Posts Tagged ‘International Public relations’

The Extinction of Physical QWERTY Keyboards

April 2, 2013

The Blackberry Z10 made headlines recently. A million units were shipped in the last three months. But I’m more excited about the company’s Q10 (scheduled to be released this month). It’s not that I’m a Blackberry fan, I’ve never even used one before; it’s that the Q10 is part of a dying breed of smartphones with physical QWERTY keyboards. UnderwoodKeyboardTheir disappearance has largely been blamed on the success of the iPhone. During the iPhone’s first few years, competitors offered plenty of physical keyboard/touchscreen combo smartphones: just look at this top ten list from 2011. However, as the iPhone came to dominate the market, smartphones all started to look more and more like iPhones.

The smartphone is an essential tool for most people who work in PR. At a recent industry event, one of the panelists chided the audience (all PR pros), that more of us weren’t live Tweeting the event. We’re expected to be constantly connected, at the very least while working at events or when dealing with a crisis. At Bridge, we specialize in PR for overseas-based companies, and we often need to communicate with clients and media in different time zones, so work hours can vary a lot, too. Most of us would probably agree that we’d feel lost without smartphones.

I bought my first smartphone in 2010, the LG Ally, and I stuck with it because I never found a much better option with a physical keyboard. I’ve been an iMac user for years and I always wanted an iPhone for the syncing capabilities, but I couldn’t fathom using a touchscreen keyboard. The keyboard has always been the most important factor for me when choosing a phone. I text like a rabid teenager (I’ve sent/received 1,036 text messages in just the last 7 days), and I take lots of lengthy notes. There is also something much more satisfying about pressing down on actual buttons versus tapping on a screen. I type much faster on a physical keyboard, and I never quite took to autocorrect. I’d rather a few typos than have my phone try to guess what I’m trying to write. After three years with the same phone, I finally came to terms with the fact that touchscreen keyboards are here to stay. I begrudgingly started shopping around when I stumbled upon this gem: a Bluetooth slide-out keyboard for the iPhone 5! I happily traded in my old phone for an iPhone 5 and after fumbling with the touchscreen for a few days, I ordered the Bluetooth add-on from Amazon. Without further ado, here’s my review.

Abco Tech® Bluetooth Sliding Keyboard iPhone 5 Case (White)

Abco iPhone 5 Keyboard

Set-up was extremely easy and intuitive. I paired it with my iPhone like any other Bluetooth device, and the phone snapped snugly into the top part of the case. It comes with a micro-USB charger and as far as battery life, I’ve been charging it at least every other night and have had no issues (though I expect battery life will decline over time). The keys take a bit of getting used to, but if you type a lot, you’ll be fine with a few days of use. There are “lock” and “home” keys, as well as two “command” or “Apple” keys which let you use basic keyboard shortcuts (ie: copy, paste, select all, undo) without having to touch the screen. There are also 4 arrow keys which let you navigate long bodies of text with ease. If you compare the proportions to a normal keyboard, the space bar is very small and off-center. This is quite annoying because you have to strain your right thumb to reach it. Functionally, this is probably the biggest flaw in the design.

Aside from the space bar, there are other obvious aesthetic flaws. The keyboard just about doubles the thickness of the phone which may be a huge turnoff for many. I got the keyboard in white, which has a matte finish that gets dirty very quickly. I haven’t tried to clean it yet, but from reading other reviews, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do it.

At the end of the day, whether you’ll like this product or not will largely depend on how much you value function over form. Most of my friends react with disgust when I whip this huge thing out of my pocket. The iPhone’s sleekness is its main draw and if Steve Jobs saw this bulky case, I’m sure he’d be rolling over in his grave. However, if you’re like me and often feel the need to draft entire novels on your smartphone, you should give this keyboard a try. It’s about the price of a normal iPhone case ($25-$29) and Amazon has a solid 30-day return policy so you don’t have much to lose.


Diana Kim


How American PR Is Different from PR Overseas

February 19, 2013

Foreign companies that want to build visibility in the U.S.  are usually surprised to find that there are cross-cultural differences in the role of public relations between their countries and the U.S. In many parts of the world, including most of Asia and some of Europe, the tactics used by most public relations departments have traditionally been limited to media relations and event planning, with social media also becoming more popular recently. The goal is to win over potential customers (both consumers and business customers) and to try to safeguard the company’s public image.Morpheus on PR

In the United States, Canada, the U.K. and a few other countries, there are additional aspects of PR. In these markets, PR is not relegated to building visibility and helping market products, it also includes strategies to build and enhance a company’s reputation. PR professionals look for ways to develop and strengthen relationships that will help the entire company in its interactions with various audiences, including investors, the local community, government officials and employees, among others. In other countries, PR is more top-down, with management deciding what they want to communicate and the PR department executing those decisions. But in the U.S. there is more two-way dialogue with the public, and the PR or corporate communications department is expected to monitor the public dialogue, and also to recommend messaging and develop materials to help support the company in those conversations.

In countries where the PR staff is mostly limited to helping to market products, PR professionals have a significantly lower status than they do in countries where PR professionals have a broader role that includes strategy for and management of corporate reputation. As one would expect, in the countries where PR has a lower status, PR professionals have less contact with top executives and aren’t usually seen as strategic advisors to corporate management. In the U.S., by contrast, the top PR job is often an executive position that reports directly to the CEO. In some cases, the professionals who hold those positions make very high salaries. (In large companies, the salaries are frequently in the range of $300,000. One recent news article reported that the head of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company was being paid a million dollars a year. Those executives, and the employees and PR firms they hire to help them, manage issues important to the company, trouble-shoot in times of crisis and help with the overall positioning of their companies. They are responsible for fostering good relationships with all of their companies’ audiences, from employees to interest groups to customers and potential customers to government at the local, state and national levels. Some are also responsible for investor relations.

Often when I receive a call from a potential client from overseas, I can see the difference in attitude towards PR right away. I ask what the company is looking for from a PR agency, and the answer I get is usually a prepared list of PR tactics that the executives in the company have already decided will fill their needs. After talking to us and as they begin to work with us, the company’s staff begins to see that we can help in ways they hadn’t anticipated, and they stop telling us what tactics they want us to deploy, asking us, instead, for our counsel on helping them meet their goals.

Cross-cultural PR is a two-way educational process, since the client learns more about the U.S. business culture and sees how communications works here, while, at the same time, we have a chance to learn more about the client’s own culture.

Lucy Siegel

Click here for a free copy of our e-book on international public relations.


The Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communications

August 31, 2012

Many of our clients are companies headquartered outside the United States. As a result, cross-cultural communications is a very important component of Bridge Global Strategies’ client services. In the following post, Bhaskar Sarma does a great job of explaining the impact of culture in communications and providing examples. His guest post, which first appeared on Gini Dietrich’s blog, “Spinsucks,” appears here with his permission and  permission from Gini Dietrich.  

By Bhaskar Sarma

In 1969 and 1970, a large part of Iraq was hit by a severe drought and famine causing a shortage of wheat.

With seed reserves running low, the Iraqi government imported nearly one hundred thousand tons of high yielding Mexipak wheat from Mexico and the United States.

The wheat, however, was laced with a fungicide called methylmercury, which was to prevent spoilage during shipping.

Methylmercury is a nasty chemical and can damage the central nervous system of humans and animals. It causes symptoms such as paralysis, brain damage, and blindness. In higher doses, it can be fatal.

Anatomy of a Disaster

All the bags in that shipment were stamped with clear instructions on how to handle the lethal contents. To underline the dangers, the suppliers even emblazoned a skull and crossbones on each bag.

That should have be enough, right?  It wasn’t.

  • The warnings were in Spanish and English – pure gobbledygook to an average Iraqi villager.
  • The skull and crossbones meant the same thing to them as a QR code means to human eyes.
  • The wheat arrived too late in the planting season to be of any use, but was distributed to the farmers anyway.

With their previous stock of wheat planted, thousands of villagers who had no clue about the toxicity of the foreign wheat, used it as food and feed.

And within a month, disaster struck.

I won’t get into the gory details but the Iraqi incident was one of history’s largest cases of mass mercury poisoning.

And to think all this could have been averted if they had added a line in Arabic.

Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communication

Here’s another, less darker take on the cross-cultural communication.

A soda marketer was glumly sitting at the bar. His friend approaches and asks, “Why so serious?”

He replies, “I created this left to right comic strip for a campaign. It showed a famished man crawling across the desert who finds a bottle of soda, chugs it down, and walks away with a cheerful smile. Sales tanked after it ran in the Middle East.”


“Everyone read it from right to left!”

Avoid Cross-Cultural Miscommunication

While the Internet ensures your products and services can be sold all over the world, it does not make your customers and prospects react to your message in lockstep.

If you are selling to multiple countries or cultures consider the following:

  • Have localized versions of your website (if you have the resources). Don’t just have a literal, word-by-word translation of the copy from English to, say, German.
  • If you can’t afford multiple versions of collateral, avoid slang and clichés. It gets lost in translation.
  • Pay particular attention to your marketing channels. For instance, streaming video won’t be a hit in large parts of Asia and Africa where Internet speeds suck.
  • Subject lines in emails that might be marked as spam in the West could get a higher response rate in Asia. Experiment and test.


Cross-cultural miscommunication can have far reaching consequences. It was one of the reasons Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. It was also a major reason why the Israeli Army was beaten back by the Hezbollah  in 2006.

Do you have any “lost in translation” war stories? What would be your prescription to avoid such situations?

Bhaskar Sarma is a B2B tech copywriter and content marketer. He blogs at Pixels and Clicks and helps his clients create content that establishes them as a trusted solution provider. You can follow him on Twitter at bhas.

How to Get Started with a PR Firm: Four Tips for a Fruitful Relationship

September 19, 2011

Frequently new clients don’t really know how to work with us when they first hire us.  There are a few common problems, and start-ups (our specialty), whether domestic or from overseas, are more likely to experience them.

A steakhouse appetite on a fast-food budget

The best marketing directors we’ve worked with are excellent at prioritizing what’s essential now versus what can wait until they can afford it. Most marketing directors at start-ups worked for companies with bigger budgets and more back-up internally in previous jobs. They’re very needy when it comes to PR and marketing communications.  They want a lot of help, but can’t afford a big budget.    Prioritizing is essential in that environment.

A winning formula in one country may not work in others

The first common mistake business people from other countries make is assuming that the market here can’t be that much different from their own.  Companies from outside the U.S. often start a relationship with a PR company here by asking for the same services they received at home: “Here’s what we want from you. We need you to [choose one:] “set up a press conference,” [or] “arrange Wall Street Journal and New York Times interviews and get our CEO on the ‘Today’ show.”

They don’t know how the U.S. media works and how different it is from their own country.  We have to explain that press conferences are rarely held in the U.S.  to make a corporate announcement – unless it’s Steve Jobs announcing the launch of the iPad or BP trying to manage the communications after an oil spill. They aren’t aware of how social media is being used in public relations and marketing communications in the U.S., since social media is mostly just social (so far) in a lot of countries. The size and diversity of the United States is just an intellectual concept to them and not something they’ve experienced, so they think PR will cost about the same here as it does at home.

We’re consultants. Ask us what to do, don’t tell us what to do.

The second mistake is telling us what to do instead of asking us what we think should be done.  In many other countries, public relations doesn’t garner as much respect as  it does here.  Some of you are snickering, reading this, because the PR industry has its own image problems in theU.S., and we often feel we don’t get enough respect. Nevertheless, we have it good compared to PR people in many parts of the world.   It’s not uncommon for the most senior PR person in the company to  report directly to the CEO and sit on the senior management committee.  That’s respect.

We can’t help if we don’t know what’s really going on

When companies get started with a PR firm, it’s really important for them to brief the firm thoroughly and answer questions honestly and openly.  The PR industry’s code of ethics requires that confidential client information be kept confidential.  A company that is nervous about this can require its PR firm to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

If a company is secretive with its PR firm, the PR firm can’t help position the company favorably among competitors. If there’s a big problem the PR firm doesn’t know about and it comes out, the PR team is in a very awkward and difficult position of receiving media calls about an issue they didn’t know exists. Delays in responding and hesitation about how to answer difficult questions cause the client to look bad to the media.

When a company hires a PR firm, there’s a learning curve on both sides. We have to learn about a client’s company, products and/or services and goals, and the client needs to find out the best way of working with us.  A good client/agency relationship and a satisfying outcome (for both the client and the agency) are much more likely if we can get started the right way.

Lucy Siegel

Where Does Entrepreneurship Flourish, and Why?

December 21, 2009

Last week an article was published in Crain’s New York Business online about older entrepreneurs in the United States – older than 55 when they started a business. I was 55 when I opened Bridge Global Strategies, and I was interviewed for the article. It made me think about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, why some people are more apt to be entrepreneurial, and why some countries seem to be easier than others for business startups.

I’ve watched many overseas companies start American subsidiaries, usually with only one or two executives assigned from the home country to the U.S.  The ones who are successful have hearts and minds of entrepreneurs. Most of them are not particularly young, either.

It isn’t as easy to be a successful entrepreneur in some other parts of the world as it is in the U.S. Look at the U.S. biotech industry, where companies have been built on the strength of a single good idea, and consider software startups like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. All were started by individuals with little or no capital.  There are a few other countries that produce more than their share of successful entrepreneurs and some places that just don’t seem to be good environments for entrepreneurial ventures. I was curious about what factors cause some countries to be more hospitable than others to entrepreneurship.  Is it a national mindset, business traditions, government regulations, economic development, lack of stable corporate jobs, or what? I poked around a little online to see what others had to say about this, and I found a non-profit organization online, the Global Entrepreneurship Research Consortium (GERC), that publishes an annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) which reports the status of entrepreneurship around the world.  I highly recommend reading this very compelling report on what is a complex subject.

According to the report, in the U.S. there is more early-stage entrepreneurialism than in EU countries or Japan. Japan has evidently improved as an environment for entrepreneurs in the last few years.  It used to be very tough there for entrepreneurs but now it is at about the same level as the EU countries, according to the GEM report. The report says that the three EU countries with the lowest level of entrepreneurial activities are Belgium, France and Germany. Why? The GERC people don’t exactly know. Is it because people in those countries are less inclined to take risks? Or is it because there are enough attractive positions available there and economic need isn’t as much an incentive as it is in some other places.   The GEM report discusses the factors that make one country more or less favorable an environment for entrepreneurship: economic freedom global competitiveness and the ease of doing business are very important.

The executives from overseas who are assigned to start a U.S. subsidiary are fortunate that the U.S. market has the factors that make it relatively easy to start up a new company. But they themselves have to think like entrepreneurs.  They are the ones here on the ground in the U.S. and only they can make the best decisions about what needs to be done.  Sometimes they have to fight with headquarters staff to move the subsidiary in the proper direction.  Often those battles can be difficult and political and can be risky to their careers. So the type of individual who succeeds here in starting a subsidiary is someone with a very high desire to succeed, a risk-taker, a decisive person, a strong-willed person.

I believe that those are all qualities of entrepreneurs.

– –  Lucy Siegel

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