Dr. Juan-Carlos MolledaIn the United States, we can publicly develop campaigns related to mental illnesses such as depression. Powerful and moving testimonials from family members, friends, and doctors of persons living with depression can each provide awareness for campaigns. Personal stories on the travails and successes of living with a mental illness, will garner empathy towards the campaign message among target audiences. Although these tactics may be effective in the United States, those successes do not guarantee the same outcome internationally. Could we do the same campaign in an Asian country, such as Thailand? Such a message may prove to be a more challenging proposition. Would a country’s legislation even permit us to promote a drug for treating depression? Would physicians have the appropriate media training to be spokespeople on the topic? And in what ways could we appeal to online influencers to engage in a constructive conversation on this topic? Different global markets with varying definitions and understandings of issues, such as physical and mental illness, also have stigmas attached to those affected by such illnesses. These and other considerations in international public relations add a challenging yet strategic element to practices in the profession.

We investigated the experiences of 25 senior agency professionals to uncover possible localization strategies and tactics used in select countries around the world. My co-authors, Sarabdeep Kochhar and Christopher Wilson, and I interviewed public relations professionals at global agencies in Miami, New York, and San Francisco. The goal of this research was to learn and benefit from the knowledge of public relations agencies serving multinational clients. In this study, localization implies the need for public relations and communication management professionals to be responsive and flexible to host-market conditions and host-audiences’ expectations and needs. This has been common knowledge in the industry, and now is being explicitly addressed in an upcoming article of Public Relations Review.

The qualitative data generated by this study allowed us to develop a conceptual five-step decision-making model for localization: 1) evaluations of the necessity to localize, 2) the ability of multinational corporations (MNCs) to localize, 3) the extent to which MNCs should localize, 4) the tactics and techniques that could be localized, and 5) the metrics to evaluate the success rate or effectiveness of localization efforts. These items can be divided in internal (organizational) and external (contextual) factors that impact the balance between integration/standardization and localization/national responsiveness.

The research findings provide evidence to the importance of strategic localizing messages, and other tactics, in an interconnected world that still values cultural, geographical, and national differences as a comparative advantage. My colleagues and I would like to further this study with a large sample of participants that includes both agency and corporate professionals in home and host locations, as well as audiences in host countries that are engaged with localization techniques and efforts. The business of public relations is growing fast in many countries because of the emergence of new market opportunities and also because of the emergence of communication and transportation technologies, among other factors. Learning how to balance the global and the local markets – with specific strategies and techniques – in a dynamic and demanding marketplace, has become essential for organizations and agencies to gain legitimacy and maintain sustainability.

The full article can be downloaded from this link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811115000491

Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda is  professor and Chair of the Department of Public Relations at the University of Florida, director of the MAMC Global Strategic Communication and Trustee of the Institute for Public Relations.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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