De Ru

Guntram Kaiser interviewed on Mediametrics about cross-cultural communication

5 February 2019

More and more companies are entering international markets, and the demand for promoting their goods and services in new regions is growing. How can one avoid cultural misunderstandings with foreign partners? The founder and managing director of KaiserCommunication GmbH Guntram Kaiser was joined by an expert at the Higher School of Public Administration at RANEPA (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration) Elena Dugina to discuss cross-cultural communication and product marketing in different countries on a programme hosted by the Russian communication expert Philipp Gurov and broadcast on the Russian internet radio station Mediametrics.

Both experts agreed that the importance of strategic planning should not be underestimated, especially when launching a new product abroad. “It is necessary to understand whether a product will work in a new market, and, if it will, whether in its original or an adapted form. One should analyse the situation on the market, the competition, distribution, prices, local laws and certification procedures. A successful product launch abroad requires cooperation between marketing and communication specialists and lawyers. As a German, I love strategies,” explained Guntram Kaiser.

Despite cultural differences between clients from different countries, it is important for PR agencies to adjust accordingly. For example, while planning months or years in advance is typical for clients from Germany and Great Britain, American and Russian clients require a more flexible approach. Elena Dugina noted that in that case self-irony and an interest to explore the world can help a lot. 

The experts also shared some experiences of cultural differences they have had. Thus, during his internship in Ethiopia in the 1980s, Guntram Kaiser was surprised that eating and even serving food to guests with one’s hands was a sign of friendship and hospitality even in a formal context, while in Europe this is only acceptable within the family. Philipp Gurov recalled a request to organise a press conference about the forthcoming launch of a product. He received this request at the end of December, when everyone in Russia is about to celebrate New Year’s Eve and enjoy their two-week-long holiday. Since there are no such long holidays in Europe around that time, it was not obvious to the client that hosting such an event at the very beginning of the year in Russia would not be effective. 

Ethics also became a topic of discussion. The host wondered why PR agencies in Germany would often refuse to work with clients from the tobacco or nuclear power industries, while in Russia, by contrast, agencies would be proud to be awarded such projects. Guntram Kaiser emphasised that each agency has its own code of conduct and philosophy, and he went on to compare the professions of a PR specialist and an attorney. The task of both is to provide a platform for expressing a client’s position, which does not necessarily mean that they share this position.

The issue of preparing students to work in this multicultural world was not left uncovered either. The experts shared cases from their teaching experience, and advised students to acquire more experience, to do internships abroad, to learn foreign languages, and to get to know the culture of the countries they are going to work with.

Listen to and watch the full version of the interview in Russian at https://goo.gl/4eLGpH.