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How Cultural Intelligence is helping brands communicate better

Cultural intelligence coach and senior PR manager Tanya Pato has worked with major South African brands; assisting them to harness key cultural insights that empower them to embrace and champion diversity and inclusivity.

As the world continues to shift post pandemic, crucial movements like Black Lives Matter have put to bed the idea that transformation can be defined as a single Black face in a campaign but it requires a demonstrable understanding of culture and people, of what matters and why. That understanding is cultural intelligence, something that all of us need to know more about and apply to everything we do.

Here, Tanya chats to GLAMOUR about her role and culture in general.

Hello Tanya, please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a bad ass bitch! The end!

Jokes aside, my name is Natanya (known as Tanya) Vuyiswa Pato and I am of Xhosa descent born to the Kings and Queens of the AmaQwathi and oWushe bloodline. I am the last born of three girls, born and raised in the City of Cape Town. I have an honours degree in Brand Communications, a diploma in marketing and a certificate in Women in Leadership UCT’s graduate school of business. My day job is as a PR practitioner for a leading retail brand. I am also a mom to my biggest blessing, my son Amari.

What does heritage mean to you?

It is the acknowledgement that there are people who came before me who lived a way of life that has contributed to who I am today. And it’s possible that if it wasn’t for their way of life, I would not have mine today. Within that way of life there are traditions, cultures, beliefs and ways of being, which today we continue to practice as they are in part a part of my identity. Heritage also means that as much as I’m an individual, my individuality is also part of a bigger collective.

Conversations around our cultures and heritage don’t happen often enough, what do you think can be done to encourage such discussions?

People need to adopt a more inquisitive and open-minded perspective, and make more of an effort to go beyond what we are comfortable with and that we understand. We need to appreciate and embrace the value in difference and diversity and we need to seek out people who are different to us.

We can talk about technical means of structuring these conversations in the workplace and through media but really the starting point is the individual. We’re 60 plus million South Africans and one of the most diverse countries in the world and yet our innate desire is to gravitate to what is safe and what we know is still pervasive. This is fundamentally where the shift needs to take place. The conversations at this point in time should be around embracing diversity and difference and unlocking these beyond just a cultural level. It’s not about tolerance, but about authentic embrace that will allow individuals to feel seen and heard despite their beliefs.

How important is preserving culture and heritage, including food, clothing, hairstyles, music, traditions etc, for our future generations?

It’s incredibly important. Culture always changes as we add, remove and build on it. There’s a reason why we do certain things in some cultures. It’s important to pass these things down (heritage) because there is wisdom in all of our cultures. When you go beyond just the traditions and you really understand the meaning behind the things that our cultures prescribe we often find that there’s great wisdom and knowledge. It’s not just about handing over the practices, it’s about handing over the reason and wisdom within our cultures and heritage.

Identity or a sense of self or belonging is important, how does that relate to you as a PR practitioner?

Sense of self for me is about affirming myself and not looking to the outside world or outside things to do so. It has no relation to my job but a direct relation to the woman I am and proudly choose to show up in the world as.

My role as a PR practitioner happens to be a part of it but it is not my identity or self-worth. In life I play many roles, I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a businesswoman and a PR practitioner (to name but a few) and my sense of self identity exists within all these roles that I play and being a PR practitioner is just one of them. With that said, given that PR requires a lot of relationship management and engagement with people, an assured and authentic sense of self is important for this role.

In your role as a PR practitioner, you communicate with innovative transformation strategies and knowledge and brands that relate to different cultures, ethnic groups and audiences. How do you navigate this in your role to ensure that you are communicating the right message?

By having an understanding of the penetrating consumer insight, the fundamental human truth of the different audiences that we’re trying to connect with. As a brand trying to connect effectively with an audience, it is vital to place the audience at the centre. This means understanding them deeply, not just at a superficial level. Brands that do this, are able to connect at a more authentic and meaningful level.

In addition, working with cultural intelligence experts further enables brands to tap into audiences on a deeper level. We shouldn’t think that we know it all, and it’s crucial that we make our circle bigger by working closely with these experts to unlock the human truth

*To learn more about Cultural Intelligence visit @pato_cultural_intelligence on Instagram.

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