PR Around the World

Posted At: March 30, 2011 2:39 PM
by Katy Echols

It seems the world is shrinking. People thousands of miles away seem closer as technology has allowed for a more interconnected and interactive world.

We can skype with someone in Tokyo while sitting in Houston. We can send emails from Alabama to Austria in a matter of seconds. We can watch live footage of the streets of Baghdad. We are thus directly influenced by changes in economical and political situations around the world.

In the world of public relations, this shrinking phenomenon is especially influential. Our publics have expanded to a global scale. So to stay effective, it’s paramount to understand who those publics are. What makes them tick? What is their culture? What would offend them?

It’s also important to know how PR functions within certain countries. To be successful in any venture you have to know the rules of the game, and the rules to the PR game vary from country to country. As daunting as the task may seem, it’s crucial to build bridges internationally. We have to band together across borders to create necessary relationships.

With that said, here is a break down of some regions around the world: their PR industries, media and publics. These elements are important to consider when dealing with these countries or while working within them.

South Pacific- Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea

Overview of the Public
–    Individualistic, ambitious and friendly
–    Equality between societal groups
–    Predominately Christian
–    Typically many loosely connected relationships
–    Love outdoor activities and leisure time
–    Value sports and festivals

The PR Industry
–    Large industry (more than $1 billion a year)
–    “In-house” PR popular
–    Growing preference for independent project work
–    Smaller firms most successful- large consultancies struggling
–    Several large international firms
–    Female-intensive profession (74 percent)
–    Symbiotic relationship between journalists and PR professionals
–    No real standard for the industry
–    Increasingly difficult and costly to reach fragmented publics

The Media
–    Media ownership is both private and public ownership.
–    Newspaper readership is declining.
–    The audience is becoming more fragmented.
–    The media requires PR professionals to give them clear, concise and accurate press-ready copy.

General Business
–    Business attire is generally more casual.
–    Punctuality is critical.
–    Don’t give gifts in business context.
–    They appreciate directness and brevity in meetings.
–    They love opinionated discussions.
–    If invited to tea, it is the large evening meal from 6 to 8.

Cultural Oddities
–    A single male should sit in the front seat of a taxi.
–    Littering is highly offensive.
–    Strine: Australian colloquial language (a colorful dialect of English)

Asia- China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong

Overview of the Public
–    Predominately Buddhist (China considered an atheist state)
–    Adhere strictly to familial, religious and cultural traditions
–    Collective society: focus on family, community and country
–    Intensely loyal
–    Value their history and culture
–    Respect and obey elders
–    Hierarchical society: old over young and male over female
–    Non-confrontational
–    Mealtimes important (crucial for relationship building)
–    Strong loyalty and nepotism in workplace

The PR Industry
–    Press-agentry/publicity most frequently practiced model
–    Transparency not stressed — only positive information
–    Utilize personal influence and networks
–    Building personal relationships with government officials, media members, etc. crucial

 

  • Through favors (entertaining, giving presents)

 

–    More of a “hospitality relations”
–    Press junkets common
–    Direct communication with journalists rather than publics
–    Easy to get a job
–    Well-developed profession
–    Domestic firms flourish (knowledge of social and political environment)

The Media
–    Media experiences mass consumption (especially TV and newspapers).
–    The daily newspaper circulation is around 71 million.
–    The Internet is most widely used news source.
–    Kisha-clubs: “reporters club,” a way of interacting with media — press rooms set up by government. A cartel for mainstream media. Rewards self-censorship, stifles competition and fosters uniformity.

General Business
–    A bow is the traditional greeting.
–    One should bow no lower than the greeter.
–    Business cards indicate credibility.

 

  • Always accept with both hands.
  • Never put it in your pocket or wallet (rather a small carrying case).
  • Never write on one.

 

–    You should always dress conservatively, not flashy.
–    Women should not wear pants.
–    Punctuality is critical (except in social settings).
–    Business decisions take a long time.
–    Gift giving is a common and important practice (usually a quality writing pen or hosting a banquet).

Cultural Oddities
–    High-context culture: gestures carry great meaning- so move with care!
–    Slip-on shoes are best, as one frequently removes them.
–    Taste everything presented at a meal.
–    Do not finish all the food at a dinner.

Europe

Germany/ France

Overview of the Public
–    Greatly private people
–    Value “forward-thinking”
–    Very structured and ordered
–    Majority Christian, but not very religious society
–    Collectivism over individualism (family, community and region)
–    Mealtime cherished
–    Value social drinking
–    Love the arts/culture
–    Love the art of conversation/play on words
–    Focus on fashion

The PR Industry
–    Political and economic conditions play a big role.
–    Impact on EU considered in all decision making.
–    Public affairs is the main PR focus.
–    Journalists and PR professionals work as inseparable, dependent partners.
–    Majority of practioners work in-house for a company.
–    Technology is emphasized.

 

  • There is an increase in corporate blogs.

 

–    Key strategies used are buzz-marketing and viral-marketing.
–    They have struggled to integrate new techniques, such as blogging, with traditional techniques.
–    Communication is more conceptual and less pragmatic.
–    Practitioners utilize science and technology to lend credibility to their messages.

The Media
–    The state is the main enabler and regulator of media.
–    It is a vast, prolific industry.
–    The media is high-quality and widely respected.
–    Public broadcasting strictly represents the diversity within the society.

General Business
–    Punctuality is stressed.
–    Business negotiations are thorough and highly detailed.
–    No use humor in business context.
–    Use formality in introductions (titles and hand shakes).
–    Dress and appearances are imperative, one should look “expensive.”

Cultural Oddities
Germany
–    Fashion is valued.
–    Gum chewing while talking is rude.
–    Beer drinking is important to the culture (more than 5,000 beers on tap).
France
–    People value the art of conversation.

 

  • They think Americans lecture rather than converse.
  • They enjoy frequent interruption and argumentation.
  • They wish Americans were not so loud.

 

–    Eye contact is frequent and intense.
–    One should always apologize for not knowing French (or try to speak it!).

Spain/Italy

Overview of the Public
–    Families extremely important; seniority highly respected
–    Love of the arts — architecture, theater and music
–    Passionate about sports
–    Predominately Catholic
–    Value religion
–    Highly fashionable
–    Generally carefree and expressive
–    Mealtimes important and lengthy

The PR Industry
–    Considerable evolution and development in past decade
–    Not a well-defined profession (mixes with marketing and human resources)
–    Advertising agencies often confused with PR agencies
–    Predominately corporate communications and media relations
–    Corporate identity emphasized (consumerism society)
–    Crisis management virtually nonexistent

The Media
–    Newspaper readership is comparatively low, while sports papers have the most readers.
–    Radio is a significant medium (73 percent of the population over the age of 11).
–    Weak relationship with the PR industry.

General Business
–    Fashion/“looking expensive” is important; indication of success.
–    Hierarchy within companies is rigid.
–    Business meals are important.
–    Little emphasis on time.
–    Building personal relationships is important for conducting business.

Cultural Oddities
–    Dinner is significantly later.
–    Wine makes for a great gift.
–    Avoid the topics of religion and politics.
–    Good topics include art, food, films and family.

UK

Overview of the Public
–    Very private people
–    Typically self-reliant and independent
–    Predominately Christian, but not a religious society
–    Less expressive and more contemplative
–    Value tradition and loyalty to country
–    Love pubs, music and sports (especially rugby and soccer)

The PR Industry
–    In-house PR and consultants dominate the field
–    Heavy trend toward strategic operations
–    Rapid growth of freelancing
–    Emphasis on company image and crisis management
–    PR professionals lack integration with other professions
–    PR practitioners viewed as “spin doctors”

 

  • Combat this with transparency and corporate social responsibility

 
The Media
–    Overall the media has a strong presence.
–    Despite government regulation, the media has remained highly objective.
–    Newspaper readership is high.
–    PR professionals and journalist have a symbiotic relationship (though there is some animosity).

General Business
–    Business lunches are always at a pub.
–    Men should wear laced shoes, not loafers.
–    Punctuality is important (it’s good to be a few minutes early).
–    When socializing after business hours, no one talks about work.

Cultural Oddities
–    Personal space is important.
–    Avoid loud talking and disruptive behavior.
–    Eye contact is not common.

Latin America- Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina

Overview of the Public
–    Appreciation of art, architecture, dancing and music
–    Enjoy sports and outdoor activities
–    Value tradition and embrace stability
–    Predominately Catholic
–    High concern for rules and regulations
–    Collective society with close ties
–    Deference to authority important
–    Value the family

The PR Industry
–    Government PR sophisticated and respected (majority of PR)
–    Outside of government agencies, PR is usually event planning
–    Only a few small agencies (focus on media relations)
–    PR viewed as an essential component to government operations
–    Negative perceptions heavily impact profession
–    Education developing

Argentina is an exception to industry norms of this region:

 

  • Militant rule and unstable economy stunted industry growth.
  • Overall weak profession
  • Little support or credibility
  • Not valued; little education

 
The Media
–    Television holds more weight than newspapers.
–    Radio is the most significant medium.

General Business
–    Punctuality is critical.
–    Impromptu appointments are unacceptable.
–    The business pace is slower and more relaxed.

 

  • Long hours and long negotiations are common.

 

–    Business dinners are frequent.
–    People are generally more affectionate and casual in greetings.

Cultural Oddities
–    Avoid the topic of religion.
–    Good topics include politics, history, children, art and soccer.
–    Citizens love long meals and long conversations.
–    Eye contact is important.

Middle East- Turkey, Egypt, UAE, India

Overview of the Public
–    Very modest society
–    Enjoy smoking in all locales
–    Predominately Muslim
–    Highly religious society (woven into every aspect of life)
–    Greatly value and adhere to tradition
–    Highly-valued, tight-knit families
–    Male-dominated society
–    Powerful patriarcy
–    Inequality of power and wealth
–    Very passionate society
–    Body language and gesture holds great significance
–    Love for sports and traditional music
–    Collective society: more emphasis on family and community and less on the individual

The PR Industry
–    Focus on social, political and economic development
–    Government strictly regulates the profession
–    Predominately serve the government and business industry
–    A developing and growing industry
–    Main types of PR:

 

  • In-house: for specific companies approved by government
  • Agency: generally for political or religious groups

 

–    Overall emphasis on country image (not on private sector)

The Media
–    The media is dominated by the government.
–    It is highly censored.
–    The few privately owned media organizations are linked to political, ethnic or religious groups.

General Business
–    Decisions take a long time.
–    The biggest player in a meeting often sits in silence.
–    “Paternal”: top-down driven decision process
–    Building relationships with lower-level workers is crucial (otherwise little motivation to work).

Cultural Oddities
–    Don’t sit with your legs crossed — it’s highly offensive to show someone the bottom of your shoe.
–    Avoid the topic of women (even asking about someone’s wife or daughter).
–    Sports are a good topic.
–    It’s important to be modest, but you don’t have to adopt the local clothing.
–    Men often stand very close to each other; moving away is insulting.
–    However, men and women always keep a generous distance between each other.

Sources:

Institute for PR
Public Relations Student International Coalition
Global Alliance 
Itim International, Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions 

 

photo by Katy Echols (in Venice)

 

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