International communications campaign

How to adapt your communications to an international audience

Running an international communications campaign goes far beyond selecting a target country, translating your messaging and content and ensuring you respect time zones. Before you even attempt any of the above, you need to undertake solid groundwork to understand the culture of your target country.

If you are not taking into account the cultural specifications of your target country, then your communications campaign is likely to fall flat.

Understand the culture of your audiences

To understand the culture of your audiences, you will need to go back to the fundamentals of intercultural communications and consider the theory of cultural dimensions.

Put simply, the theory states that each country exists on a cultural spectrum and can be analysed according to different parameters. The two main experts in cultural dimensions are Hofstede and Trompenaars. Although their work is mostly used in business management, it can easily be adapted for international communications. The following are the key parameters to consider when addressing an international audience. Not all of them may be relevant – it is up to you to select the most important.

Hofstede’s five parameters are:

  • Individualism vs collectivism: the strength of the ties that people have to others within their communities;
  • Power distance: the degree to which members of a society accept a hierarchical distribution of power;
  • Uncertainty avoidance: how well can people cope with daily uncertainty and risk;
  • Masculinity vs femininity: usually, ‘masculine societies’ are more competitive compared to ‘feminine societies’ which are more consensus-oriented;
  • Time horizon: having a short-term vision compared to a long-term one. 

Trompenaars’ work confirmed the previous model, plus added new dimensions:

  • Universalism vs particularism: the extent to which the same rules apply or differ according to circumstances;
  • Specific vs diffuse: how important it is to compartmentalise the different aspects of one’s life, especially relating to their work and personal life;
  • Neutral vs affective: is it better to show emotions or to keep them hidden?;
  • Achievement vs ascription: whether success comes from one’s achievements, or one’s mere existence;
  • Inner-directed vs outer-directed: the extent to which we control our environment compared to our environment controlling us.

Check your topic’s relevance

When building a communications campaign aimed at an international audience, you first need to check the relevance of your topic in your targeted country. Take a moment to do your research, and see if you can answer the following questions:

  • Has your topic been widely discussed in the news? Is mainstream media talking about it, or is it limited to industry press?
  • Is it a sensitive topic in the area you are targeting? How has the issue been discussed? Can you provide a fresh look on it with a positive angle?
  • What is the political importance of this topic? Has there been legislation put in place?
  • What are the current environmental impacts and benefits of the topic you want to discuss?

As a cleantech business, you’ll need to be ready to provide scientific facts to base your claims on, especially if the topic of your communications campaign received lukewarm press in the past. However, you should also keep in mind that being one of the first to focus on the benefits can give you a unique positioning in this target market.

Adapt your content to your audience

Once you have mapped how relevant the topic is in your country of choice, it’s time to focus on your audience:

  • Who is your audience? Which group are the most involved?
  • How do they want to be talked to? Refer to the work of Hofstede and Trompenaars to see where your target country stands on the cultural spectrum.
  • Who are the key people to get in touch with?
  • What are their areas of interest?
  • Are they active at a local, national or international level?

Once you have built a clear map of the state of your topic in your target area and know who to address and how, you can move on to crafting your messages.

Based on your research, you will be able to determine whether or not you need to adapt your tone of voice, if you can use jargon and what key words to use. If you are launching a product or service, check that its name isn’t offensive or doesn’t have a double meaning in your target country.

You should also consider adapting your visual materials to make sure that they resonate with your audience. For example, illustrative pictures should match the country’s landscapes and cities.

Finally, think about time zones. If you are scheduling content, make sure that it’s not published at 4am in your target area. That goes for both social media and press releases.

Investing time and research when crafting a communications campaign aimed at an international audience will make all the difference. It will also guarantee that your messages resonate with your international audience.

During our fourth webinar, we presented the roadmap you should follow to ensure that your messages resonate with an international audience. You can watch the full webinar on-demand:

Are you internationalising and need strategic guidance on your communications? Book a free 45-minute consultation call with one of our communications experts to find out how we can help.

Book a consultation

Tell us who you are, what your company does and what challenges you face.

We'll get in touch as soon as we can to discuss how we can help.