Pipes that Carry Messages

13 years, 9 months ago

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Companies from the Gulf that are expanding globally are confronted by both challenges and opportunities relating to their roots. By Anne Bleeker.



International businesses have expanded into the Middle Eastern region for years. Now it is great to see that a growing number of companies are successfully expanding from this region into the rest of the world.

The rather old saying ‘Think Global, Act Local’ is still in my opinion a valid approach when it comes to PR and communications, especially when communicating outside of your country of origin. Middle Eastern companies that expand globally will, through their communications efforts, target a wide range of people.

Governments and local communities are key when establishing a business into a new region and these communications will and should be carefully planned and managed. In doing so, it is critical that expertise is sought from professional communicators and/or consultants in the country concerned to make sure that communications are properly localized and made relevant for the intended public.

I believe that companies from Dubai – such as Future Pipe Industries Group (FPI) –have an advantage and unique position when they embark on spreading their messages globally. Dubai, through its globally acknowledged success and strong marketing and public relations, has earned its reputation as one of the fastest growing destinations worldwide and certainly as the commercial and business hub for the Middle East.

With operations in the USA, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, FPI has been a multinational organization for a number of years and has therefore communicated internationally as part of its strategy and day-to-day activities. Due to extensive growth over the past years, our communications have had an increasingly wider reach.

Dealing with misconceptions

Although companies that originate from Dubai do benefit from being associated with success, innovation and entrepreneurship, among other characteristics, there are still misconceptions out there about the region and businesses from our part of the world. It is our task to correct these perceptions and educate the target audiences.

When I say ‘Think Global’, that is exactly what I mean. Thinking about the impact your messages will have in other markets and making sure that your communication plans and approach are tested with the help of local experts.

Through globalization and the rise of digital media, the world seems to have become smaller and smaller. Nevertheless, because of this proliferation and globalization we sometimes overlook the importance of truly localized messages, especially in terms of relevance and authenticity. Success is in the detail.

I also think that internal communications becomes more and more critical as part of the corporate communications mix. Your local talent can help make or break you in a new territory and I believe they should be targeted first when it comes to corporate communications.

Successful internal communications allows employees to help you further test your messages and provide you with honest and relevant feedback that will be critical before you fully engage in external communications. In this way, your people will become your biggest ambassadors, advocates and promoters, aiding you in your communications across audiences.

Messages increasingly need to be localized, personalized and made relevant to local stakeholders. You cannot simply rely on a ‘one shoe fits all’ approach.

Relatively spoilt

One of the differences with companies from the Middle East is that we have been relatively spoilt with the positive and strong interest we have received from our local and regional media. There has been no shortage in publicity or communications opportunities for us here.

This could potentially be an obstacle for companies spreading their wings into the world’s most fragmented and oldest media centers such as London and New York where, as we all know, getting heard and written about is a different ballgame, requiring a very different skill set and approach.

As communicators it is our role to educate our leadership and management about the rules of engagement when communicating globally and this includes setting realistic expectations about not just the amount, but also the quality and tone of the coverage you are likely to receive.

Another important decision to make when communicating globally is whether you want to play up or play down your heritage and origin. Again, this is not unique to companies from the Middle East. Yet it is something that is very important to consider in an increasingly global environment. The question to ask is whether it is important and/or relevant for the industry you are in, your business and the positioning you desire, for target audiences to know where you are based and where your roots are.

In our case, and I have seen this with a number of multinational businesses based out of Dubai, it is important to put emphasis on our roots and origin. Future Pipe Industries Group’s first factory is based in Dubai and opened the same year the UAE federation was formed.

Innovation

Our story has been one of growth and innovation and we have, in many ways, grown with Dubai. The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) is an early adopter of fiberglass, which is a new and superior alternative to the more traditional materials for pipe systems such as steel. Our business is based on fiberglass and we promote it as the material of the future.

Given our origins, we would want to emphasize the fact that we are from this region and based in a region that is leading the adoption of fiberglass. It’s a message that will help us globally to achieve our vision.

We have grown from a local family business to being the global leader in the large diameter fiberglass pipe industry and our company is driven on values including entrepreneurship, innovation and quality; very similar to some of the success factors and principles that have made Dubai what it is and stands for today.

Reputation management is becoming increasingly more important for all businesses across the globe and especially as they become more global and/or decide to go public. As we are based in what is considered an emerging market, we probably need to prove our ‘worth’ in more detail when it comes to reputation management, especially when it comes to certain areas of the business such as transparency and governance.

Answering tough questions

My view is that companies from this region that are communicating globally need to take this into careful consideration and should be prepared to answer questions that may relate to these issues. We know where we stand here, but this is not always as visible to other markets. Going back to education, it is our role as communicators for companies from this region to successfully overcome any critical questions that may be asked and to take away misconceptions that may exist.

When we talk about ‘Think Global, Act Local’, there is another question we need to ask ourselves. Do true local messages still exist? Everything we do and say can be seen, read, heard and viewed worldwide, even if a message was meant only for a specific local audience. I therefore believe that when we act local first, we still need to think global and not just the other way around.

This region has a perception of wealth, but I strongly believe that the success companies from the Middle East have achieved stems from many other factors as well. This region has seen the emergence of some of the world’s most innovative public and private organizations.

One of the success factors in my view is the people that are driving these businesses. They attract some of the most entrepreneurial, ambitious and innovative people. Most companies here have a truly multicultural workforce, with fifty different nationalities being the norm, rather than the exception.

A solid platform

What better, solid platform can you wish for when you embark on global communications? You have a pool of people that bring in different cultures, backgrounds and ideas and provide you with limitless opportunities to ‘sense check’ your local messages and test them for success.

In terms of global expansion, communications plays an increasingly critical role. Not just in terms of PR but across a multitude of other disciplines within corporate communications such as reputation management, internal communications and corporate affairs.

Communications plans will vary from market to market and country to country, but are bound to contain a significant educational element. In this day and age, it is all about authenticity, transparency and relevance.


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The Author

Anne Bleeker

Anne Bleeker, Vice President Corporate Communications, Future Pipe Industries Group.

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