Thinking Globally: The Importance of Diversifying Your Client Base

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Courtesy of Flickr user andy in nyc.

Posted: November 15, 2012 at 5:13 P.M.
by Shelby Calambokidis

In the business world, professionals often focus on the importance of diversity within the workplace. Diversity is critical to both a company’s success within the organization, as well as outside the office. It allows for different ideas to be represented within the workplace and offers insight into other cultures, allowing companies to appeal to a variety of consumers within different markets in unique, effective ways.

However, as PR professionals, before we are tasked with creating, maintaining or repairing relationships with a client’s publics, we must first form relationships with the clients themselves. PR firms should understand the importance of diversifying the client base, as well as recognizing the opportunity that lies in reaching out to international companies and governments.

Susan Brophy, a managing director in the legislative affairs practice of The Glover Park Group in Washington, D.C., said that about 25 percent of the work Glover Park does is international. “Having diverse clients helps you have a much more realistic window in the world,” she said.

“It gives you an insight into how people in other countries think, as well as how other countries view their national interests.”

In the PR world, we should practice what we preach to our clients and ensure that our employees represent our globalized world. Diversity in the PR field is critical in targeting the firm’s own publics, which are first and foremost the clients they represent. Once the firm has been hired to represent a client, diversity continues to be important because PR professionals serve as the strategic communicators.

Chris Dorval, a senior adviser at the U.S. State Department, said that too often PR representation of foreign companies and governments is the result of a crisis, rather than a sustained, long-term strategy of engagement.

“My experience with foreign (and U.S.) companies when it comes to PR counsel (versus straight marketing) is that they lack a long term strategy to offer a sustained, targeted and measurable program to engage the U.S. marketplace,” he said.

PR professionals can serve as the middleman for foreign companies that want to become more active in the U.S. In other words, knowledge of the consumers within our own country is also important. Firms may not only be tasked with communicating with other countries’ audiences, but also increasing a foreign company’s share in the U.S. marketplace.

A perfect example of the importance of diversity is found in the increasing Latino population in the United States. PR professionals cannot foster effective relationships with either potential clients or current clients’ key publics without cultural insight into the Latino community.

“It’s a much better way to tell a story if you have someone on your team who actually speaks the language,” Brophy said. “Also, having someone who has lived in the country and understands its culture gains your firm credibility in the eyes of those countries or companies who you are trying to make a pitch to.”

Just try to imagine how far a PR firm would get if its representatives came to pitch Nick Saban or The University of Alabama and they didn’t know what “Roll Tide” meant? As PR professionals we need to have a workforce that is diverse enough to have language capability if needed, but at a minimum we must always have professionals who have a cultural knowledge and appreciation of the diverse marketplace in which we operate.

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