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Dr. John Cavanaugh manages the day to day operations of Cross Cultural Communications, LLC and directs their public affairs division. He previously served as Program Officer at the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, where he functioned as a liaison to National Issues Forums (NIF), a nationwide network of organizations committed to public policy deliberation.
His experience also includes time as a constituent services staff assistant in the Boston office of U.S. Senator John Kerry, as a budget analyst in the office of the Massachusetts state auditor, and as a research assistant professor in the Center for Citizenship at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Cross Cultural Communications is a small consulting business located in Columbus, Ohio that brings together a broad team of professionals from around the world to meet the special needs of each project. These individuals are not only experts in their fields, but they are also multicultural and have a solid understanding of how to convey the value of diversity, integration and global communications.
MO: What inspired you to create Cross Cultural Communications?
Dr. Cavanaugh: Cross Cultural Communications was the inspiration of my beautiful and multi-talented wife Lilleana, a native of Costa Rica and a naturalized U.S. Citizen. Over a decade ago, she clairvoyantly predicted that cultural competence would be the key 21st Century need for leading global companies. Later when Lilly started a full time MBA Program with Capella University, she asked me to come aboard to formally establish our trade name and to manage the day-to-day operations. I agreed with the understanding that she would eventually resume stewardship of the company and I would return to the public sector. Ironically, upon her graduation, Lilly was offered an important job in state government so I stayed at the helm of our business. My background did allow our firm to expand our portfolio into the realm of public affairs and government relations. Thus, it has been a truly rewarding experience!
MO: Can you talk about why easing travel hassles for foreign tourists is critical for the economy? What steps should we be taking to make our system more appealing and user friendly to those visiting from abroad?
Dr. Cavanaugh: Last year, the US Commerce Department reported that 62 million foreign visitors generated a record $153 Billion in revenue for our country. The US Travel Association says increasing foreign tourism might be the single most effective economic stimulus we can do to help offset our slow economic growth. However, a very time consuming, costly visa process and unwelcoming security in the aftermath of 9/11 have been impediments to our nation’s efforts to draw more foreign tourist dollars. The Obama administration has recently taken steps to streamline the visa process for visitors from China and Brazil. Likewise, a multi-million dollar, public-private, international advertising campaign has been launched to lure even more overseas visitors to the United States. It is estimated that the number of foreign tourists will increase to 65.4 million this year so we are off to a good start.
MO: Why is it important that organizations become more culturally aware?
Dr. Cavanaugh: The US Government Accountability Office and the Committee for Economic Development now estimate that American businesses lose up to $3 Billion every year because they lack of adequate cross cultural skills! Based on the 2010 US Census, Asians and Latinos are now the fastest growing populations in the United States. Businesses that embrace cultural diversity tend to increase their profitability in today’s marketplace. Likewise, organizations with effective diversity programs clearly serve their clients more efficiently. Given the upcoming general election this November, successful political candidates will ensure their platforms and messages resonate with key demographics in swing states.
MO: What are some ways that organizations can work towards understanding and embracing cross cultural diversity within the workplace?
Dr. Cavanaugh: For over a decade, our company has been honored to provide cultural awareness programs and seminars for a variety of organizations. Often these programs are timed to coincide with international celebrations, holidays, or community festivals. However, these sessions alone are not effective if they are simply viewed as sporadic events. To succeed long term, organizations should look for opportunities to join the local Asian, African, or Hispanic Chambers of Commerce if they are active in your area. Most importantly, carefully consider culturally diverse candidates for new openings or upcoming promotions within your organization. Overall be open to new cultures, sample new cuisines, and celebrate diversity!
MO: What are the most prevalent cross cultural issues that you see with your clients? How can they be avoided or corrected?
Dr. Cavanaugh: Our valued customers typically reach out to us when they are experiencing a significant demographic shift in their community or marketplace. In some cases, there is a linguistic barrier which results in a communication breakdown. Often we are able to easily resolve these issues by translating materials or Web site information into the appropriate language. Frequently we are needed for face-to-face, phone, or virtual interpretation. This is particularly prevalent in sales situations for businesses attempting to export their products or services. Several of our clients rely on us to pre- test the language skills of potential staff. Most ask us to facilitate organizational retreats to help anticipate cultural communication issues that may arise in the near future.
MO: You wrote, “Media Effects on Voters” back in 1995. The book presents an intensive analysis of mass media effects on voters and how various news items affected their voting choices. If you could add a chapter on Social Media what would the highlights include?
Dr. Cavanaugh: Sounds like you have been talking to my father William, a distinguished acoustical consultant from Boston and founder of Cavanaugh-Tocci Associates, Inc . He keeps asking me to publish an update so this just may be my chance! My research on the 1992 Presidential election replicated the brilliant 1984 study by Doris Graber, Processing the News: How People Tame the Information Tide. It also attempted to empirically test the ground breaking 1991 findings in Feeding Frenzy: How Attack Journalism Has Transformed American Politics by Larry Sabato.
Media Effects on Voters found that news items about various scandals universally reached citizens regardless of their level of interest in politics or access to media. Fortunately for our democracy, voters tended to overlook numerous exposes of character flaws in favor of policy proposals that would help fix the American economy.
It concluded with an open question about the future impact of the “new media” or what we now call “Social Media”. Most unfortunately, our “information tide” has morphed into a tabloid tsunami! “Feeding Frenzies” are now standard operating procedure for most major news outlets. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube have dramatically increased the speed and reach of “attack journalism”. On the bright side, citizens continue to demonstrate admirable adaptability and impressive capacity for public deliberation in spite of the obstacles. So while there is no end in sight to the media fixation on verbal gaffes and character flaws, I suspect that voters will once again confidently wade through the mud to the voting booth in support the candidate who they think will deliver prosperity to the nation.