International PR – does standardised communication work?

21 Jul

ImageHow important is it to take different cultures in consideration for PR practitioners? Is their role to work as cultural intermediaries or is international PR making standardized communication more important?

There are many theorists that debate the role of PR practitioners in todays global world. To see how PR is adapting to globalization, let me first give you a brief description of what global PR and International PR means.

Global PR means the internationalisation of the profession.

International PR however, is “ the planning and implementation of programs and campaigns carried out abroad, involving two or more countries (Tench and Yeomans, 2009).

When talking about International PR, it is important to look at the issue of PR practitioners working as cultural intermediaries. One can argue that PR practitioners have a role of being cultural intermediaries, because cultural differences can affect the relationship between the organization and its publics.

But in todays global world, is cultural differences no longer important to take in consideration for PR practitioners?

Andrew Wernick is one of the academics that think that we no longer need to be cultural intermediaries because of the globalization. He thinks that for example the ‘Americanization’ of brands is a good example of how integrated global brands can be around the world in different cultures.

However, I think that globalization does not have to mean homogenization of cultural views. I am sure that cultural differences will still be important to take into account. International campaigns are absolutely possible to conduct, but without an understanding of cultural differences they will not have the same success as they would with an adapted communication.

Just look at the example of Starbucks’ failed attempt to open a store in the Forbidden City in China in 1999.They were told by the Chinese to shut down the shop after a massive internet campaign against the opening of the outlet. If they had done proper research and taken cultural aspects into consideration while planning their opening, they would have learned that the Forbidden City is sacred for the Chinese and not a popular place to open a store that is not adapted to the Chinese culture.

Image

I think that PR practitioners role as cultural in intermediaries is still important. International PR should consist of a mix of standardized and adapted messages to their different cultural audiences. They should have a clear understanding of the cultures they are communicating to, and mix global processes with local understanding.

Do you think global PR will decrease the importance of PR practitioners as cultural intermediaries?

Sources:

Lecture notes, Michaela O’Brien University of Westminster, 2013

Gang, H. & Zhang, A (2009) Starbucks is forbidden in the Forbidden City: Blog, circuit of culture and informal public relations campaign in China.

Tench, R & Yeomans, L. (2009) Exploring Public Relations. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited

Wernick, A. (1991) Promotional Culture: Advertising, Ideology and Symbolic Expression. London: SAGE

Images in courtesy of: iuriel.com, sparksheet.com

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