There is a multitude of frequently asked questions (FAQs) by the media, policymakers, employees and investors about globalization, its impact and how companies plan to respond. Unfortunately, the answers provided by business executives, as well as those in corporate communications departments, often result in more, sometimes hostile questions. Why? Those communicating the answers often do not put them in the appropriate context and/or do not have a sound understanding of today’s global issues. As a result, the answers usually create new objections, are muddled, complex, confusing and sometimes appear to be purposefully evasive. This quickly creates an atmosphere of distrust. The result: negative publicity that in some cases has destroyed businesses.

In order to effectively respond to sensitive issues that could impact the interests of a company or organization, it is essential to have an adequate understanding of the subject, its leverage points, emotional hot buttons, likely objections and the talking points required to successfully overcome those objections.

In determining how to address various issues, proceed with a process this author describes as riding the “logic train.” In discussing the dimensions of a particular topic, a flow of logic may drive the train in a particular direction. After more debate, an important point or obstacle may turn the train in another direction. And after even more deliberation, the train may turn on a totally different track. The benefits of this analysis are tremendous. In addition to considering a variety of perspectives, the experience of riding the logic train reveals a multitude of issues not initially considered relevant. In the end, by looking at a topic from 360 degrees, you will be prepared to confidently and persuasively discuss the most controversial issues. This may be tantamount to playing chess—with a focus on the next four moves.

What follows are frequently asked questions involving sensitive international business issues and their coinciding compelling talking points. But to achieve greater depth and perhaps more appropriate responses—which requires an understanding of situational details—riding the logic train and applying strategies outlined in Part II are highly recommended.

This section appeared in the introduction of Part III: Frequently Asked Questions and Talking Points of the book Grasping Globalization: Its Impact and Your Corporate Response, 2005.
Topic: Strategies
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When dealing with newspapers, magazines, radio and television companies, as well as electronic and online media, it is imperative to understand one key thing: the media is bombarded with information daily. This information comes in numerous forms, such as news releases from companies and community groups, announcements from local, state and federal government agencies, and stories from wire services (e.g., Associated Press International).

This enormous and overwhelming amount of information cannot possibly be covered in the press. So what makes the media select some stories over others? Simply put, reporters like unique, interesting and especially controversial stories that relate to their readers’ lives. Unfortunately, quite often the media may be quick to decide that any announcement regarding a company’s global business decisions could mean bad news for the public. As a result, when communicating your company’s global business decisions, be sure to let reporters know exactly how your decisions will impact your employees and local community. And use the suggested talking points in Part III to help put your company’s decisions in context.

However, to ensure the best possible coverage of your company and its position, it is imperative to establish a relationship with the media before any potentially negative information is released. You can do this by suggesting a positive story idea before any difficult decisions are made. But you need to know that today’s media works more quickly than ever before. Racing against the clock and competing with instantaneous information channels, the media does not have any time to waste. This is why you must respect the media’s time constraints and learn when is the best time to contact a reporter. In general, the best time of day to contact a news desk is early to mid-morning, but many reporters also work evenings. When in doubt, prior to sending any information to the media, call the reporter to introduce yourself and find out what is best for his/her schedule.

Reporters need to grasp the central idea of a story, understand what makes it newsworthy and put it into words and images their readers/viewers can best understand. So overall, the best approach to take with the media is to be honest, up front and sincere. If you consistently tell the plain and simple truth to reporters in the most prompt manner possible—even when the news may be sensitive or controversial—you will help your company beyond compare. And, if you demonstrate respect for a reporter’s time, job requirements and position, chances are he/she will treat you in kind.

Media Tips

Once you’ve created an environment of mutual respect, you may find yourself dealing with the media in a variety of ways, such as through a telephone or in-person interview, at a news conference or public event, or even over a friendly luncheon meeting. To avoid speculation, rumors or negative publicity, and regardless of the situation, ongoing communication with the media should follow some simple steps.

Before an Interview 

  • Appoint a company spokesperson(s). It may be the CEO, another member of senior management and/or your company’s communications expert. Next, make sure this person is well trained and works closely with the company’s in-house communications department (or if your company has no in-house expertise, a communications/public relations professional). The appointee should be well-spoken, knowledgeable, confident and able to present the company’s viewpoint clearly and coherently, even when under pressure. Using one to two spokespeople will guarantee that your company messages and positions remain consistent and constant.
  • Familiarize yourself with the publication or program at which your interviewer is employed. Understanding the reporter’s audience, format and context is key.
  • Respond promptly to interview requests. It is fine to call a reporter back as soon as possible and then schedule a time to speak a little bit later. Whatever you do, do not ignore calls or forget to call a reporter back. Nothing angers a reporter more than being ignored.
  • Always have clear answers to Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? And be sure your answers are short and quotable.
  • Be prepared, know your facts and have printed materials, including background information, charts or photos ready to share. These materials may take the form of a press kit, which also contains your company’s history, contact numbers and any other relevant information.
  • Create some difficult questions you think might be asked and practice your response. Role play interview situations with another employee until you feel comfortable.
  • Videotape your practice sessions and check your body language and eye contact. You should appear calm and focused and you should look at the interviewer, not the camera or off in the distance. In short, it’s imperative that you come across confident but not cocky.
  • Choose the most important point you want to make and put the following in front of it: “The key thing here is…” No matter what questions are asked, find a way to communicate that one sentence message.
  • Work on making your comments brief and not filling in silent pauses or dead air time. It is the reporter’s job to keep the interview moving along.
  • Think very carefully before turning down an interview request. Refusal to talk with the media can be construed as if you have something to hide. Plus, reporters always will go to another source, and he/she may not be as credible or knowledgeable as you are.

 During an Interview

  • Be consistently positive about your position. Remember every interview is an opportunity to reach a large audience with your own words and images to present your company in a positive light.
  • Tell only what you want the interviewer to know. Take your time and answer questions carefully. Remember, every single thing you say can be printed or used! Going “off the record” is not recommended.
  • Be polite, friendly and accommodating, never arrogant or defensive. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I need to check on that.” And then be sure to get back to the reporter with that information as quickly as possible.
  • Whatever you do, do not lie or massage the truth. Also, do not say “No comment.” That will make you appear as if you are hiding something.
  • Use simple terms and express yourself concisely. Do not use industry abbreviations or jargon. Remember your audience likely is the general public/community and chances are a reporter may not know very much about your topic. As such, do not assume the reporter has background information.
  • Use examples or analogies to outline your message. This tactic can illustrate your point in a way that helps the reporter, and ultimately the public, visualize, understand and identify your position (see the fishermen analogy in Part III).
  • Listen to the reporter’s questions and answer them as best you can. Also try to weave in as much as possible on your company’s position. Have a few 10-second sound bites memorized that you can use comfortably. In short, use questions as a jumping-off point or as an opportunity to expand on your position.
  • Avoid answering “What if?” questions. In response to those kinds of questions, reply “I don’t want to speculate on that.”
  • Show your concern if there is a problem and demonstrate what your company is doing to address and remedy the situation.
  • Stress the human angle and focus on how communities may ultimately benefit from the action you’re taking.
  • If the story could be construed as negative, don’t provide unnecessary information. Stay focused and only answer the questions you are asked.
  • Never insult the reporter by asking to see the story before it goes to print. However, you may say “Let’s review my quotes to be sure they’re all correct.” This is two-fold in its focus: you can clear up any misunderstood or misinterpreted statements and you can get an idea of the angle or direction the reporter is taking with the story.
  • Offer to be available for additional questions or clarification.

 After an Interview

  • If by accident you provided or your company released incorrect information, correct it as soon as possible. Most often, the best way to deal with mistakes is to admit you made them and then help correct them.
  • Unless a major or egregious error is made, don’t call to complain about a story after it appears or airs. If you do feel the need to call, calmly and politely identify the error and request a correction. Chances are simple human error is to blame and you don’t want to destroy a media relationship over an isolated event. Remember, it is more important to keep the relationship positive and respectful than to feel vindicated.
  • Do not assume that because your company advertises with the reporter’s publication or program that your story will receive preferential treatment or placement. Advertising and news are two totally unrelated areas and reporters dislike it when companies think there is any connection or correlation between the two.
  • The media controls the final outcome, not you. You have no input on the use or placement of your interview or anything else you submit to the media (i.e. news release, op-ed). You must respect the media’s position and do your best to present your message in the best way possible.

All in all, how well you work with the media plays an extremely important role in the success or failure of communicating your company’s decisions. In summary, remember that the messages and information you provide to the media will help determine what the public thinks and whether or not they will understand and support your position. And also remember, what has been outlined above is only a starting point in terms of media relations. For additional information and more detailed strategies, you should work with your in-house communications executive or an outside professional.

This section appeared in Part II: Tips and Strategies for Communicating Responses of the book Grasping Globalization: Its Impact and Your Corporate Response, 2005.
Topic: Strategies
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International trade and globalization have been vital factors in the economic growth and wealth creation of the United States. Now, due to current trends, trade and globalization are even more important to our future well-being. In addition to being a primary generator of business and job growth, they also provide consumers greater disposable income, further improving our standard of living. For example, a May 2005 report published by the OECD, says reforms that enhance market competition, reduce tariff barriers and ease restrictions on FDI are estimated to boost GDP per capita 1 to 3 percent in the United States, 2 to 3.5 percent in the European Union, and an average of 1.25 to 3 percent in OECD member countries.

Topic: Strategies
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Global demographics are shifting at an accelerated pace. This is causing certain national markets to expand while others contract—all while shaping the world economy. Increasing consumer income in a national market quickly translates into greater demand for goods and services there. In turn, that country is likely to attract more foreign direct investment.

In other countries, a rising median age affects consumer needs, preferences and tastes, and also impacts demand. As this occurs, companies continuously monitor where their markets—or moving targets—are growing and shrinking. In response, many move production and service facilities closer to the expanding markets in order to better serve them. These realities are not always easy to explain in an environment that is suspect of corporate motives.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world’s total population surpassed 6.4 billion in January 2005 and is anticipated to exceed 7 billion by 2013. Where these people live will influence decisions by American companies as to where to build their future production facilities. For example, companies sometimes choose to produce goods and services in the foreign country in order to eliminate ocean transportation costs, tariff barriers and other costs. Plus, proximity often enables companies to gather better intelligence on changing market conditions so they can quickly adjust. This is why foreign-owned multinationals operate in the United States. And according to Insourcing Jobs: Making the Global Economy Work for America, by Professor Matthew J. Slaughter of the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, these foreign companies employed 5.4 million Americans with a U.S. payroll of $307 billion in 2002.

Following long-established geographic and cultural patterns, almost all the net population growth—the difference between births and deaths—will occur in developing countries located in Asia, Latin America and Africa. For example, by 2013, China’s population is expected to reach almost 1.4 billion, followed by India’s, projected at 1.2 billion. Indonesia follows at 268 million, Brazil at 201 million, Pakistan at 190 million, and Bangladesh at 169 million.

Average per capita income in developing countries is understandably low as compared to developed countries. In 2005, for example, GDP per capita is estimated at approximately $41,700 for each American, according to the International Monetary Fund. On the other hand, per capita income is approximately $6,500 in Mexico, $1,340 in China and only $620 in India. Based on these figures, anti-trade organizations often conclude that consumers in these countries cannot afford American products or services. Should U.S. companies subscribe to this logic, they will be at a loss. In terms of buying power, general per capita income figures can be misleading. For instance, India is estimated to have a middle class of more than 200 million people with the same purchasing power as the U.S. middle class. And according to Robert Wu, a consultant who works with Chinese and American firms, “China has 200 to 300 million people living in urban areas with considerable consumption capacity.” For just about all U.S. exporters and investors, a new and relatively affluent market of 200 to 300 million plus consumers is well worth pursuing.

Additionally, the average life span continues to rise, and is projected to increase from 64 years in 2002 to 69 years by 2025, and to 77 years by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This increased longevity has contributed to global population growth and is leading to a shifting age demographic characterized by higher proportions of the elderly. As a result, over the next two decades the age structure of world population will continue to shift, with older age groups making up an increasingly larger share of the total. In fact, the number of people age 65 and over is estimated to more than double. The greatest relative increase will occur in developing countries, while the largest absolute change will take place in Asia. The bottom line: by 2020, two-thirds of the world’s elderly will live in developing countries.

As this age shift occurs, the elderly population in the United States and the rest of the developed world will increase by more than 50 percent. Concurrently, demand for products and services designed to satisfy the needs of this group will increase. For example, Americans over the age of 50 tend to use significantly more pharmaceutical products than any other segment of the population. As the world’s population continues to age in both developed and developing countries, the demand for health-related products, as well as home care, is anticipated to skyrocket. In response, many U.S. companies that produce health related products and services are likely to relocate facilities in proximity to this expanding market.

As the elderly population grows in numbers, the median age of the world’s people will continue to rise as well. Not to be confused with average age, the median means half of the population will be above and half below the age cited. In 1998, the median age was 24 in less developed nations, and 37 in more developed countries. However, by 2025, the median ages will rise to 30 and 43, respectively. Keep in mind: these people will grow up in an increasingly sophisticated age in terms of technology, communications and consumer products. Many of these age groups will be influenced by American culture; as youngsters they will listen to American music, watch American movies and wear American blue jeans. This also is a generation that will be better educated and enjoy a more affluent lifestyle.

What implications does this have for consumer spending? According to Harry S. Dent, Jr., author of The Roaring 2000s Investor, on average, Americans enter the workforce at age 19, get married at age 25.5 (27 for men and 24 for women), bear their first children two years later, and purchase their first homes at age 33 or 34. They trade up to the largest homes they’ll own by 44, and fully furnish them by age 46.5 or 47. Interestingly, the average American also reaches peak spending at about 46, the same time the kids leave home. Dent observes that empty-nest couples then spend more on vacation homes, travel and leisure. They also become prospects for investment services and products as they approach retirement age.

Spending patterns in other developed nations are similar to those in the United States. As a result, it’s reasonable to assume that as the median age rises and life expectancy increases in developed countries, from 76 years in 2002 to 80 years by 2025 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, consumer spending also will rise. Depending on a company’s products or services, relocating facilities within close reach of these growing markets may be recognized as a sound strategic decision in the business community, but may be labeled as anti-American in the political community.

By studying shifts in world demographics, a company can pinpoint where tomorrow’s major populations will live, identify the fastest-growing age groups (an important indicator of tastes and needs) and predict, based on similar demographics elsewhere, demand for certain products or services. In turn, this will influence where a company’s next factories or service centers will be built.

This section appeared in Part I: Understanding Today's Global Realities of the book Grasping Globalization: Its Impact and Your Corporate Response, 2005.
Topic: Strategies
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As we enter 2005, global demographics are shifting at an accelerated pace. This is causing certain national markets to expand while others contract—all while shaping the world economy.

In specific countries, consumer income is increasing resulting in healthier imports. In others, a rising median age is affecting consumer needs, preferences and tastes. If incorporated in your global trade and investment strategy, this information can be extremely valuable.

The First Step

Conduct research to identify the locations of tomorrow’s growing and declining markets. Determine consumer needs and demands, understand how tastes may change, and project future levels of disposable incomes. Sound difficult? Read on.

By studying shifts in world demographics, you can pinpoint where tomorrow’s major populations will live, identify the fastest-growing age groups —an important indicator of tastes and needs—and predict, based on similar demographics elsewhere, demand for your products or services.

Once you have completed your research, the next step is simple. Concentrate on those regions that hold the most marketing promise and put the others on hold. You may want to take the analysis further, by categorizing geographically and demographically where your most serious efforts should be directed.

Locate Tomorrow’s Largest Population Centers Today

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world’s total population surpassed 6.4 billion in January 2005. This is anticipated to exceed 7 billion by 2013.

Where will those people live in the first quarter of the twenty-first century? Following long-established geographic and cultural patterns, almost all of the net population growth (the difference between births and deaths) will occur in developing countries located in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For example, by 2013, China’s population is expected to reach almost 1.4 billion, followed by India’s, projected at 1.2 billion. Indonesia follows at 268 million, Brazil at 201 million, Pakistan at 190 million, and Bangladesh at 169 million. Note: In 2013 the United States is projected to be the third most populous country with 317 million people.

Don’t Just Focus on Average Income

Average per capita income in developing countries is understandably low as compared with developed countries. In 2004, for example, U.S. gross domestic product per capita was approximately $39,000. On the other hand, per capita income in China was about $1,100 and only $530 in India.

Based on these figures, some U.S. exporters may conclude that consumers in China or India can’t afford their products or services. That could prove to be a costly mistake.

In terms of buying power, general per capita income figures can be misleading. For instance, India is estimated to have a middle class of more than 200 million people with the same purchasing power as the U.S. middle class. For just about all exporters and investors, a new and relatively affluent market of 200 million plus consumers is well worth pursuing.

Review Fastest Growing Age Groups

Since the 1970s, the average life span shot up about 11 years. This increased longevity has contributed to global population growth and is leading to a shifting age demographic characterized by higher proportions of the elderly. As a result, over the next two decades the age structure of world population will continue to shift, with older age groups making up an increasingly larger share of the total. In fact, the number of people age 65 and over is estimated to more than double. The greatest relative increase will occur in developing countries, while the largest absolute change will take place in Asia. The bottom line: by 2020, two-thirds of the world’s elderly will live in developing countries.

As this age shift occurs, the elderly population in the United States and the rest of the developed world will increase by more than 50 percent. How will this affect demand for your products or services?

Tailor Your Products or Services To Suit Aging Populations

As the world’s elderly population increases, demand for products and services designed to satisfy its needs also will increase.

For example, Americans over the age of 50 tend to use significantly more pharmaceutical products than any other segment of the population. As the world’s population continues to age in both developed and developing countries, the demand for health-related products, as well as home care, is anticipated to skyrocket. Exporters and investors may wish to consider investigating this market segment in depth.

Follow the Median

As the elderly population grows in numbers, the median age of the world’s people will continue to rise as well. Not to be confused with average age, the median means half of the population will be above and half below the age cited.

In 1998, the median age was 24 in less developed nations, and 37 in more developed countries. However, by 2025, the median ages will rise to 30 and 43, respectively. Keep in mind: these people grew up in an increasingly sophisticated age in terms of technology, communications and consumer products.

Many of these age groups were influenced by United States’ culture; as youngsters they listened to rock ‘n roll, wore blue jeans, and enjoyed American-style burgers and fries. This also is a generation that has become better educated, built an expanding middle class and is enjoying a more affluent lifestyle.

What implications does this have for consumer spending? According to Harry S. Dent, Jr., author of The Roaring 2000s Investor, on average, Americans enter the workforce at age 19, get married at age 25.5 (27 for men and 24 for women), bear their first children two years later, and purchase their first homes at age 33 or 34. They trade up to the largest homes they’ll own by 44, and fully furnish them by age 46.5 or 47.

Interestingly, the average American also reaches peak spending at about 46, the same time the kids leave home. Dent observes that empty-nest couples then spend more on vacation homes, travel and leisure. They also become prospects for investment services and products as they approach retirement age.

Developed Country Spending Patterns Are Similar to Those in U.S.

Spending patterns in other developed nations are similar to those in the United States. As a result, it’s reasonable to assume that as the median age rises in those countries, consumer spending also will rise. Depending on your products or services, closely targeting these consumers may be a sound strategic decision.

This article appeared in Impact Analysis, January-February 2005
Topic: Strategies
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