How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication
📖 eBook - ePub
Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street
How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication
About This Book
The second edition of Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street offers a modern guide for how to adapt public relations strategies, messages, and tactics for countries and cultures around the globe.
Drawing on interviews with public relations professionals in over 30 countries as well as the author's own experience, the bookexplains how to build and manage a global public relations team, how to handle global crisis communication, and how to practice global public relations on behalf of corporations, non-profit organizations, and governments. It takes readers on a tour of the world, explaining how to adapt their campaigns for Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Along the way, readers are introduced to practitioners around the globe and case studies of particularly successful campaigns. This new edition includes updates to country profiles to reflect changes in each local context, as well asexpanded coverage of social media and the role of influencer engagement, and a brand-new chapter on global crisis communication.
The book is ideal for graduate and upper-level undergraduate public relations students, as well as practitioners in intercultural markets.
What is international public relations? Curtin and Gaither (2007, p. 4) describe public relations as “a form of strategic communication directed primarily toward gaining public understanding and acceptance and the process of creating a good relationship between an organization and the public, especially with regard to reputation and to communication of information.” International public relations is “a title that denotes the practice and study of public relations across international boundaries and cultures” (Curtin & Gaither, 2007, p. 19). The key distinction is that the practice must occur across national borders. For example, a person from Benin who moves to Brazil to work for a Brazilian firm is not practicing international public relations unless (s)he is interacting on behalf of the firm with publics outside of Brazil. When an organization and the publics with which it attempts to build relationships are located in different countries, then the organization’s public relations activities are said to be international (Wakefield, 2008, p. 140). The key difference between local and international public relations campaigns is that international campaigns must take account of cultural differences. Banks (1995, p. 42) defines effectiveness in multicultural public relations as “the successful negotiation of multiple meanings that result in positive outcomes in any communicative activity.”
Scholars disagree about how much of modern public relations can be said to be international. Sriramesh (2009a, p. xxxv) suggests that the terms international public relations and global public relations are becoming tautologies “because even ‘domestic’ publics are becoming multinational and multicultural due to globalization.” By this account, nearly all public relations practice can be considered to be global or international. By contrast, Wakefield (2008, p. 139) argues that domestic public relations practice continues to exist because “practitioners who represent school districts or private schools, small to mid-size cities, hospitals and medical centers, high school or small university sports programs, local nonprofit agencies, and myriads of other organizations most likely never practice … international public relations.” While Wakefield is correct that some practitioners remain cloistered in their communities, this is becoming increasingly uncommon. Furthermore, practitioners at such supposedly local firms cannot safely assume that they will remain disconnected from the broader international community—as local hospitals in Madrid, Spain, and Dallas, Texas, in the United States of America discovered in 2014 when patients arrived with Ebola, a virus that originated in West Africa. The global media was soon at their doorsteps.
The increased practice of global public relations is due to globalization, which Stiglitz (2002, p. 9) defines as the
closer integration of the countries and people of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flows of goods, services, capital, knowledge, and to a lesser extent people across borders.
As a result of these forces, Friedman (2005) famously argues that today “the world is flat.” People of different countries and cultures are interacting and collaborating with one another more than ever before. In addition to increased global communication, Sharpe and Pritchard (2004) argue that the expansion of public relations practice globally has been driven by social interdependence—the increased recognition that global cooperation is necessary to solve modern problems—as well as by the spread of democracy, because when the people exercise control over their governments, public opinion takes on greater importance.
It has therefore become essential for the modern public relations practitioner to understand how to build relationships and communicate with stakeholders in different countries and cultures. This book will give you the skills and knowledge to do so.
International vs. Global Public Relations Campaigns
In 2012, the Swedish furniture company IKEA faced a dilemma in the Saudi market. Its popular catalogs showcasing the company’s merchandise featured some pictures of women. However, in Saudi Arabia, it is inappropriate for a woman to appear in public without her face and body covered. The company therefore decided to airbrush the women out of the version of the catalog it would use in Saudi Arabia. When the Swedish version of the newspaper Metro broke the story about what the company had done, the incident quickly provoked outrage. The trade minister of Sweden—a country globally renowned for its efforts to advance the role of women in society—responded by arguing that “it is impossible to retouch women out of reality.” IKEA quickly apologized (Paterson, 2012). However, the incident illustrates a dilemma that every international public relations practitioner faces. On the one hand, it is necessary to develop culturally specific communication products and messages that are appropriate for local audiences. On the other hand, it is also important to project a coherent global identity and values—especially in our modern, globalized world in which messages intended for a particular audience often spread far beyond their intended reach. Pretending that women do not exist is unlikely to foster a positive global reputation.
One of the first questions you will need to answer when you work in international public relations is whether you will implement a single, global strategy around the world or develop different approaches for different markets. Anderson (1989, p. 413) defines international public relations practice as one in which practitioners “implement distinctive programs in multiple markets, with each program tailored to meet the often acute distinctions of the individual geographic market.” Proponents of this approach argue that different countries and cultures are so different that they require strategies that are specifically designed to respond to local opportunities and challenges. The benefit of adopting a strictly local approach is that you are completely unencumbered by concepts that do not make sense for your target audience. Because you focus single-mindedly on the country or culture at hand, you are more likely to arrive at an approach that will be effective in its target market.
However, the cost of starting from scratch in every new environment will be prohibitive for many organizations. Additionally, a major disadvantage to such an approach is that your client will lack a coherent global identity. In fact, as the IKEA debacle illustrates, an approach too narrowly designed for one market may actually offend and alienate key stakeholders in other locations. Another significant downside to a strictly local approach is that an organization does not benefit from the range of creative ideas it can generate when its entire global public relations team comes together to brainstorm on a unified strategy.
The opposite of a local, or international, approach to public relations is adopting a single global strategy. Anderson (1989, p. 413) defines global public relations practice as one that “superimposes an overall perspective on a program executed in two or more national markets, recognizing the similarities among audiences while necessarily adapting to regional differences.” Practitioners who apply this approach believe that there are certain best practices and messages that are generally successful across countries and cultures. For example, Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov (2010, p. 6) note that part of human nature—which we all inherit in our genes—is “the human ability to feel fear, anger, love, joy, sadness, and shame; the need to associate with others and to play and exercise oneself; and the facility to observe the environment and to talk about it with other humans.” Therefore, global messages can appeal to these common experiences. Chris Nelson, Crisis Lead for the Americas at the global public relations agency FleishmanHillard, explains that
there are certain universals—survival, hunger, fear, greed, love, pride—that we share as a species. Operating on a global stage, I can start by understanding how a situation plays into those universal elements, and then I can find people who can help me understand the local culture.
Practitioners who adopt a global approach also typically believe that their organizations benefit from having a consistent global brand identity. Michael Morley (2002, pp. 30–31), former Deputy Chairman of Edelman Public Relations—the world’s largest public relations firm—argues that speaking with a global voice is now a “corporate necessity” because news travels rapidly around the world and “governments, consumer protection organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and pressure groups of all kinds are making it their business to discover inconsistencies in multinational concerns.” He (2002, p. 32) also says that there is often a degree of “local anarchy” in business practices around the globe, and so “taking the first steps in this quest to establish a global voice can serve a different and valuable purpose—as a catalyst in the process of defining ‘the reality.’” These days, organizations are increasingly embracing integrated marketing communications, which focuses on communicating a consistent brand identity across both public relations and marketing efforts.
Another advantage of establishing common public relations practices at the global level is that it allows you to enforce universal ethical principles. As the IKEA example evinces, local conduct is often judged by global standards—especially in an era in which news travels faster than ever before via social media. For example, as I will discuss in the coming chapters, in many parts of the world, it is common to offer reporters “brown envelopes” (full of cash) for media coverage. If you work for a Fortune 500 company and one of your practitioners in Nigeria is exposed for following this customary local practice, all of a sudden, your organization will have a global reputation for corruption and bribery. One way that practitioners get around paying journalists in places where reporters are truly not compensated by news organizations for their stories is by offering meals at events and press briefings. You can also help with transportation. When I worked for the U.S. Treasury and one of our officials addressed the Parliament in Togo, ...
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APA 6 Citation
Alaimo, K. (2020). Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street (2nd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2039213/pitch-tweet-or-engage-on-the-street-how-to-practice-global-public-relations-and-strategic-communication-pdf (Original work published 2020)
Alaimo, Kara. (2020) 2020. Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2039213/pitch-tweet-or-engage-on-the-street-how-to-practice-global-public-relations-and-strategic-communication-pdf.
Alaimo, K. (2020) Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street. 2nd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2039213/pitch-tweet-or-engage-on-the-street-how-to-practice-global-public-relations-and-strategic-communication-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Alaimo, Kara. Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.