ITL #384 Cultural intelligence: how its rising importance is impacting PR and communications

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Cultural intelligence enables people to work effectively across cultures and is especially important for communicators. By Svetlana Stavreva.



We are living in the era of ‘intelligence’—from the most recent form, artificial intelligence (AI), to the more ‘real’ intelligence forms underpinning and enabling AI, like business intelligence, emotional intelligence, etc. And as the world is becoming more connected globally, the importance of cultural intelligence is growing.

What is cultural intelligence?

Cultural intelligence is the ability to work effectively across cultures. Culture influences things like how people communicate, formality, directness, assertiveness and time management.

Having insight into other cultures can help people and organizations from different cultures, who may speak different languages, successfully interact with one another.

Cultural intelligence in business is much like having empathy in our personal life. For example, we communicate much more successfully if we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of the person we are talking to. This is the ability of our minds, and it is not yet matched by any machine learning algorithm.

It is the ability to be business empathetic and to communicate successfully with diverse business audiences. When we do that well, our brand thrives; if we don’t, we had better learn quickly.

What makes cultural intelligence especially important for us as communicators?

  • Imagine you are put in a situation where you need to communicate in a language that you don’t know well and with a community of people unfamiliar to you. Once you have survived the first shock, you mobilize. Then, if you want to survive the second week and remain in control of the situation, you do the following: take care (i.e., spend time) to learn very well who you are talking to —who your audience is.
  • Talk only when you know what to say and have a valid reason to speak, or a reason that impacts the community you are talking to and a solution that adds value.
  • Express a professional opinion that is based on knowledge and experience.
  • Keep it as short as possible —only what you need to say, no more.
  • Have third-party proof points that will help your audience better understand what you are saying.

I call these points above Svetlana’s survival kit for communications. My survival kit has helped me learn a few important lessons:

  • Lesson 1: Listen before you talk. Listening is always important. It helps us better understand our audiences. And while the general perception of us, as communicators, is that we are supposed to only talk, the truth is that if we want our talk heard, we had better listen first.
  • Lesson 2: This survival kit helped me learn that sometimes silence is the better message. It can tell more than spoken or written words. And sometimes, when the brand gives space to influencers instead of its own messages, it can do miracles in terms of positive perceptions.
  • Lesson 3: If you cannot say something in 300 characters, chances are you won’t be able to make your point in 300,000 characters either. If you ask someone to outline the top three differentiating points of a message/service, you don’t want to get a 100-page presentation. Writing crisply and clearly is a talent and a gift, but it can be learned too. The sooner we learn it, the better.

Indeed, these golden rules can be applied to all communications, not just to situations where cultural intelligence is critical. But imagine if we applied these rules to politics —taking care to communicate only with a purpose, to listen to each other and, therefore, become keener on working together.

Any problem, even a major one, could be more easily solved.

Cultural intelligence and empathy, along with my survival kit for communications, are the golden rules that I believe will be able to help us, the public relations practitioners from all over the world, to work with artificial intelligence, leverage it for better communication and still remain in the driver’s seat going forward.

 

 


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The Author

Svetlana Stavreva

Svetlana Stavreva is IPRA President 2020. This essay was originally published by Forbes.

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