An Interview With Japanese Marketing Expert May Nakamura
I discovered May Nakamura when she found out about me through Emiko Rasmussen of the Her Confidence Her Way podcast. May contacted me, asking to chat and learn more about what I do. I was inspired by May’s curiosity and proactiveness. Although we’ve not yet met in person (she lives in San Diego and I’m in Tokyo), we’ve become good friend online.
I hope you enjoy this interview. You can read the concise version below or click on the audio player below to listen to the unedited version of our conversation.
Congratulations to May for stepping out of her comfort zone when she agreed for us to record this. Great results!
What kind of communicator do you want to be?
I want to be someone who can make people happy and feel connected. I want to motivate people – give “genki” to people by sharing my knowledge and thoughts. I want to connect people to each other or to information. I want to be like a bridge.
What is important for you?
I I get feedback from people that they receive “genki” from me and that makes me happy and gives me “genki” too!
What is one communication success that you can share with us?
My first job after college was to launch and run the Japan office for a Korean provincial government. Back then, I couldn’t speak any Korean. I was the only Japanese employee in the office and the only one who could speak Japanese. I put a lot of effort into learning the Korean language and culture. At the same time, I tried not to have stereotypes about Korean or Japanese people. I tried to communicate with the person regardless of nationality. I think that helped to build relationships with my boss, coworkers, people in the media and government. Business is made from people. It’s important to understand the culture, but you don’t want to use it to judge people – that was my learning and communication success.
Why is it important to understand the culture even if you’re not using stereotypes?
If you show that you understand people’s culture, they’re happy. Korea and Japan have a lot of historical issues, so some people might not have a good image of Japanese. We can create a better relationship if we show understanding and interest.
What if you don’t know much about another person’s culture?
Try not to judge others from your perspective. And you can ask. It can be a topic to talk about – an icebreaker. Do you do this in your culture? How do you do this? I was originally interested in different cultures and I wanted to know. People are happy to teach you when you show interest
What is one communication failure you can share with us?
I make a lot of mistakes and try not to remember them all! Of course, we need to learn from our mistakes. One customer asked a question, and I simply replied based on my assumption. I didn’t want to waste time. I thought it was the correct answer. Later it turned out that was not the right answer and that wasted their time and resources as well as mine. So since then, my lesson learned is always confirm 100 percent before you reply.
What if you need to make a response, but aren’t able to confirm? For example, in a presentation Q&A?
In my case, I could say, “Let me check and get back to you.” Maybe in a presentation too? Sometimes we don’t know the answer and that’s okay.
What is most challenging for you in communication right now?
I’m focusing on communication with myself. Now I have lots of responsibility and priorities. I want to achieve my new goals. It’s important to take time to discover myself. I recently realized there are a lot of parts of me that I still don’t know.
I hire a coach. We meet every other week and go over how I feel and what I’m working on. I take lots of notes. For example, when I have insecurities. I try not to go down a rabbit hole. I ask why I think this way and take notes. Sometimes, I look back at positive feedback from my clients and I realize people need my support.
What is the benefit of having a coach?
I hired a coach even in Japan, even though it’s a relatively new concept there. I used to think that smart people came up with all the ideas by themselves. Now I don’t think that way. To achieve your goal, do whatever you can. Ask for help. Sometimes a better idea comes. A coach can ask you open questions and that’s difficult for me to do myself.
What is the benefit of journaling?
I like writing down notes and do it all the time. But another benefit of journaling is to verbalize your feelings, so you can recognize them better and face yourself better. If you have some ideas in your head, they’re easily gone. But if you write them down, you can look back at them.
What communication skill, resource, or advice would you recommend to our readers?
I majored in communication at college. My emphasis was intercultural communication, so I would like to share a book that I like. It’s called The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. It’s also related to business, so I like that perspective. It’s not just about two countries, but multiple cultures in one book. I did a YouTube video on this (6 minutes).
What else do you want to tell us about?
I’ve lived in San Diego for 10 years. I came as an exchange student when I was 21 and fell in love with the place. It was my dream to move back here. There were some struggles, but now I live and work here. I do marketing consulting for online entrepreneurs (including Helen!). I work with a university here to promote their international programs to the Japanese audience. I was in one of their programs and sometimes teach there too. And I’ve just released my podcast! It’s mainly in Japanese and is called 「自分らしく夢を叶えるラジオ」。
I can see your face lights up when you talk about marketing. What is it that you love about marketing?
I like to connect people and information. When I see a product or service that’s great, I want people who could use that to know about it. Otherwise it’s mottainai!
You can also download May’s Podcast 「自分らしく夢を叶えるラジオ」from below.
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Failure isn’t fun. But the best way to learn the important lessons that make you a leader is to experience and overcome challenging situations.
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