How can a piece of written text promote community, and yet, apply itself globally? By all accounts, globalization and community seem like a poor coupling; how can we think globally and still apply local, community based ideals? Almost a year ago, I was faced with this same question. Prior to graduating with my undergraduate degree, I was given the opportunity to take a “World Englishes” course at Northern Arizona University. The course looked to primarily focus on how English is being used around the world, but specifically looked at how English is applied in different geographic and culture associated continuums. I soon learned that the class based on the role of English in other countries wasn’t only filled by American students looking to teach English internationally, as I had initially supposed. Rather, my class was filled with Chinese exchange students and other pupils from around the world. My predictions were largely incorrect — I had assumed that a class based on the globalization of English would be filled with students from my own background. Then, in a sort of paradox, I quickly understood that communication is necessary around the world. In essence, communication is a universal concept that authors and communities are constantly looking to address.
In retail, social media, and marketing, applying oneself to a global approach is highly beneficial. The Center for Journalism Ethics also reinforces this point, as globalization is essential for a thriving, multinational business: “a non-global ethic is no longer able to adequately address the new problems that face global jurisdiction.” We have since learned that we cannot apply a global approach to a local problem. Not only does successful communication open markets that would otherwise be closed to one culture, globalization affords organizations the ability to apply the message to people all around the world. However, globalization and writing for an intended audience problematizes a few things.
If you have been following my blogs, it is apparent that REI is a huge facet of my life. This last spring, the American company moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, a city that the locals take pride in and strive to protect. On one occasion, we had a shopper approach an employee, citing that REI would drive other businesses out of the area. Rather than cite REI’s approaches in other cities or the co-op mission statement, the employee acted respectfully and within the appropriate context. They simply responded that the new store had actually written other stores within the area and had invited them to our vendor clinics and our grand opening, where they too could learn about the products we carry and how they could react in due time. We also issued newsletters and fliers that informed the city of our community night featuring local artists and elected officials.
In this sense, error largely falls on the employee or author that must react to a global situation with a local solution in mind. For writing, it is our intent to apply global expectations in an approachable way. Deborah Cameron cites in her article, “Globalization and the Teaching of Communication Skills”, that we must find “unity in diversity” (69). We must then establish a community through local similarities. For REI, that large similarity is the ability to tell stories and promote our passion for the outdoors. If you are familiar with my previous blogs, than you might already be familiar with how REI approaches social media and necessity of community. If you are seeking more information about REI’s roles in local communities, please look at my previous blog concerned with social media.
For REI and the social marketing team, community is a foundation from which all other aspects are founded. With this in mind, let us look at my “World Englishes” course once more. Today, communication thrives on the concept that there are implicit and explicit expectations between the speaker and the receiver. Unfortunately, globalization and the need for community has complicated our past concepts of communication and how we approach global audiences. Cameron concludes in her article that the “increasing sense that speaking and listening, long taken for granted as things everyone could do ‘naturally’ without special help, are in need of more explicit and systematic attention” (76). Fortunately for us modern, professional writers, courses like “World Englishes” and Dr. Gruber’s “Written Communication in Professional Organizations” have been implemented to fill the void. Global communication is a skill that must be practiced and implemented correctly.
Lastly, when looking to apply ourselves to a global setting, we must apply ourselves locally. Global communication with a local context takes skill, research, and practice. We will need to make revisions and learn from our mistakes. Looking back at REI’s approach to a local community, let us remind ourselves that our goals should be focused on integrating and promoting universal norms and concepts. Dorene Starke-Mayerring comments concludes this point in her article, “Meeting the Challenges of Globalization,” while explicitly stating what our role is within the community:
“For professional communicators, then, this shift toward communicating in open, participatory, and networked genres means that they need to understand how to connect and communicate across diverse cultural contexts to build, navigate and manage these communication and information networks” (476).
Let us then act accordingly and look to apply our messages globally, with the intent of building our roles within the diverse, yet associated communities. When moving to Flagstaff, REI didn’t look to complicate relations between the community and the co-op. Instead, we embraced our foundation and passion for the outdoors. The community soon followed and now views us as a resource only focused on getting people back outside.
Cameron, Deborah. “Globalization and the teaching of ‘communication skills.’” Globalization and Language Teaching. Ed. David Block and Deborah Cameron. London: Routledge, 2002. 67-82. Print
Starke-Meyerring, Doreen. “Meeting the Challenges of Globalization.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 19.4 (2005): 468-499. Print.