Making a case for creating a coordinated, regional communications program — and pulling it off — is no small order for today’s corporate communications and marketing pro. And it never has been.

As people who have been through it will tell you, it’s a challenging but worthwhile task, and most of all an exercise in relationship building.

They’ll also tell you that it’s not optional. A coordinated and consistent communications operation is a flat-out requirement for any global brand and responsible PR pro.

The good news is that it can be done successfully by following some basic advice. So, pack your suitcase and put on some comfortable shoes because it starts with logging some miles.

See it for yourself
I know about the wonders of Skype and the fancy video conferencing setup down the hall, but you have to see it up close. There is no substitute for visiting the local office and agency, going to a local newsstand and discussing things face-to-face.

Figure out what’s being done today in terms of PR and marketing. Who are the internal players and how do direction and approvals flow? Are there agencies working on the ground? Who do they report to? What’s the make-up of the team and are the fees in line with the local market and the scope of work? Collect evidence of external coverage, measurement, communications, advertising, marketing and especially any existing studies about your brand.

Finding the gaps
As any good communicator knows, it starts with asking the right questions. Ask people inside the organization where things could be better and how they think PR and marketing can best help the business grow.

Are the people on the ground adequately prepared for their roles? Are they connected to global communications in terms of strategy, new content and other resources?

In the end, it’s about the business. Find and fill in the gaps that prevent the organization from achieving it’s full potential. Put the organization in the best possible position to succeed in protecting the brand, increasing awareness and supporting sales.

The numbers
Ah yeah, here is where it gets tricky. Budget. Where there is budget, there is possibility. Chances are that in a fragmented communications organization there is money being spent. Well or poorly, it’s there. Tally it up and figure out how close or far you are to having adequate resources.

Also consider how will you organize your team and what makes sense in terms of accounting? One option is to have each office contribute its share to a central budget from which all local fees and expenses can be covered and dispersed. This model provides the most flexibility and control.

For some companies, this is just not possible due to accounting issues. The challenge here is that that flow of resources and authority may not be ideally aligned. Having the ability to approve invoices, evaluate, hire and fire dedicated staff and agencies goes a long way.

Sell it and execute – quickly
Get everyone’s buy-in and get a mandate from leadership. Make sure that everyone has a stake in what you’re doing and that there are reasonable expectations regarding roles and responsibilities, approvals and measurement. Nobody likes a change that they have no part in creating, so make sure that you give special attention to this part of the process.

Ramp up
Once you get the OK, move quickly, but be reasonable. Too much change at one time can be unnerving and there will be some fits and starts. Continue building trust and be accountable.

An integrated multi-country communications program is not a two-way street, it’s a highway intersection. Things move fast and around the clock. You will have to balance consistency, flexibility, share resources, be responsive and keep costs in check.

Think of a high-performance car. It doesn’t just go left or right, fast or slow. It does it all, drawing power and tension from different parts to slingshot you around a corner to where you want to go. A solid program isn’t be a rigid construct. Continue the conversation. Keep investing in and building relationships and be willing to make tweaks as you move forward.

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