International (Public) Relations

International PRAs I write this, I just finished a global survey for one client and am preparing to moderate a webinar on global electronic invoicing mandates for another, trying to pull together experts from Denmark, Germany, and the United States to talk about a movement currently being led by Latin America. It’s an important story, with global impact, and yet, it’s a story that has been hard for me to sell to the mainstream financial press.

Six of my clients are global, three actually have “International” in their name. One of my local clients, I met in Ireland. Another client, a startup, recently got photoshop help from a designer in Serbia, who outbid an eLance rival in Jakarta.

Welcome to the networked economy, where even the smallest local business has to think and act globally.

In public relations, thinking globally can be as simple as keeping track of the time difference between the United States and Europe, or making sure that you have your client’s Skype phone data before they get on a plane for Africa or China.

It also means keeping abreast of world news, via Al Jazeera, the BBC World Service, CNN, or Reuters.

On the other hand, sometimes International Public Relations can mean helping global companies acculturate to the U.S. market. Such was the case with a client that had to reboot its marketing message after decades of sticking to its Euro-centric marketing playbook resulted in minimal market penetration—despite market-leading technology.

Whatever business your client is in, they are, no doubt, part of a global supply chain or sourcing network. I can remember, back in 1984, having to learn about Belize, because of a freeze in Florida that resulted in Minute Maid, a division of Coca Cola, moving much of it’s citrus acreage to the warmer climate. I’m sure many of you can share similar stories.

As PR and marketing specialists, it is our job to professionally increase our clients’ visibility. We typically do so locally, regionally, or perhaps nationally. International PR and marketing ability is today’s “It” factor.

So what are the necessary skills? The easy answer is the one you often read, or hear about in business schools: understanding cultures, global issues and maintaining ethics within cross-cultural communication.

That’s easy to say, but much harder to apply consistently in practice. This is an issue I’m struggling with myself. I’d love to start a conversation. What do you think?

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