Plan With Culture in Mind

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The best way to prevent a crisis is by recognizing a crisis could happen. If a PR professional is observant enough to notice issues or cultural patterns emerging outside their organization, then they can learn to identify how likely this issue may impact them. 

For example, something that happens at the regional, national or international level could have implications for your market. Recently, emerging headlines about Black Lives Matter protests or an increase in asylum seekers at U.S. borders should have caused PR pros to review if they were ready to address communication needs or challenges related to these issues. 

Research people — first.

I highly value strategic planning. For me, it goes hand-in-hand with crisis management. I make sure to remind my clients that crisis communication is only about communication. It’s the emergency preparedness planning and management that helps an organization know which actions to take to prevent, mitigate or react to an issue — hopefully before it becomes a crisis. In tandem, we plan communication around potential crises so the communication strategy, messaging and tactics are prepared for use when needed.

One issue I see come up regularly is not planning with a people-first mindset. Any campaign — be it to launch a brand, raise money, or cause behavioral change — should be planned with the intended audience at the forefront. If you create target avatars or personas that represent a member of each key group, then planning for their needs is easier to imagine.

Know that diverse teams fill gaps.

Not integrating campaigns across marketing, PR, social media or advertising departments leads to blind spots. But as pros, we can’t act blindsided when the public points out such mistakes. Many times, sharing concepts and asking for input across industry aisles helps. 

Every agency should have independents to weigh in when planning if they don’t employ other kinds of communication experts or types of employees. Even independents or freelancers can contract each other or team up to strategize and work together. This is especially true if you’re creating a campaign for people of a cultural background that is different from the people on your campaign planning team.

Consider culture when researching.

The best strategy for connecting with your target avatar is relating to their cultural preferences. Showing an appreciation for their culture shows respect for the values of the group you’re targeting.

What does culture entail? It’s much more than just what ethnicity someone is. Merriam-Webster defines culture in six different ways, starting with “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” 

Simply, cultural strategy isn’t just about ethnicity or race. Cultural strategy is about considering what binds people together in a group — the preferred language, music, food, fashion, and other cultural practices they share. We can even develop the culture for an organization in our profession. 

Understanding how to identify the cultural norms and values of any group is an asset in our work. When you “speak the language” of that group, they feel respected, appreciated and creating a relationship can happen quickly.

Plan to fill cultural gaps.

To put this into practice, if you’re creating an event or experience for diverse segments, evaluate:

• Which group has been missing at your events?

• Does your organization or planning committee represent your target avatar(s)?

• What’s important to them?

• What language(s) do they prefer?

• Are prices tiered to attract different segments of consumers?

Look for the cultural gaps in your plans and activations. Be respectful when approaching this work and involve your target consumers. They will enlighten the process immediately.

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