As I write this post, I’m sitting in my in-laws’ living room in Warsaw after a satisfying day of feasting on carb-filled delicacies and downing potent espressos and spirits. Polish commercials are playing on the television between the news. Though my comprehension of the native tongue is abominable, the commercials speak the same intrinsic language to their audience that I absorb at home in Boulder. Buy this widget. Go to this place. Your family will be happier if you use this cleaning product. And so on.
Bolstering one’s family is a vital message in most advertising in Poland, and it got me thinking about the communications industry across cultures. If each of us working at Metzger were plopped into a random spot around the world, how would we have to adapt our PR style to that culture? If Jill awoke in China, if Sara materialized in Ireland, or if Doyle had to learn how to say “Apple” in Portuguese – how would their PR approach change?
The answers are diverse as the world itself. Here are a few regions around the world that take a different approach to public relations than the United States.
When I asked my bank manager cousin to use one word to describe the PR industry in Poland, she thought for a second and answered, “aggressive.” I mulled it over, and that makes sense in this part of the world. From Estonia to Albania, PR professionals are filled with a passion (perhaps, aggression) that I’ve rarely witnessed in the States. American PR is fast-paced and diligent, but I wouldn’t call it aggressive, even at the most competitive large agencies.
In most Eastern European countries, the not-too-distant socialist system of the past didn’t allow competition or the promotion of companies, brands and products. Years under socialist regimes have made most people suspicious and difficult to influence. Persuading ingrained consumption habits (for better or worse) takes a certain dose of aggression. No matter where the PR pros work in Eastern Europe, they’re aggressively convincing the public that their company is the most trustworthy and efficient.
Bribery is huge in the communications industry in Poland. It would be interesting if I could bake cookies for a reporter in exchange for an interview, but this strategy is frowned upon in the States. In Eastern Europe, PR pros will trade for interviews and articles in various ways. In Croatia, journalists expect gifts from companies for not publishing negative reviews or articles about their product or company!
Asian culture adheres strictly to familial, religious and cultural traditions. The focus is on the family and the family’s image within their community. Respect is important, and hierarchical factors play into every detail of business.
Just as in the States, Asians use their personal network and relationships with media and government officials to boost their chances of good coverage. PR professionals concentrate on “hospitality relations” and many mealtime meetings to increase their chances of their company being noticed.
Transparency is not a trend that has taken off in Asia as it has in America. The American marketplace expects companies to display a certain amount of honesty in sharing the sometimes negative aspects of their news, especially through social media. In Asia, focusing on the positive aspects of a company’s story still dominates PR practices.
Government-driven PR defines the industry in Latin America. Outside of government, PR is relegated to event planning, which is just one aspect of PR in the States. Only a few small agencies focus on media relations in this part of the world, and even though the PR industry is gaining in sophistication and respect, there is a generally negative perception.
TV is more important than newspapers, but radio is the most influential medium in Latin America. Personal relationships are crucial, punctuality can make or break a company representative’s reputation, and all meetings are carefully scheduled well in advance. People are generally more publicly affectionate in nature, and this can be seen in meetings where eye contact is so important that the skill is taught to students looking to work in the communications industry.
Argentina is an exception to the norm in Latin America, where an unstable economy and militant rule have stunted economic growth. The PR profession is weak with little credibility or support in this country.
Just as the practice of PR varies in different parts of America, it does as well in every part of the world. Wherever you may find yourself working, or reaching new markets across borders, it’s certain you’ll need to consider a multitude of very diverse cultural, political and traditional factors when communicating overseas.