Creating infrastructure for global communications – by APCO’s Imad Lahad

by APCO Worldwide’s managing director, Imad Lahad

In the pharmaceutical world, there is a concept called “Quality by Design”. In layman’s terms, it is a process that ensures consistently high-quality products by identifying and controlling all the variables that can affect the outcome, allowing you to manipulate different factors to generate very specific results.

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This framework can be applied to most systems in life, especially in today’s communications world. 

In the last two decades, as the world has become more digitised, communicators have had to scale up their efforts to reach global audiences. The challenge is that different markets care about different things; media landscapes, political structures, and cultural and educational legacies shape each country’s discourse to such a degree that it is nigh-on impossible to communicate a one-size-fits-all message. On top of that, every brand is competing for the same pairs of eyes, with time and language differences creating logistical challenges that can significantly limit collaboration opportunities and audience accessibility. Communication efforts that don’t address these nuances and variables may create ineffective campaigns at best, and damaging crises at worst. 

With a “Quality by Design” approach, communicators can create infrastructures that account for these nuances. By instituting a robust framework where you can plug and play different factors such as messaging, language, and stakeholders, you can build a scalable communications strategy that maximises audience reach across different markets. 

Of course, this does not replace the valuable input of experienced communications professionals, but it does make their jobs easier, granting them more time to focus on the things that really impact their brand, clients, and stakeholders. 

How Innovative Technologies Can Help Create These Infrastructures

Thankfully, technology has allowed us to create communications infrastructures that can easily be adapted for different markets. For example, AI-enabled platforms can monitor dialogue about the topics your stakeholders care about – which will differ in each market and affect how your messages will be perceived. With this pulse check, you can then determine whether your current communications action plan will be effective, or if you need to prepare a response for an emerging crisis before it happens. 

In this sense, the AI-enabled monitoring platform is the ‘framework’ while the ‘plug-and-play variables’ are the culture- and stakeholder-specific topics. Instituting this platform into your communications strategy allows for your response to be flexible, culturally sensitive, and most importantly timely to the conversations happening in your target markets. It enables a level of foresight that sharpens the connection between your communication efforts and what your audiences care about. 

Likewise, technology can help build scalable communications strategies by creating more streamlined collaboration avenues with stakeholders around the world. We’ve seen how the pandemic accelerated the migration to online video platforms, and there is a strong argument to be made that this change is permanent. 

The communications industry has taken this opportunity to create infrastructures that factor in different market nuances. For example, press conferences have been successfully held on virtual platforms across different continents with real-time communication with journalists and clients. These platforms take into account varying time zones, languages, and inquiries to maximise collaboration between media and clients. 

This structure can easily be adapted to events and announcements, where communicators can have end-to-end management tools. In this sense, the virtual platform is the ‘framework’, and the ‘plug-and-play variables’ are the content, language, and stakeholders. Embracing these technologies can not only reduce logistical headaches but also further reach in key markets by making it more accessible for stakeholders to collaborate and communicate.

Why This Matters for Global Communicators

In an increasingly interconnected world, communicators must be innovative in how they reach out to their audiences. While the digitisation of society created the illusion that it’s easier to engage audiences, in reality, it has underlined the importance of creating impactful strategies. With the help of cutting-edge technologies, robust communications infrastructures can enable brands to streamline their efforts while honing on what their stakeholders care about.

Leveraging the technology available to us today allows us to be flexible yet consistent, and it’s becoming clearer every day that this will become the industry standard. As my colleague, Abdullah Sahyoun aptly said, “Businesses refusing to embrace digitisation and AI would struggle to keep up with the competition as the rise of technology proves to be a watershed moment for industries.” 

In the context of global communications, we can use these technologies to have “Quality by Design” processes that have dependable frameworks in place to ensure a relevant, nuanced, and consistent approach for international audiences.