Bridging the Gap: Understanding Cultural Differences

The Importance of Understanding Cultural Differences

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

There’s a phrase in Russian that closely corresponds to one in English: “mir tyesen.”  Word for word, this phrase means “the world is tight,” but the base meaning is closer to our phrase “it’s a small world.” Modern communication technology is bringing the world closer every day.

Today, it’s just as easy to talk to a colleague in China as it is to talk to a colleague who just left the office for lunch. However, that doesn’t mean that your interactions with the Chinese colleague should be the same as with your American colleague. Culture and national identity are alive and well, and should be taken into account whenever you interact with someone from a different background than your own.

Whether you’re traveling to a different country for business or have just hired a diverse team of skilled workers around the world, you must always be prepared to encounter and overcome cultural differences and language barriers. Here are a couple of tips on how to help bridge the gap between cultures and make for a more comfortable and diverse workplace environment.

Read up on the culture you’ll be encountering

Every country in the world, old or new, has a rich and storied history. They celebrate their own holidays, cook national dishes, listen to their own styles of music and wear clothes appropriate for their culture. Take some time to Google the history, art and customs of the country you’ll be visiting. Not only will it be personally enriching, but it will also give you a way to connect with the local people. Showing off your knowledge of the local customs and history will make those around you realize you truly care about their culture, and aren’t just visiting for business and cool Instagram photos.

Learn the language

Languages are hard to learn. You spent years in grade school learning all the grammar and intricacies of English. Why spend more time learning a whole new language – especially when so much of the world speaks English already? Well, the fact that almost everyone can already speak English makes learning a foreign language all the more impressive. Even if you can only recite a couple key phrases, it shows that you‘re making the effort to bridge the cultural gap. Rather than your colleague reaching out to you by speaking English, the two of you are meeting in the middle as equals.

Be patient

Unfortunately, no matter how much you research a country or how well you know the language, there will always be some culture shock and confusion. “False friends” may cause confusion and frustration. These are words that sound the same in two languages, but have different or even opposite meanings (for example, if you go to Russia and ask if there are any “preservatives” in your food, you’re asking if there are any contraceptives in it). Words, actions or gestures that are not offensive to us can be very offensive to someone from another culture, and vice versa. When this happens, it is important to stay patient and be accommodating. Working through these frustrations together will lead to a smarter and stronger bond between you and your colleagues.

Keep an open mind

When I learn a new language, or study the history of a culture I’m unfamiliar with, I think of it as exploring a new world. There are so many things that make each culture unique. You have to be open to trying and learning new things in order to work smoothly with a diverse team. Always try to think about how they see things from their perspective; doing so will give you insight on their corner of the world.

All of this being said, there are so many similarities between people of all nations. We all laugh at the same physical comedy, groan when we have to clean up our pets’ messes, and cry when we lose a loved one. After all, we are all human.


Andrew Woodcock is an account executive at The Vandiver Group in St. Louis, Missouri. Follow The Vandiver Group on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram.

Best Practices for New Interns (Besides Keeping the Coffee Pot Full)

Six Best Practices for New Interns

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

Congratulations! You just landed an internship at the PR agency of your dreams! What’s next? Besides scheduling a trip to the store for new clothes, office supplies and cubicle decorations, you’re going to want to prepare for the culture and environment of working in PR – especially if this is your first internship.

I started my first PR internship knowing very little about PR. And I truly mean very little. In college, I studied political science and Eastern European languages. I could explain to you the rationale behind the Warsaw Pact’s decision to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968, but if you asked me to draft a pitch note for a client, I’d just stare at you blankly before opening an incognito window to Google “how to write a pitch note.”

I learned a lot during my first internship – not only about the PR industry, but also about steps an intern can take to make the most out of their time. Even if you start out knowing virtually nothing about the industry (as I did), following these steps will help you to hit the ground running on your first day:

1. Dress for the job you want

These days, it seems that the workplace is getting less strict and more relaxed about what employees are allowed to wear. For example, wearing jeans in the office five years ago was a big no-no, but now it’s not uncommon to see jeans on everyone, from assistant account executives to senior vice presidents. Still, it’s better to overdress than to underdress. If you notice that your boss or supervisor dresses more formally, then you should match how they dress. Taking the extra time in the morning to look nice shows that you care about your job and enjoy where you work.

2. Take time to meet your colleagues

You’re going to be working with these people for the next four to six months. Don’t you think you should get to know them, so that they’re more than just an email address that gives you daily assignments? During the first couple weeks at your new internship, try to schedule meetings with the people you’ll be working with so you can introduce yourself, talk about what you expect from this internship, and get to know them as a person. If they like who you are as a person, they’ll naturally want to work with you more. People you’ll really want to meet are former interns. They have been in your shoes not long ago, and can share some good advice!

3. Overcommunicate

PR is all about communication. This applies not only to communication with clients, but also communication in the office among your coworkers. Make sure that you’re replying to your emails as soon as possible, in order to let your coworkers know that you read their message. It can be as simple as an “I got your note, I’ll get on this right away.” Update them with any progress or snags you hit along the way. Hitting “reply all” is also a good practice, so as none of your colleagues are in the dark as to what you’re doing.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

A lot of interns are afraid to ask too many questions, fearing that they might be judged for seeming stupid or unprepared for a task. I can assure you that this is NOT the case! In fact, it shows your bosses that you’re thinking critically about the task, and are making sure that you want to get it done completely right. If you feel like you’ve already asked too many questions to your boss, go to a former intern. They’ve certainly done similar assignments during their time as an intern, and can point you toward the best methods and resources to get the job done.

5. Don’t be afraid to say no

This part might be the most difficult for an intern to be comfortable with. As a new intern, you’ll want to prove to everyone that you’re capable, dependable and hardworking. If a senior vice president emails you with a task to complete, it’s really difficult to say no, even if your plate is completely full for the rest of the day. Ask yourself though: is it a good idea to take on a task you know you won’t be able to complete to the best of your ability? The SVP isn’t going to be angry you’re too busy. Simply write back right away and explain you have too many urgent tasks to properly take on another. Ask other interns if they have any free time for a new task. If they do, reply to that SVP with a solution: another intern is free and is more than happy to help!

6. Make your work clear, understandable and thorough

Employers look at interns to do the tasks that can’t be done by the employers themselves. They’re counting on you to do research, write reports, talk to reporters and more because they don’t have the time or ability to do so. That means everything you do must be very thorough, covering all possible bases. Doing research for a client? Use multiple sources (and check them! No fake news!). Pitching to a journalist? Write down the whos, whats, wheres and whens (don’t forget the time zones). Don’t just rely on Google; used advanced searches on social media platforms, scour websites, or ask someone for information. You want the final product to be easily understood and digestible, so that anyone can use it to consider next steps. Don’t be afraid to make some suggestions of your own, as well!

One final piece of advice: be confident and always do your best. It’s a cliché as old as time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important! Make the most out of this internship; who knows, you might get hired at the end and be well on your way to becoming CEO before you know it.


Andrew Woodcock is an account executive at The Vandiver Group in St. Louis, Missouri. Follow The Vandiver Group on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

The Plague of Viral Marketing

The Red Swimsuit Phenomena – The Plague of Viral Marketing

By Madeleine Smith

On Wednesday, May 4, Sunny Co Clothing posted a picture on Instagram of a red swimsuit. If you posted the picture of the swimsuit on your Instagram within 24 hours, you were promised the same suit delivered free to your doorstep! While shipping and handling were not covered, the swimsuit, which retails for about $64.99, was completely free. A portion of the proceeds from the shipping were to go to Alzheimer’s research.

Sure enough, Instagram blew up with this image. It went viral. Twitter blew up with funny commentary, and even celebrities made comments on social media about the infamous “red swimsuit.”

It didn’t take long for Sunny Co to realize they were in over their heads, where they responded with a post: “Due to the viral volume of participants, we reserve the right to cap the promotion if deemed necessary.”

On top of this, they stated that shipping could take 3-6 WEEKS.

At first glance, it seemed like a great marketing plan. Wow, brand awareness! Free advertising! Positive attention!  However, I’m interested to see how Sunny Co now plans to retain their customers.

Historically, when brands and products go viral, or grow rapidly, there is usually the inevitable downfall. This happens all the time. It happened to the once trendy LA fashion brand, Nasty Gal.

  • Sales hit $24 million in 2011, which was a 200% increase from the year before, the brand said publicly.
  • In 2012, they hit $100 million.
  • By 2015, they dropped down to $77 million.
  • In 2016, they filed for bankruptcy.

Nasty Gal and Sunny Co share the tactic of cultivating one-time buyers. Spending money on indirect advertising, like online ad banners, can score you a multitude of people who might buy your product once. But, if you spend $100 on an ad and one person buys an item one time, you aren’t really making money. The same scenario applies to Sunny Co’s red swimsuit. If you spend the time and hire the workforce to ship thousands of free swimsuits, are you really making money? On top of that, if you can’t deliver on your promise of a free product, are you really building your brand’s reputation for future success?

As far as I know, no one who participated in this promotion received their red swimsuit yet.  People I know have deleted their repost from Sunny Co, the original Instagram account has been shut down, and no one is talking about the brand or product anymore on social media.

Marketing dollars and social media exposure are valuable for brands when they’re targeted. If you’re in B2C sales, focus on building relationships. If your product is good, the sales will follow.  One hundred loyal customers are more valuable than 500 one-time buyers. B2C relationships last longest when they are built like any other relationship. Find your audience, personalize your message, follow up with good customer service and a good product, and retain your clientele.


If you need help crafting a successful digital marketing campaign, TVG has got you covered! Give us a call at 314-991-4641.

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

By Donna Vandiver, TVG President & CEO and Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

Long before there was “fake news”, there was disinformation, propaganda and censorship. Many Americans are able to evaluate and decide if something they are reading is real or not. But many also have difficulty discerning “fake” news from actual, factual information. This is especially so when false stories can be shared in an instant across the globe via social media channels. Read more

The Business of Storytelling

The Business of Storytelling

By Andy Likes, TVG Senior Vice President

Over the last 11+ years in PR, I’ve had the opportunity to work with nearly every type of subject matter expert, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, financial planners and everything in between. One thing is certain with subject matter experts- they know their job and the company better than anyone. Read more

Honor A Teacher this Valentine’s Day

Honor A Teacher this Valentine’s Day

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

All of us can remember a teacher who made a difference in our lives. I listened to Stone Phillips (formerly of NBC’s Dateline and a Parkway West graduate) talk about Dr. Al Burr at a memorial service a few months ago. Along with many others at that service, he talked about how Dr. Burr changed his life. Read more

Going the Distance for Girls on the Run: The Queeny Meanie

The Queeny Meanie

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research

Every year on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, we honor a man who championed civil rights so that others could have opportunities, experience freedom and equality, and feel a sense of community. Here at TVG, we spend MLK Day serving our community in some way in order to honor Dr. King’s memory. So this year, I spent some time creating awareness about and fundraising for Girls on the Run St. Louis through unconventional means – an ultra run.

queeny

After several years of competing in Ironman triathlons, I was looking for a new challenge in 2017. An ultra run (any distance beyond a marathon distance of 26.2 miles) sounded fun. I started researching ultra marathons in the region, but nothing stood out to me. I kept having this recurring thought – what if I ran an ultra at Queeny Park? It’s one of my favorite places to run, so why not? You know that saying “If you want it done right, do it yourself?” So that’s what I decided to do. And it’s how I came to the conclusion that running 32 miles in Queeny Park on March 11, 2017 would be my next challenge, and I’m calling it The Queeny Meanie!

queeny

I didn’t just want to run an ultra. I wanted to run an ultra for a cause. After my first season as a head coach for a Girls on the Run team last fall, it was an easy choice! The Girls on the Run curriculum not only coaches girls how to run a 5K at the end of a 10-week program, but also teaches topics on self-esteem, positivity, standing up for yourself and others, empowerment, healthy habits, goal setting, teamwork and cooperation, and identifying bullying behavior. These aren’t just running skills – these are LIFE skills. And seeing each of my girls succeed in their own big goals was an incredible experience. Girls on the Run builds confidence, and as a result encourages girls to work together and to impact their communities in a positive way.

You can learn more about my efforts and make a donation here:

DONATE NOW

Everyone should spend some time reflecting on how you can impact your community in a positive way. Find your passion and figure out a way to help others. I hope my small contributions will have big impacts- even if it’s only on one person. Then, I’ll know I made a difference.

 

Do you run for a good cause? Want to participate in The Queeny Meanie? visit us on our website to let us know! We are passionate about getting our employees involved in our community to make a difference and we are inspired to help others find that passion, too!

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Random Acts of Kindness, Inspired by Dr. King

Random Acts of Kindness: TVG Day of Service

By Patty Olsen, TVG Senior Project Manager

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was more than just a single day of giving back to the community where I have lived, worked and flourished. It was an opportunity to model what principled citizenship looks like to my elementary-age son. Read more

TVG’s 2017 Day of Service: St. Patrick Center

What Are You Doing For Others? TVG Day of Service

By Andy Likes, TVG Senior Vice President

For more than 20 years, TVG has been giving back to clients in St. Louis and across the country. When you look at dollars and hours donated over that time, our firm and our employees have given more than $3 Million back to the communities we serve. Read more

College Athletes in the ‘Real World’: What Lacrosse Taught me about Work Ethic, Leadership and Accepting Challenges

College Athletes in the ‘Real World’

By Annie Spewak, TVG Intern

Up until a year ago, my life revolved around lacrosse. My dedication to the game often dictated everything I did from my social life to my class schedule, but it also earned me a scholarship to play Division I in college. Over the years, I’ve encountered people who think sports are rather useless; after all, most athletes will never go professional, and will never earn a paycheck playing the sport. Read more

The Art and Science of the Exhibit Hall: Presentation Skills for Conferences

Presentation Skills for Conferences

By Andy Likes, TVG Vice President

How many of you have been to a conference in the last year? You probably remember lots of helpful breakout sessions and keynote speakers you’d love to hear again. Now what about the exhibit hall? Read more

New Business Connections that Last: Building a Bridge

New Business Connections that Last: Building a Bridge

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

It’s a competitive world out there. It’s more difficult than ever to make first impressions memorable, especially when your potential new business targets are already being pitched by multiple agencies and vendors. How do you get their attention, and build a relationship that turns into a business opportunity? Read more