more in depth guide to building your social strategy, take a look at our Smart Social Framework.

Global content, produced by HQ, can be published across all markets and on all platforms. Local content can be adapted into different languages, published only in specific markets, but still produced with an international mindset.

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The reality of this kind of strategy is multiple content plans, different publication times and platforms to focus on. You’ll still need to respond quickly to change without compromising the overall strategy. In short, you need to develop an efficient workflow.

One step at a time

Defining your workflow is going to take time. Co-worker circumstances will differ, as will their priorities. Assigning tasks and responsibilities is the first step – it’s like a puzzle, until you start to put the pieces together, you can’t get a good idea of the full picture. You’ll need to work closely with HR and the communications department, across all markets. If you’re working in the retail sector then each local market will be relying on store managers, retail workers and the HR team to produce and share relevant content. This is the hard part – convincing those who aren’t directly involved to prioritise and participant in the project. Developing a workflow that works for all parties is, therefore, essential.

There are lots of tools available that make the flow of conversation between different departments and different markets easier. Project management and to do list tools will also make it simpler for you to track the project task by task. Plus, having your entire team all in the same place helps to foster a sense of community, knowledge sharing is made easier and productivity is increased.

Introducing everyone to this new central hub is one thing, getting everyone actively involved and fully invested in the platform is another. It will be easier to do this if your project has just launched, but if you’re making a change mid-way through it may take some convincing. To encourage the adoption of this new platform:

  • Make all announcements and updates within the hub
  • Drive all conversation away from other spaces and towards the hub
  • Help them understand that the hub is there to help them, not increase the size of their workload
  • Above all, be patient

A high level engagement leads to more idea sharing and a better overall group dynamic. Some initiatives we introduced at Good Rebels to increase engagement include:

  • Inspiration Monday
  • The KPI Quiz
  • Connect 4 (every month four people from different markets connect on Skype to chat through challenges or new ideas)
  • Content of the Week
  • Team Member Features

Go with the flow

Typically, a workflow is based on a horizontal structure where everyone is responsible for a particular area of the project, such as analytics, market management, creative development, or content creation. However, in order to increase transparency and provide each market with a direct contact, we need to change our approach and go vertical. At Good Rebels, we assign each market a local manager. Local managers have a complete understanding of their own market and, as a result, they’re able to give a more informed opinion on each area of the project.

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When developing your workflow, plan ahead as much as possible, but don’t be afraid of change. When circumstances change, you need to be flexible enough to adapt quickly and move on.

Everyday’s a school day

The best thing about a project focused on people management is the people themselves. We gain inspiration from the people we work with. When you’re part of a human-centred organisation, your goal should be to create a community, encourage shared learning, emphasise personal and professional growth, and empower your co-workers.

Identify the needs of your team and then figure out how to fill those needs. What are their interests, what are their concerns? How would they improve the organisation? Would they learn best through webinars, online courses, training days?

Then find ways of keeping them up to date and ‘always learning’ throughout the length of your campaign. Make sure everyone is aligned with the overall strategy, keep them informed with monthly reports or masterclasses on specific topics like analytics or paid media, gain inspiration from their ideas and suggestions through Q&A sessions. As the people you work with continue to grow and become more efficient and independent, you’ll see this reflected in the success of your project.

Managing a multinational project is no joke, but with a little patience and a strong strategy, you’ll have the last laugh.