I recently traveled to India with a few colleagues and a great client. On that trip, my wonderful client reminded me of something very important that we all need to do: Get out of the office!
The life of a global PR practitioner can be full of perks like business-class travel and expensive meals, but after a while it can get tedious. Our schedules are usually packed and we often encounter jet lag. I'll even admit that at times I get lazy and complacent and decide that no, I don't need to stay an extra night, or no, I don't need to leave the hotel for dinner. There are times that I'd rather catch an earlier flight to get back home and see my kids, or catch up on other work while I have my room-service dinner.
But in the middle of a series of visits to various and sundry mom-and-pop shops in India, my client Jeff said to me, "You know, Amanda, in order to be good at this job, you have to not be afraid to get your feet dirty. And that doesn't mean just hopping on a plane to be where you're needed, it means resisting the urge to hide in the conference room, and getting out there to check things out."
Jeff is right. Especially for those of us who live in the US. We really have to push outside our comfort zone and see things for ourselves. Because of Jeff, I persevered through a little (ahem) discomfort to attend an Indian dental conference where I discovered one of the most attended sessions was on basic patient hygiene. That's a good reminder when we're thinking about selling premium whitening products; don't forget the people you saw who just need to trade up to using a toothbrush. On another trip to Panama, I saw a private-label fiber supplement that was a complete rip-off of one of my clients. So when we think about Latin America, does the team need to educate media and influencers on the efficacy or safety of private-label products?
One of the biggest challenges in dealing with any audience is assumption. We assume we know what the standards are in one nation because we are so accustomed to certain standards in our own. Similarly, our clients who live abroad may also assume that we understand some of the challenges to which they are accustomed. Global travel is about more than face-to-face meetings with our colleagues: It's also about face-to-face meetings with our audiences and their cultures.
Amanda Glasgow is SVP, personal care practice director at MSLGROUP.