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.

How to Write a Press Release

Crafting a Press Release: Six Steps to Keep in Mind

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

The backbone to being a good PR pro is being a good writer. I’ve heard it countless times: if you don’t know how to write, you won’t be hired by a PR firm.

And it makes sense: writing is a huge part of communication in general. Hiring a bad writer in a PR agency would be like hiring a bad cook in a restaurant. That’s why many interviews at PR agencies are usually accompanied by a writing exercise. More often than not, before or after the actual interview you’ll be required to write up a mock press release.

Check out the following steps I learned early in my career to help your press release make it to the front page!

Remember: It’s news, not an ad

Before you get started writing, keep this in mind: no journalist is going to use your press release if it sounds too much like a product promotion or company ad. People are bombarded with advertisements regularly, so anything that comes across too much as a sales pitch is going to be ignored.

Start with your headline. If it sounds too much like a billboard or advertisement, it’s time to do some revisions. Keep this in mind as you write.

Get to the point quickly

It’s 2017, and people’s attention spans are getting shorter by the day. Your readers’ time and attention are precious, so it is important to get as much information into as little space as possible. Put all of your whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys in the first paragraph (or even the first sentence if you can). Write concisely and accurately, being mindful of unnecessary information and errors such as run-on sentences.

Leave the fluff for English class

I’ll admit that I struggled with this step myself when I wrote my first few press releases at my first internship. As a political science student, I was used to writing long-winded sentences filled with flowery language in order to increase the page count of my research papers. That kind of writing will get thrown in the trash in a newsroom.

Your readers are neither college professors nor William Shakespeare. Keep your press release free of fluff or jargon that the average reader would find difficult to understand. Simple and clean is the way to go.

Have your quotes come from a human, not a robot

Quotes are quite possibly the most important part of a press release; they bring emotion and a human element to the text. Unfortunately, quotes are also the easiest part of the press release to mess up, and for the exact same reason—they rarely sound like sentences a human would ever say.

Rather than using quotes to continue to provide information, create quotes that bring depth and insight to your press release.

Check your work

Your press release is written. Great!  But before you send it out, always have your work checked and double-checked by your peers so there are no typos, grammar errors or misinformation. Once everything is checked, you’re finally ready to send it out.

Get creative with the pitch

The final step is the most fun: pitching. While not directly a part of the press release, the pitch note in an email is just as important to get your release published, as all of the other steps. Think of it as an extra headline, grabbing the news desk’s attention and interest in reading what you’ve submitted.

When writing the subject line in your pitch email, for instance, you should find the happy balance between attention-grabbing and information-providing. Don’t be afraid to try something unorthodox, as long as it’s relevant and professional. I once worked a Star Wars quote into a pitch note—it tied back to my press release nicely, and it was definitely attention-grabbing.

Now that you’ve written and pitched a great release, may the press be with you!


Need help writing your next press release? The Vandiver Group can help! Call TVG at 314-991-4641 and check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Messaging: A New Era of Business Communications, Part 2

Best Practices for Businesses Using Facebook Messenger

By Nate Shryock, TVG Manager of Digital Strategy

In Part 1 of this blog series, we outlined how messaging apps can be useful business tools. Today, we’ll explore some best practices for businesses who want to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with their customers.

Respond promptly

Facebook publicly displays your company’s response speed on your homepage. It is important to gain the “Very responsive to messages” badge, which is achieved by having a response rate of 90% and a response time of 15 minutes within the last seven days. Slow response times often lead to escalated social posting by an individual with complaints.

Shoot for 100% response rate

More than ever, people simply want to be heard. By acknowledging every post, your customers feel like a larger part of your community. While 24/7 monitoring is not always possible, Facebook offers tools to help ensure that people have access to help outside of business hours. Away messages, pre-written replies and chat-bots provide customers with an immediate response and let them know that their concern is heard and will be addressed.

Use first names

The power of messaging for business comes from the human element. Using a person’s first name is an easy way to build a rapport and establish a connection. If you are responding to a comment, use the @tag of their first name (ex: @Nate). In addition, have moderators sign off with their first names as well.

Know when to take a public comment private

One of the biggest challenges of social for businesses is how to handle negative comments. Facebook offers the ability to initiate a private conversation with any commenter, and will display a public message saying that they’ve responded to the commenter in private.

Keep an updated list of your best customers

While difficult to manage, showing special attention to your most loyal customers will surprise and delight them—making them customers for life. Something as simple as sending a happy birthday message with a coupon or discount goes a long way to creating a positive relationship.

Conclusion

Just like you wouldn’t want to leave a customer waiting in your store, you don’t want to leave them waiting on social. Messenger apps offer a quick and effective way to add the human element back into the digital business world. When used correctly, can build long-lasting and mutually-beneficial relationships with your customers.


Need help using messaging apps for your business?  Not sure how to create a strong digital strategy? TVG can help! Call us at 314.991.4641 or visit our website at www.vandivergroup.com for more information.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

By Laura Vandiver, TVG Vice President of Research and Strategic Insight

I overheard a conversation the other day while working out at the gym. A woman I had seen there before—let’s call her Cindy—was telling someone about how she works in PR. Cindy was annoyed that her client called her, upset, because her name was misspelled in an article in the local business journal. “I have to tell people all the time that this is PR, not ER.” Cindy mused. “It’s not my emergency! A typo is not that big of a deal.” Oh, but it is Cindy.

Accuracy is extremely important in our field. Not only do we have to manage our clients’ reputations in the media, we also have to make sure the facts are correct and that we’re telling their story in a meaningful and impactful way. A single error could mean a devastating blow to a corporate reputation, and gives fodder to the rumor mill. And yes, typos matter. Especially when it’s your client’s name! Typos in your media releases indicate sloppy work. You always need to proofread your work before you submit it. Yes, an occasional error can happen—we are only human after all. But I’m talking about the errors that occur from just not caring very much about the ramifications of these seemingly small mistakes. You have to care. Our clients depend on us to care. And they deserve to have the highest quality work at all times.

How can you avoid these kinds of errors? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Have a team of people who proofread documents before they go out the door. The more sets of eyes you have on that important release for a client, the better.
  2. Always use the spellcheck and grammar tools in your word processing program as another layer of protection.
  3. Sometimes it helps to print your document and read it on paper to catch errors. Computer screens make our eyes tired and less able to find simple errors.
  4. Try reading your document out loud. This can help you find errors in verb tense, especially, and it will help you decide if you are conveying the message you mean to convey.

Accuracy matters. Our clients depend on us to get it right. And when they look good, we know we’ve done the best job we can possibly do for them. It’s kind of a big deal!


TVG’s PR Pros are happy to help you proof-read and edit your documents! Call us at 314-991-4641, email us or drop us a line on Facebook.

The Reality of Crisis Communications

The Reality of Crisis Communications

By Andy Likes, TVG Senior Vice President

In light of the recent events in the media, we wanted to share this piece written last year by our crisis communications and reputation management pro, Andy Likes.

Not “If,” but “When”

Throughout my 20+ years in broadcast journalism and public relations, I’ve seen my share of crisis issues. They happen every single day. I tell my crisis communications training classes that it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis happens, but “when.” Whether you are part of a small non-profit organization or a major multi-national corporation, you are vulnerable. It could be an employee issue, a cyber-attack, lawsuit, natural disaster or any other number of things, but it’s only a matter of time before your reputation is on the line for one reason or another. The biggest issue in a crisis is time!

We have clients come to The Vandiver Group in one of three phases of a crisis; pre-event, mid-event, and post-event. The clients who come to us before a crisis happens are being proactive. They want us to help write a plan, create messages, and draft template press releases before things go bump in the night. They may or may not see a crisis on the horizon, but they know anything can happen. Other clients call us mid-crisis, or after the crisis is over, for reputation management and overall communications to mitigate the damage.

Proactive Crisis Planning

Implementing a crisis plan before a crisis occurs can save you three things: time, money, and frustration.  Planning ahead saves you time. It’s easier to write a plan and use it as your guidebook when bad things happen, rather than “wing it” and address things as they occur. Planning takes preparation and time, but it’s a fraction of the time you could spend on a crisis when you’re in the middle of it. Having a succinct, understandable plan that is easy to find can also be the key to rebuilding your reputation after the crisis is over.

Having the right messages that are timely and well-delivered helps build trust with employees, the media and the public, no matter what the issue may be. Holding information back because you don’t know everything may seem easy, but it’s not the best way to handle a crisis. Give all the information you have at the time and say you’ll be back with more when you have it. It’s like ripping off a bandage—it might hurt initially, but the quicker you respond, the quicker the crisis will be over. Ultimately you want to get from the crisis to the post-event stage, so you can rebuild your reputation as quickly as possible.  That all begins with the crisis plan and having your team ready for anything.


TVG has helped companies in all three stages of a crisis for more than 20 years. Are you ready to tackle a potential crisis? How can TVG help you? Tweet us @VandiverGroup or email info@vandivergroup.com for more information.

Cause Marketing is Important to Millennials, Too

Cause Marketing & Millenials

By Madeleine Smith

While the term “cause marketing” was coined in the 1970s, it’s become increasingly important today for companies to support a cause or sponsor a charity. If you want proof that cause marketing is on the rise, it’s in the numbers. Engageforgood.com tracks several consumer studies, all of which support the importance of cause marketing:

  • Cause sponsorship is reported to reach $2.06 billion in 2017, a projected increase of 3.6% over 2016 (IEG Sponsorship Report, 2016).
  • 33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good (Unilever Study, 2016).
  • 74% of employees say that their job is more fulfilling when they have a positive impact (Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 2016).
  • 80% of global consumers believe that businesses must play a role in addressing societal issues (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2016).

What’s most interesting is where millennials factor into the picture.  A 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study found that:

  • 74% of millennials surveyed learn about a companies’ social or environmental business practices, versus the U.S. average of 54%.
  • 80% of millennials were likely to donate to a cause after learning about it online, versus the U.S. average of 63%.

However, millennials are often portrayed as the “me” generation—selfish, entitled, lazy… Also, it seems every millennial has had “the talk” with their grandparents,  how “back in the day, they had to actually read books to write research papers, and walk to school uphill both ways in the snow.” The bottom-line is that they think technology has made millennials’ lives much more convenient, and we have it so much easier than they did.

That’s probably true to some extent. Growing up with computers, cell phones, and technology has made things easier for some of us, but harder for others.

While I’m not walking to work in the rain or churning my own butter, I’m involved in my community. I’ve spent countless hours doing unpaid work for causes that I care about. And, after doing research, I know I’m not alone.

If you’re a business owner and you want to reach millennials, consider supporting a cause or devoting pro-bono work to a non-profit. Cause marketing statistics show that it does pay off, no matter what side of the transaction you’re on.


TVG has experience in creating successful marketing campaigns for a variety of clients. Need some help? Give us a call at 314-991-4641 or email us to know more.

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

8 Tips for Strategic Pitching

8 Tips for Strategic Pitching

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

What you learned in Scouts is true—it’s best to be prepared. At TVG, when we teach staffers to pitch reporters, we talk about a number of things to make a pitch memorable and get the story picked up. Here are 8 of our best pitching tips:

1. Make it personal

If you were sending a note to a friend, you would know something about them. It’s no different with reporters. Know their beat, what they write about, and mention a piece they’ve done if you’ve read it and can say something relevant about it. Connecting to a reporter on a personal level will make your pitch stick out.

2. Do your homework

Gather good information and put it together in a compelling way. Think/Act like a reporter. What would you want to know? What would grab you? What’s grabbed you in the past?

3. Do your media research!

Keep your media contact list up-to-date. People move around. There is nothing worse than getting a bounce back, because the reporter has moved on. Make sure all of your contacts are current and accurate before sending your pitch.

4. Proofread!

Spell their name correctly. Don’t you automatically delete an email if your name is spelled wrong?

5. Get to the point

Don’t send an email asking if you can send them a pitch. This is like asking if you can ask a question. Don’t waste their time and yours with two emails, when one would do.

6. Maintain contact

Everyone’s busy. If they don’t respond, follow up within a few days. After that, it’s like starting over.

7. Say no to clickbait

Make sure your subject line matches the topic. There’s nothing wrong with being creative, but be sure you stay on message and on point.

8. Practice makes perfect!

Don’t be easily discouraged, and don’t take it personally if a reporter doesn’t like your idea. Get better at packaging your ideas. Accept the challenge.

What are your best tips for pitching reporters? Tweet us @VandiverGroup, and let us know!

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So, You Want to Start a Blog…

So, You Want to Start a Blog…

By Katie Miller, TVG Account Executive

So, you want to start a blog? If you answered “yes” to this question, chances are you follow several blogs that have made you think, “I want to do that!” Whether they’re about food, travel, fitness, fashion and beauty, or pets, a good blog and an eye-catching aesthetic will make almost any avid reader want to become a blogger themselves. 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