Think global, talk local

Close to the place where I work at in Antwerp is an American hamburger chain restaurant. The place is ornamented with big newspaper quotes like “Heaven on a Bun” by the Tampa Tribune and “Willy Wonkas of Burgercraft” by the Washington Post. Very impressive.

But remember, this is all about a local franchise in Antwerp … Belgium … Europe. Almost 13 flight hours away from Tampa … Florida … United States and 6200 kilometers from Washington DC. Many of the Antwerp passers-by may never have heard about a US city called Tampa or a local newspaper named The Tampa Tribune. (In the reverse case I would even have written most of them.) And the posters don’t teach me anything about the origin of the quality of the food served in this local affiliate.

What’s the use of spending lots of communications money on quoting big titles from sources that don’t resonate with a large part of your audience? Or of including exotic case studies from overly remote customers in a business presentation? Local markets may be different. Customers may speak a different language. And audiences may have a different frame of reference. In an old post, “If the world were a village,” I gave the example of a financial presenter who talked about “blood red stock markets”… in front of a Japanese audience. While on the Tokyo stock exchange, upward trends are marked in red and downward trends in green.

I have repeatedly written on this blog about exploiting the power of storytelling to connect with people on an emotional level. To connect emotionally with your audience, however, the least you should do is adopt your stories, your words and the examples (or case studies) you use to the (local) audience. Capitalize on local successes, local heroes and local values. Your business presentations will be more impactful and better serve your local and, consequently, your global business. Even when you’re representing a global brand or an internationally renowned company.