December 24, 2007
Since when did I care about Sweco? And what does it have to do with Kyrgyzstan and Santa Claus?
This an example of a company using its intellectual property in a way to communciate its expertise in a fun, creative and original way. What tickled me today and got me to post is that this idea has even influenced the Krygyzstan government to leverage it as a tourist attraction.
When does a good idea turn into not a good idea?
P.S. I feel I have to confess that in my early days in PR I issued an ‘upside-down’ pint of Guinness for April Fools Day in the UK. Bad creative idea. Needless to say, it bombed and never appeared anywhere, although I did use the call around to ask journalists out for a pint and catch-up. For ever Sweco, there’s lots and lots of rubbish!
August 22, 2007
Sometimes a little creativity can make a big impact when communicating. I came across this latest Nike initiative through a colleague’s blog today. This is a solid, well-thought through idea that links back to brand values (I’m sure it’s also gone through the legal department at Nike also; I’d be nervous if it was in a highly litigious market like Korea or Ireland).
However, it was good reminder about how risk-based and creative communications activities can reap huge return for companies. Considering that most Korean companies are risk adverse, I wouldn’t be surprised if a multinational operating in Korea does something similar first.
Also, if anyone is brave enough, I’ve been dying to implement an underground campaign based on virtual graffiti but have yet to get it over the line in Europe or Korea to date. Any takers? Surely ‘ubiquitous’ Korea’s the place to do it. Or maybe it already has, and I’m sadly no longer with it!!!
July 2, 2007
My former boss, Hoh Kim, put up a lengthy post on his blog Hoh Kim’s Lab: Consiliencing Communication, which is in turn inspired by a post over at B-M’s Digital Perspective – Beautiful Dreams in Seoul. Hoh goes into a lot of detail following a long e-mail exchange, but for what it’s worth here’s my Top Ten Tips for Korean companies communicating online, in annual reports or, indeed, anywhere where an international audience might be expected to read what you wrote.
- Remember who you’re talking to. The English version of the website is written for an international audience, not a Korean one. Messages about “driving the nation forward” or “top X company” simply don’t resonate with international audiences. Give people the information they need about your company.
- Proofread EVERYTHING. Make sure your site developer has a qualified proofreader for buttons, menus etc. One Forbes Global 2000 company – the third ranked of all Korean companies on the list, offers a “PDF Dawonload” on its IR site.
- Get a professional to develop your copy. It’s not enough to pay an itinerant English teacher a couple of hundred dollars to “proofread” the site. Hire someone who will ask the right questions about what the site is trying to convey and provide counsel on how better to communicate that message.
- Understand that not everyone uses Microsoft Explorer. (Disclosure – Microsoft is an Edelman client in Korea). Almost all Korean websites are designed to run solely on Windows operating systems running Internet Explorer 6. For anyone using a Mac (or presumably a Linux OS) or running Firefox, Safari, Opera or any other browser, the site won’t function or will display incorrectly. Not everyone uses a Windows platform, especially overseas. Take the time to test the site in other configurations, even if Korean readers don’t use those configurations (see point 1)
- Get ahead and dumb it down. Korean sites often incorporate Active X controls, pop-ups and a host of other plug-ins. These are less popular elsewhere in the world as they create annoyances and security risks for users. Anything that gets in the way of the site communicating its message should go. Active X doesn’t work on a Mac (or Linux?) – which why I can’t engage in any form of e-commerce from home in Korea. for a “technologically advanced” country, Korea is remarkably behind the curve on this.
- Develop your slogans properly. Korean companies will often develop “slogans” “strategies” and “goals” in English (without having a native speaker review) and then incorporate them into English language documents and websites. For example,”We at Company X are doing our best to realize our management policy of “Clean Company, Active Company X”…” “Clean Company, Active Company X” is not a policy, it’s not good copy and it’s not even good English. Use a professional to develop your internal English language messages, even if they are targetting a Korean audience who will be less discriminating.
- Cut the jargon. Don’t just look up every word in your Dictionary of Business English and try to squeeze it into the site. for example, “We have set our strategic business focus for 2007 as “Materializing our Strengthened Sales Competencies and Further Reinforcement of our Future Growth Drivers”. In this regard, we will do our best to level up our “Global Standard Competencies” through continued system improvements and business expansion throughout the year.” Tells me absolutely nothing. Again, refer to points 1 and 3 above.
- Don’t be purple. Some sites read as though the copywriter missed his or her vocation. For example, “Roar of a steam locomotive once shook the Earth to haul modern society. Now the world’s pulse solemnly beats with a semiconductor.” Even if this were grammatically correct, this would be plain bad writing – and I suspect it’s just as bad in Korean!
- Set the right benchmark. Korean companies often say they benchmark international companies, but when it comes to writing copy the benchmark – if it exists – is too often another Korean company. The handful of examples I used above each come from one of the top 10 public companies in Korea as listed on the Forbes Global 2000. Significantly below any of these companies is Nortel Networks, whose site (www.nortel.com) is available in at least 16 languages – I can’t comment on the accuracy of the translations, but I would bet good money on the fact that they are all better than the English on most Korean sites.
- Put it in perspective. For a Korean company, your English language website (and your English language annual report) are the most important marketing tools you have. Don’t cut corners. The approach most Korean companies have to international communications is akin to investing hundreds of thousands of dollars developing and producing the most high quality product packaging available but spending nothing on producing a good product to put inside it.
To lift my own quote directly from Hoh’s post:
Bottom line – a lot of Korean companies talk about wanting to be be global. Well here’s the news – Korean companies are global. They are some of the biggest global players out there. They just don’t act global. They invest a lot of money and effort into developing highly technical, well designed websites and next to nothing in ensuring that the message the website sends is compatible with the audience.
In other words, stop communicating messages about being a global global company and start communicating like a global company. To quote Robin Williams in ‘The Fisher King’ – “First decide what you are, and be that.”
June 22, 2007
I raised an eyebrow at Airbus’s latest PR issue at the Paris Air Show covered in Businessweek. I even felt a tinge of empathy as I imagined the PR manager cursing and pulling his hair out as he hung up the phone to the journalist who joined the dots over selling the fuel efficient per passenger and ‘environmentally friendly’ A380 to a private individual.
Quite simply, if Airbus had linked in its PR messaging to a CSR policy concerning the new A380 i.e. it’s not going to sell this huge plane to individuals, or license its use to have a minimum number of passengers (based on more environmentally-friendly fuel efficieny), than this may been avoided. The policy just needed to be a bit more foresightful: something concrete to back up its messaging other than a metric. Or, maybe, Airbus simply wanted to sell as many planes as fast as possible.
It comes down to how communications should be linked across the entire organization and have a role at C-Suite level…I won’t bore you with the mantra.
Friday, smiling on, I searched the latest chatter on this on technorati — here and here, for example. I then came across how aviation enthusiat (I think he used to be a Qantas Ambassador) John Travolta is test piloting these beasts. Hmmm.
Joining the communication dots myself, that tinge of empathy has gone away.
June 20, 2007
This post at the Harvard Business Online Conversation Starter blog on price rises at the Wall Street Journal and the FT has some interesting ramifications.
The traditional selling point of PR has been that it derives its credibility from third party editorial while advertising is less credible because it’s paid for. Whether or not the perceived lack of credibility is contributing to the decline of adspend, it is interesting that this trend is translating into reduced profitability for even the most established traditional print newspapers and thus driving readers online. Both the WSJ and the FT, of course, derive subscription revenue from their websites but the move online occasions other changes in the business model. Online newspapers in general increasingly incorporate more commentary and debate among readers both on the website itself and in the extended web of trackbacks and links.
The result is that the value of credible third party commentary climbs even higher, as that commentary is in turn commented upon and amplified by the most credible of spokespersons – Someone Like Me. The result is a kind of positive feedback loop – the more credible people find third-party content the less companies are prepared to spend on less credible forms of communications. The vendors of those less credible forms of communication move into media that have a lower cost of production, which in turn has the effect of increasing their credibility.
And the value to companies of well-crafted communications strategies that incorporate the unique characteristics of the new medium also increases by default.