Presenting Korean Culture 3: Communication is key

I have now, alas, given up asking the KCC to send me monthly details of their upcoming events. They have a monthly news-sheet available at their front desk, they know I like to be emailed a copy of it as soon as it is available in draft, but it never happens. They know my communication strategy, and choose not to leverage it. So one way of getting the word out for their excellent events, and to an audience which they do not normally access, is not being used to their advantage. This is disappointing.

In order to provide what support I can to their events, before doing my regular monthly events mailing, I check the various sections of the KCC’s website to see if I can piece together a picture of what might be happening there in the coming few weeks, and whatever I find I include in my events list wich is emailed to my contacts list, social media networks, and the academice community as well as on London Korean Links itself. But often I’m better informed about what is happening outside of the KCC. This used to surprise me, but I’ve learned to adjust my expectations. Part of the problem is that the KCC website is managed from Seoul. So in order to get updates posted, there’s a cumbersome process that needs to be complied with. And the London team does not have full control. Yes, there needs to be a certain amount of compliance with Ministry standards by the various Cultural Centres throughout the globe, but getting the message out to the potential audience is surely even more important.

The KCC does a great job in putting on events. But sometimes, from the outside, it looks like the event is an end in itself. And one suspects that a supplementary aim is the reporting of such events back to the bosses in Seoul. Communication to the local audience sometimes seems to be something which is not on the list of priorities.

As one example: I have yet to identify a person there whose job it is to communicate to the mainstream and alternative media or indeed the public at large about what they are doing, whether it be events in the immediate future or longer term plans. If you’re lucky enough to bump in to Jeon Hye-jung, Kim Seung-min or Shin Eun-jeong at the centre you’ll get some indication of the upcoming pipeline of events that they personally are organising, but the onus is on you to hunt them down and talk to them.

As another example: the recent Thames Festival generated significant pre-event interest. But was there anyone at the KCC who could answer questions from the public about it? Everyone loves b-boys, and the pre-event publicity implied that Sorea would be accompanied by b-boys. But breakdancing fans wanted to make sure that if they travelled to London for the show, they were going to be rewarded with some exciting b-boy action. Did anyone at the KCC know? If they did, they didn’t let on.

A third example: briefing the audience in advance about some of the star guests at some of the KCC events would greatly enhance the impact of such events and increase the cost-effectiveness of flying these stars to London in the first place. But as I mentioned in Presenting Korean Culture (2), this does not happen often enough.

As an aside, the previous ambassador Cho Yoon-je, whose last task before returning to Seoul was to open the Cultural Centre, sought to set up a committee of advisors to act as an informal sounding board for the Centre in forming its strategy. That committee was never established. Also under Ambassador Cho, and prior to the reorganisation of ministries under the new President, there was an informal group at the embassy (called the e-Team) which looked at broader communication issues. As happens when people change at any level in an organisation, priorities can also change, and the initiative died.

With a new Director now in place at the KCC, maybe communication can be included among those many competing priorities. There’s a great programme of events. How about telling us about them?

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