Connecting Cultures

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Communication can be categorized in many ways, from global to corporate to interpersonal. Today at the UPS headquarters for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) we were lucky to experience a little of each form. We met in the corporate offices with Carsten Helssen, public relations manager, and Jim Daniell, a public relations representative for UPS EMEA, who shared with us the pros and cons of communicating with the large region for which they are responsible for.

The UPS EMEA communications team operates under one head of communications and includes both internal and external communication in departments such as advertising and brand management, customer communication and social media, employee communication and EMEA public relations, with around 18 team members. Similar in communication structure to how my employer, WellStar, is set up, I was able to find parallels with this global giant and my metro Atlanta focused employer.

I found the focus on alignment of messaging between internal and external communication very interesting, because of the challenge of continuing consistency between audiences. It is many corporations’ goal to create a brand and continue with the same message that aligns with the corporations mission and vision, however, this can prove difficult on many fronts. Just as Carsten spoke of some messages just are not right for certain audiences, sometimes communications professionals must make hard decisions to not communicate, even when it is against our nature as communicators. With the vast region that he oversees, sometimes UPS enterprise messages that originate from the United States do not cross over to the EMEA region, such as a local disaster in Oklahoma or NASCAR sponsorship.

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Even within the European sub region, the multitude of cultural backgrounds, history, and languages cause messages to become diluted from nation to nation, or in Belgium’s case, sometimes even between north and south. The messages can still ring true of UPS’s mantra of “best service,” but the language and meanings of individual communications may change. With thousands of employees from hundreds of different cultures and sub cultures, UPS not only has to tailor it’s customer messages but also the internal messages to employees.

As the customer interface, messages have to reach each and every member of the UPS team, from the executive offices to the delivery persons. Having such an international reach with drivers on the ground, from large city streets to back country roads, UPS has the challenge of reaching this multicultural, vast employee audience. With more than a billion dollars invested annually in technology, UPS uses cutting edge communication tools to ensure that each employee gets messages and also has the capabilities to deliver the best service, the fastest.

With their large budget for technological advancement, UPS is able to capitalize on the nuances of the businesses, just slightly doing everything better and faster than the competition. In today’s technology age, it is important for corporations to be aware of how technology can help facilitate communication on an internal and external basis. Hopefully, my employer can look into the vast opportunities in the healthcare world to better communicate with our patients, family members and team members. UPS is truly ahead of its game, in regard to consistent messages, timeliness, and the use of technology throughout their operations.

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