Category Archives: Cultural

The 3 Must-Dos For F&B PR To Be Culturally Sensitive In The Region

Successful food and beverage (F&B) public relations (PR) goes beyond communicating the best tastes and prices, but a firm understanding of the underlying relations of F&B with culture, language and religion.

The Southeast Asian region is home to a kaleidoscope of cultural differences, and F&B PR professionals have to be sensitive to these differences in order to communicate a brand that successfully resonates with the hearts of the target consumers. Here are the top 3 things PR agents must take care of while doing F&B PR:

Respect The Locals’ Practices

Every country in the region has different food restrictions due to their cultural differences and religious practices, and this calls for PR professionals to be discerning in knowing what specific types of food would be suitable in each country.

Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are some key religions in the Southeast Asian region that follow certain dietary guidelines, such as only consuming Halal or (lacto)vegetarian food. As such, in the event of media tastings, PR agents have to be crystal clear about the religious profiles of the target media and their dietary restrictions, if any. This is a critical step that will demonstrate a brand’s respect and sensitivity for individuals’ cultural differences and religious practices.

Besides religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds of the target consumers are also important to take note of. For example, there is little or no acceptance of the consumption of exotic meats across many cultures. As such, a Facebook post by a local online grocery store to sell exotic meats like koala sausages and panda meat was considered offensive even for an April Fool’s joke. The intention of the campaign was to raise awareness on the plight of endangered animals and the perils of illegal animal trafficking. However, the way the campaign was executed was distasteful and ill-judged, as the brand disregarded Singaporeans’ cultural norms, hence drawing much flak from the locals and the large expat community in the country.

By respecting and catering to the locals’ cultural and religious practices, PR experts are essentially sending the right brand messages to help achieve mutual respect between both parties that will enable positive rapport building and garner support for the brand.

Know The Festivals

The variety of cultural festivals celebrated in the region, from Chinese New Year to Hari Raya and Christmas, is never a complete celebration without feasting. F&B plays a huge role in these events, and PR agencies should take time to research on the target country’s festivals and incorporate them into the calendar of a F&B brand’s PR efforts. Given the huge scale of these festivals, there is much potential to leverage on them by planning to coincide a restaurant opening, festive menu launch or special promotions with these celebratory dates. This positions F&B brands to be culturally aware and relevant to their target consumers.

Pay Attention To Language Use

Every culture is embodied by a different language, and with no two languages being the same in terms of meaning and structure, it is essential to pay attention to language use in the culturally diversified Southeast Asia. The same words in different languages may convey a totally different meaning and often this may be overlooked without a professional and astute eye when doing translation work for any publication materials. Especially in F&B PR, where products are meant for consumption, an inappropriate translation will lead to consequential miscommunication of ideas.

What works in one country may not work in another, especially in a culturally and religiously diverse region such as Southeast Asia. Regional PR agencies have to ensure research is done to acquire solid knowledge and understanding of the target locals’ language and cultural practices. Local PR agencies would be the best bet since they are experts in the local market and culture.

Conflict Resolution & Peacemaking Cross-Culturally in a Foreign Country

Cross-cultural conflict can be increasingly demanding and far more exhausting than dealing with people within your own country and culture.

During my tour of India, our team had an issue with a leader in Punjab. The disgruntlement occurred over a miscommunication, lack of understanding, and cross-cultural preference for articulating one’s feelings.

After giving an initial apology, we had a team meeting back in Bangalore at headquarters to further understand where we as a team went wrong. Endeavoring to learn from the situation and avoid repeating it again, we did some brainstorming and held a creative problem solving session.

Through the discourse and interaction the team came to realize its contributory negligence, while identifying the cultural hindrances that led to the inaccurate perception causing the offense.

Distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant data occurred as we patiently listened to everyone on the team tell their side of the story, convey their summation of the incident, and suggestion as to what we should do to solve the problem.

A collaboration of ideas led to the team formulating insightful recommendations that were wholeheartedly agreed upon and implemented by the team to alleviate the problem and resolve the conflict.

The results were evident as the professional relationship in Punjab was happily sustained and strengthened through the process.

Navigating through professional and relational conflict can be very challenging, but if you take the time to graciously do so the rewards are well worth it. Those who have disregarded internal conflict and opted to “be productive” and save time, have later learned that much time was later lost when the disgruntlement escalated and exploded into something nearly beyond repair.