In our current age of globalisation, international public relations – understanding, engaging and executing global PR – is becoming more important than ever. Companies are crossing borders with their messages, media and services (whether it’s an active or passive choice) – and it’s vital that our industry is prepared to expand with them.
But research shows where we start and develop our PR career as practitioners – geographically – may actually have a stronger impact than we think on our ability to keep up with global expansion and the future of international public relations.
I am an Australian (now living in Greece) working as an International PR Consultant with companies in the US, Europe, Israel and Australia – executing campaigns in English-speaking markets globally. I have worked hard – not only to develop and strengthen my communication skills to stay relevant across multiple markets – but to also understand and adapt to various cultures internationally.
Why? Because research shows a strong knowledge of communication skills isn’t enough to successfully master a media market globally. Culture is far more important to grasp and understand – indeed, a combination of the two is necessary for international success – and our ability to adapt to the cultural aspect is greatly influenced by our personal career history and development. Some of us may need to work harder to achieve it.
Take my home country, Australia, for example. A 2016 study, Diversity in Australian Public Relations: an exploration of practitioner perspectives, published in the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, found “a greater level of cross-cultural education is required within a (higher and professional) education context to enable Australian PR practitioners to perform in more strategic roles beyond Australian borders and to elevate the role of public relations from a largely tactical to a recognised, strategic function that contributes in a meaningful way to engagement and decision making in the wider region.”
The study found cultural knowledge from practitioners was not always being utilised or applied in a public relations context in Australia. One interviewee explained “…a lot of workplaces still see PR as being [purely] communication based, whereas in reality, when you’re dealing with, say, Asian cultures, it’s culturally based.” Another participant in the study “referred to those communicators who possess the skills to combine communication skills and cultural knowledge within their work context as “shining stars””. But it appears, sadly, that the ‘shining stars’ were a rare breed.
From first-hand experience, my move from Australia to Europe certainly founded in me a greater cultural understanding that enhanced my communication skills, enabling me to successfully navigate the world of international public relations. But I had to make my education a focused, concerted, determined effort – given the local industry I developed my career in.
The region we grow up, and work in, has a huge bearing on our understanding, and growth when it comes to globalisation. We as practitioners need to be acutely aware of it – to see our background and contexts as clearly as possible – and determine where we need to place our efforts in order to culturally adapt for the future.
The era of globalisation and international public relations is not dying down – far from it. To stay relevant in the field of media, communications and PR in decades to come – we need to take action for the future now.
My advice is for media and PR practitioners is to observe and glean cultural nuances, along with developing and growing their media and communications skills. The developed understanding of international regions socially, economically and politically – as well as global media and PR industries – will be an invaluable asset in the short and long-term, as the industry rapidly moves forward.
Katie Clift is Director of Katie Clift Consulting Pty Ltd – an International PR Expert. Follow her online via Twitter @katieclift, @katieclift on Instagram.