What Multinational Companies Need to Know to Access the Latin American Market
Cross-border relationships and a “boomerang” communications strategy are keys to operating freely in the region.
There’s a conflict at the heart of Latin American business.
On the one hand, many Latin American governments want to increase their standing within the international business and investor communities. On the other hand, outdated regulations and policies — and different cultural perceptions of the role of business in society — often pose challenges for multinational corporations considering expansion in the region.
Overcoming these challenges is tricky. Government officials must appease local constituencies, who are resistant to change. At the same time, the officials want to maintain valued relationships with multinationals and their industries during negotiations on their home turf. This splits the government’s advocacy discussions for regulatory reform, which can lead to poor communications and contradictory messaging between stakeholders in both geographies.
With language and cultural barriers compounding the issue, officials frequently default on the side of their constituencies. As a result, regulatory reform is stunted and multinational corporations do not have the freedom to operate and advance their business objectives in Latin America.
“Boomerang” and “Echo Chamber” Communications
The key to easing the conflict and promoting meaningful business reform in Latin America is consistent, pro-active advocacy prior to, and throughout, negotiations. This is where a “boomerang” communications strategy comes in: Employing a communications tactic in one geography with the objective of impacting regulatory process in the other.
In a hypothetical example, imagine a U.S. multinational corporation seeks to expand into Brazil. Prior to negotiations, it reaches out to government officials in Brasilia (Brazil’s capital) to frame the corporation’s position.
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As the negotiations start to get coverage in the Brazilian media, that content is strategically re-framed from Portuguese to English to appeal to the demands of the U.S. market and the regulatory priorities of the global sector of the multinational’s industry. It is then shared with reporters — typically in Washington, D.C. — who cover the sector.
When the U.S. media starts to cover the negotiations, the position from the Brazilian government is shared with reporters, which in turn sparks public responses from Washington stakeholders. These responses are in turn translated into Portuguese and shared with the Brazilian media. Hence, the “boomerang” strategy.
To end the cycle, Brazilian media coverage is proactively shared with the Brazilian Government and its stakeholders. By highlighting the adverse impact Brazil’s government position is having with the U.S. government and the investor community, the appropriate level of attention is reached in Brasilia; especially so as this discourse begins to directly impact that country’s reputation as a safe, stable place for multinational companies to expand and invest.
Throughout the process alliances with other industry and third parties must be built in both countries to broaden the campaign’s messaging.
Thus, continuous messaging boomerangs between stakeholders, giving the U.S. multinational more leverage during policy discussions than it would if it had simply let the content take its course.
Relationships are Essential
Clearly, relationships play a vital role in a boomerang strategy. A communications team with strong relations with the media and governments in Latin America and Washington is in the best position to advance the interests of highly regulated sectors looking to enact policy changes in Latin America.
The infographic below provides more detail on the elements of executing the boomerang and echo chamber strategy.
© Copyright 2019. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of FTI Consulting, Inc. or its other professionals.
Senior Managing Director