If you are working with a group of people in other countries and regions, you know how challenging it can be to maintain close communications and effective collaborations, due to cultural and time-zone differences. I sympathize with you because I KNOW how hard it is. Here are some challenges of working with virtual team members who are located in different regions or countries:
- Lack of face-to-face interaction: We don’t see them every day. Depending on where they are located, real-time texting or messaging can also be difficult.
- Reactive responses: Due to time differences, we tend to be passive in terms of communications. We wait until something is on fire to start talking “proactively.”
- Language barriers: Setting aside multi-lingual issues, not everyone speaks English as fluently as you do. In addition, the same English words have different meanings in different English-speaking countries. Miscommunications are bound to happen with distance and infrequent communications.
How to Address Communication Challenges
Regular face-to-face meetings: If travel budgets allow, the whole team should meet once a quarter or every six months. Create some FTF time to get to know each other. If the travel budget doesn’t allow, I’d recommend an ‘ambassadorial’ approach. Select one team member to represent the local teams to attend the face-to-face meetings in the headquarters. Or send one corporate person to the regions and countries to develop the relationship with your counterparts on behalf of the whole group. FTF is still the best way to get to know each other. A hearty meal and couple drinks, we all start to open up a bit…
The best way to address last-minute and the ad-hoc fire is to have regular synch meetings. I’d strongly recommend that the synch meetings are led by the corporate person or the headquarter team. This person does not need to do every presentation for every meeting, but he or she needs to organize and publish an agenda and minutes, follow up with action items and coordinate with key presenters. It’s not a full-time job, but it does require some work.
If time zone issues make it impossible to have one meeting in which everyone is awake, it highly recommended having two sets of meetings so that it’s a reasonable time for everyone. For example, I am located on the West Coast of the US. It may make sense for a 7:00 am or 8:00 am PST meeting with EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), LAR (Latin America) and the US, then 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm PST call with the Asia Pacific.
The meeting frequency can be weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly. Trust me, there is always something to talk about when you are scaling your content across regions.
Below are agenda recommendations for you to think about:
- Company’s worldwide sales goals and business objectives (e.g., plan changes in the fast-paced environment) and updates
- Corporate-wide marketing plans and metrics
- Product roadmap (this can change often, too)
- Messaging, product positioning, content plans
- Creative and style playbook based on marketing campaign themes
- Branding guide for master and product brands/logos
- Primary and secondary marketing research and trends
- Country marketing plans, marketing metrics, sales results
- Country’s challenges and needs
- Editorial and content discussion
- Budget discussion
- Lead generation
- Content localization and translation
- Sales discounts and offerings
- Co-marketing with partners and channel partners
- Third-party speaker or agency sharing new trends
- Sales and marketing collaboration
- Tools to track measurement
- New tools to pilot
- Best practices sharing between geographies
- Social media
- Innovation campaigns by different countries
- Paid media buy
- Web site design and updates
Working with local teams, you are bound to encounter to translate, localize and customize content.
As a corporate person, give them recommendations on what content may work for them and let them be decision-makers on content selection and localization/translation. Understand why they want to do things in certain ways. I discovered that content localization or translation is usually not an issue. Creative directions and messaging development tend to be more contentious if the local team is not comfortable with the corporate approach. Make sure that you can back up your strategy, priorities, creative direction, and messaging framework.
It takes time and effort to build a working relationship. Create FTF opportunities to get to know each other. Initiate regular synch calls are necessary to minimize any last-minute or ad-hoc crisis. See issues through their lenses.