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15/11/2016

Getting the most from country managers

Posted by Richard Rivlin

Alain from Paris was recently appointed by a multinational banking and finance group as the executive responsible for Africa.

Now, he breakfasts with major clients and takes mid-morning coffee with trade union representatives before having lunch with a politician or regulator.

He can spend his evenings talking about key industry trends with a regional correspondent from the Financial Times or The Economist, or discussing his firm’s impact with a local reporter.

People like Alain understand that their professional success owes everything to being a local hero.

His success comes from inspiring operational teams, encouraging topline growth, sustaining margins and managing challenges along the way.

If he gets it right, the results can be impressive as the market understands and recognises the importance of this local success in terms of how it builds the business.

If he gets it wrong, share prices can dive when seemingly innocuous issues rapidly criss-cross global newswires, damaging the reputation of his organisation and its valuation.

Reputation enhancing

For leaders and managers like Alain, having the knowledge and skills to make decisions quickly and communicate effectively has never been more important.

In the past, the running of a national or regional office may have seemed removed from the action of the global HQ.

No more. Today, the valuation of many multinationals is directly related to the perceived success of their international operations – particularly their emerging market activities.

Consequently, there is a real and urgent need for country and product managers to be ‘on message’ and able to enhance the reputation of their business at all times.

We understand this, so we’ve have developed a specialist communications programme for senior country and product managers. We help to create global ambassadors locally by using our expertise to boost their communication skills.

Organisations including ArcelorMittal, Cable & Wireless, Microsoft and Nokia have used this approach and have enjoyed immediate results and benefits.

When can we come and talk to you?

Eight ideas for the year ahead

We’ve used our recent experience of developing programmes for some of the world’s largest companies to come up with eight ways to boost your local presence.

These can be delivered on the ground to your local leaders, their senior teams and supporting communications personnel.

1. Create a communications blueprint

Your corporate communications department will be responsible for setting the strategy and tone of how the business projects itself. Understanding how that works at a local level and translating that into action is your responsibility.

We can help you to focus on achieving your key local objectives and put in place an effective measurement system to track the success of your performance.

2. Live an international brand locally

Multinational businesses create effective brands that capture their values and promote their role in society.

But are these values truly lived at a local level? What communications initiatives can you take to enhance the reputation of the organisation and help translate an international brand for a local market?

3. Boost internal communications

Getting internal communications right is never simple. It demands an understanding of how to connect with the very people who know the most about your own organisation.

Putting in place an effective internal communications programme is a proven way to enhance the reputation of your business and will boost the profile and reputation of country managers with their local staff.

4. Deal with the international media

There is increasing interest from the international media in the local operations of multinationals, and reporters are heavily influenced by local contacts, local media and NGOs.

Country managers therefore need to understand how the media operates, and to see their relationships with reporters as golden opportunities to promote the agenda and interests of their organisation.

5. Improve how you communicate with clients

When was the last time you conducted a holistic audit of your client communications initiatives? Now is a good time to assess how effective they are.

You may need to update your bank of client case studies or relaunch your customer magazine or newsletter. Most likely, you need to increase the volume and impact of your online communications.

6. Showcase your community engagement

Create a film to showcase how your corporate social responsibility programme works at a local level.

The best international organisations contribute significantly to their local communities, and you should not be afraid to highlight this.

7. Invite international investors to visit

Work with the IR department to organise an investor day for the buy side to come and visit your local operations.

The performance of international operations is fundamental to how multinational businesses are valued today. Get this right, and your share price could rise immediately.

8. Create a video roadshow of your operations

Many investors would dearly like the opportunity to attend an investor day, but in the current economic climate it may not always be possible to travel.

So if international travel is off the agenda, produce a video that highlights the strengths and opportunities of your local operations for international investors to download from your global and local website.

Communications for CEOs

Bladonmore delivers communications programmes to regional and national CEOs and country managers, applying the following tried and tested approach.

Complete a diagnostic review

We conduct these face to face and, whenever possible, use recordings of previous presentations. After identifying strengths and weaknesses in individual performance, we create a programme to make the required changes.

Bladonmore also reviews the business plan and the role leadership communications plays in the execution of the plan, and carries out interviews with colleagues.

Develop a personalised programme

Programmes range from just a few polishing sessions with an expert communications coach to a tailored programme of behavioural change.

Our clients typically experience their greatest progress when they receive coaching for specific events, such as results presentations, town-hall gatherings, addresses to staff, conference speeches and interviews with the media.

It takes time to achieve long-lasting change. Short, sharp bursts of highly focused coaching, sustained over a period of time, have proved to be the most effective way to get the desired outcome. To fit in with the busy schedules of top executives, individual coaching sessions are often run as a series of 90-minute blocks.

Each coaching session concentrates on developing one aspect of performance. For example, one session might address how to use a script effectively, another might look at clarity of messaging, and another could be on techniques for answering difficult questions or handling the media.

We recommend using a real presentation as an example during coaching sessions – perhaps last quarter’s results or an upcoming analyst meeting. Sessions are recorded on video and digitally available after each session.

Create an ongoing development programme

One reason for the success of our approach is that we work with individuals to create personal programmes to continue their development.

This involves written feedback and an agreed development plan to ensure that the positive changes become ingrained and long lasting.

See more posts by Richard Rivlin

Contact Richard Rivlin on richard.rivlin@bladonmore.com

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