Published on Nov. 8, 2022, at 4:09 p.m.
by Grace Brindley.
Companies can engage with audiences from numerous different places through virtual communication. Global public relations, defined by the Institute for Public Relations as “strategic communications and actions carried out by private, government, or nonprofit organizations to build and maintain relationships with publics in socioeconomic and political environments outside their home location,” helps facilitate these exchanges.
Global PR’s role in public health
Alyssa Comins works as a senior associate for Weber Shandwick, a public relations agency with international reach. In her experience working on health care accounts, Comins asserted that complying with international regulations is the greatest distinction of global PR from domestic PR.
“Countries have different regulatory bodies and laws surrounding drug reviews and approvals, pricing, and promoting pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Every time we create content — whether it will be used in the U.S. or elsewhere — we have to work closely with our clients’ legal and regulatory teams to ensure we’re following all applicable laws.” Comins said.
Additionally, she described the attention to detail necessary for practicing global public relations, such as mindfulness of time differences.
“Your clients or colleagues may be in very different time zones, which can affect review timelines or the windows in which you might be able to schedule status calls,” she said. “It seems small, but it’s something you have to consider when working with global teams.”
When dispersing information to such varied publics, Comins stressed the importance of confronting false messages and impressions. One example she gave was COVID-19 and the inaccuracies surrounding the vaccine. Weber Shandwick provided business leaders with a Plan Vx playbook guide to counter vaccine misconceptions.
“I think it’s important to try to understand where the distrust in regulatory institutions, pharmaceutical companies and scientists is coming from so that we can effectively combat some of this misinformation,” she explained.
Ukraine’s fighting chance through global PR
In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a similar address, asserting that, if attacked, Ukraine would take defensive measures. Additionally, Ukranians sought Western support through initiatives such as the ‘Help Ukraine—Tell the Truth to the World’ campaign. Public relations professionals who worked on the campaign drew from the severity of war to push for increased global intervention.
Following these efforts, 3,000 U.S. citizens volunteered to travel overseas and join the Ukrainian military.
Organizations also responded to Ukraine’s call for support. Accenture donated $5 million to relief organizations in Ukraine. Toyota suspended all production in Russia. Uber issued unlimited free rides from the Ukraine-Poland border to Polish cities where Ukrainians can seek refuge.
Clearview AI, a facial recognition company, wrote the Ukrainian government a letter offering its services to them. According to the company’s website, Clearview’s software provided Ukrainians with the ability to detect spies, deceased soldiers and misleading social media posts about the conflict.
Mykhalio Fedorov, the minister of digital transformation of Ukraine, reported one instance where the algorithm helped to identify an undercover Russian operative posing as a soldier with amnesia at a Ukrainian hospital.
The Clearview AI website also details the use of the software to find and inform Russian citizens of their deceased family members. The Russian government falsely claimed many young soldiers were in training, not combat, in addition to minimizing the scale of the war.
“Thanks to this project the mobilization was slowed down. The Russians do not want to join the army because they do not support what their country is doing,” said Denys Monastyrky, the former people’s deputy of Ukraine.
Clearview AI specialist Sarah Kathryn Tartar facilitated the training of 150 Ukrainian soldiers. She recounted how one soldier flashed her the peace sign during a Zoom meeting.
“He said God bless America. I thought, ‘How amazing,’” she said.
Tartar described the search process, which involves running images through Vkontakte, a Russian social media platform similar to Facebook. However, unlike Facebook, all accounts on Vkontakte are public and detectable.
According to Tartar, the algorithm identifies faces with 99.9% accuracy, locating any post in which they have ever been pictured.
She insisted that audiences should not be worried about “big brother” — a reference to George Orwell’s “1984” novel — with Clearview technology.
“Every time that someone runs a new search for an investigation they have to fill out an intake form, so all searches are regulated and monitored,” Tartar explained. “Every agency has at least one, if not multiple administrators, that oversee all of the investigations.”
Global PR’s impact on positive change
Tartar and Comins both spoke of the impact of global public relations, whether in shaping public health or international conflict.
In building relationships across cultures, Comins emphasized clarity and truth. “As PR professionals, we can play a big role in helping to ensure people have access to facts and accurate data, so they can make well-informed decisions,” she said.
On the power of public relations worldwide, Tartar asserted, “PR can change the world because so much of it is positivity and inspiration. Positivity and inspiration create movement, and movement creates change.”