New Frontiers: PR in Latin America

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Posted At: April 12, 2007 10:13 AM

by Chase Long

You’ve heard it before. The world is becoming more interconnected, and globalization is bringing an international aspect to the daily lives of public relations practitioners. Everywhere you turn in the industry you hear phrases like “think globally” and “the international perspective.”  What you may not have heard before is what you can do to prepare yourself for it.

To answer that question we solicited the help of Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda. Molleda is an associate professor of public relations at the University of Florida. He received his undergraduate degree from the Universidad del Zulia in Venezuela and has gone on to publish numerous articles and to do extensive research on the topic of public relations in Latin America.

To find out how students can prepare for globalization, the first question we must ask is what are the differences between the U.S. market and markets in Latin America? According to Molleda, markets in Latin America vary greatly depending upon the individual country’s economic and political systems.

While we hear about the hostile business situations in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia, Molleda says, “There is a welcoming and positive attitude to business both domestic and international in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.” Additionally, many of these countries are growing economically and seeking foreign investment, and recent trade deals with the United States will mean further economic cooperation.

How does that translate to the PR field? What are the differences in the roles PR practitioners in Latin America play as compared to their United States counterparts? According to Molleda, “public relations professionals in Latin America play similar roles to that of practitioners in other parts of the world: technicians and manager.”

One area of difference is that Latin American practitioners tend to see themselves more as agents of social change. This is due in part to the face that most practitioners graduate from social communications programs that tend to follow a European model of education that focuses on a humanist approach, Molleda says.

Additionally, media placement in many Latin markets is harder.  According to Molleda, “positive news from corporations is not valued and has a difficult time gaining access to the media” in countries with heated political climates. As a result, many corporations are using more direct communications approaches to reach their target audiences.

So what can U.S. PR students do to prepare for the coming tide of globalization? The first step is to learn about the region’s history and culture, says Molleda. Don’t be judgmental of the cultures and don’t impose your own values onto a different system. Also learn the trends. Understanding a country’s music, fashion and other unique aspects can help you understand the culture. Travel to other countries and learn their languages.

Above all, Dr. Molleda recommends being aware of the complex nature of the relationships that exists between the U.S. and other countries. Be an informed global citizen because “you may work in this country, but you will work for an organization with interests in other territories, or work overseas, so you won’t be able to avoid the fact that ‘international’ is here to stay.”

E-mail: Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda

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