Global Public Relations! How important is it to learn about other cultures? What do we know about the rest of the world?

Are we ready for a career in international public relations? Public relations majors learn a lot of skills in school. They learn how to write, how to think, how to acquire the skills to persuade and how to get their messages across in the best and most effective way. They learn about journalism and how to deal with the media, how to utilize social media to work in their favor and how to communicate effectively. ALL within the scope of our laws, cultures, customs, and traditions.

But are we going to be limited to only where we live when we graduate and get a job? For those who are from Ann Arbor, are you going to find your dream job in Ann Arbor? Most probably, not! At least not if you want to work for a big company, and explore more opportunities for your career advancement.

According to Think Public Relations by Wilcox, Cameron, Reber, and Shin, “hundreds of corporations based in the united states have been engaged in international business operations, including marketing, advertising and public relations.” Most big companies in the US has international offices and various different relations with other countries around the world. So, at any given time during our career, we should expect to deal with some kind of international client or international assignment. What do we know about other cultures? Almost nothing!! The following link is to a very interesting article about global public relations.

What skills do we need to know and are those skills on the national level or can they also work on the international level? Do we know everything we need to know or is there anything else that we need to learn outside of the classroom.

So often, we expect that other countries around the world to be similar to our believes, tradition and customs. What we don’t know is that, every country is completely different than the other and that even within a country people can vary drastically. For example, it does not make any sense if we start marketing a Ford F150 in Manhattan to bank executives, Wall Street managers and CEOs. Which car will make sense to market over there? Probably a mercedes or a BMW.

One of the most successful slogans for BMW in the middle east was “We do not claim perfection but we always try to be as close” This slogan is not just a slogan. BMW did thier HW and knew that in muslim countries, people believe that nothing is perfect, whether a person or a product, nothing what so ever is perfect. Perfection is a word that is only reserved for God. So, here, BMW understood the culture, sent the right message and got the results they wanted to. PR practioners should know a lot of things about everything, it is a hard job to do but I personally like the challenge and I believe that a good PR professional is the one who turn any problem around to the company’s favor.

I think that PR students should learn about cultures and traditions as much as they learn about writing and persuasion. It will be very beneficial if PR curriculums had some kind of cultures of the world class to be taken as a mandatory class. It will be also very good if something similar to that is applied to cultures of the US.



29 thoughts on “Global Public Relations! How important is it to learn about other cultures? What do we know about the rest of the world?

  1. Midu,
    I agree that really no matter what your degree will be in, just about every profession is global now, and you need to be aware of other traditions. I have always wanted to immerse myself in cultures and understand the people. Oftentimes I think people get too comfortable and too arrogant inside of their box and don’t take into account other people’s way of life. Interestingly though, it’s not always other countries that are different, but sometimes other areas of own country. I remember a professor I had a few years back, albeit a fashion example but one I still feel relevant, she recalls moving from FL to MI and walking into a WalMart in her FL attire, that of bright colors, and feeling like she stuck out like a sore thumb against MI’s darker color palette. Understanding different states and their ways are as equally important since it would be more likely for those interested in PR to obtain a job within their own country rather than outside in an entirely different country.

    Overall, I do agree to the importance of learning about other places and being able to effectively apply a variety of skills to properly convey messages and represent companies.


    • @Dayana. You are absolutely right. Just about every profession and almost all big companies deal with other international companies and/or a lot of times have international clients. I mean, if you want to be that person sitting behind your desk doing your job and barely know anyone by name, then yeah that’s fine, don’t worry about knowing the rest of the world, don’t even worry about the rest of the US. But if you want to be that person who actually travel business class to Amsterdam with your boss, and then come back and take those Japanese CEOs to Vegas for the weekend, then you definitely need to know what’s going on with other cultures, people, and countries.

      In the mean, like you said, it is not only restricted to outside the US, we should also know about the various regions of the US, their customs, traditions, and habits. However, knowing other cultures is not restricted to IF you want to work in other countries like you implied, we should know those things because it will benefit us in working here in the US like I mentioned above.

  2. International is where the money is, expecially with all thats going on in America. To know a little or alot about other cultures wouldnt hurt at all. I like how you mentioned that BMW knows culture, every business should. Dayna mentioned being aware of the culture difference within our own country and thats true as well. Diversity in business should be a general course to take for any business major.
    Ashley Coleman

  3. That is a very interesting topic and I also agree with your thoughts. The professional world is going global and it’s awesome and sad at the same time. I personally would love to travel and promote in other countries. I find other cultures fascinating, and learning about what ideas are effective in other countries would be a rewarding challenge. When I say sad, I mean that, I hope we don’t have to completely depend on other countries for a decent career.

    Several people I know studied international business and found careers right away, with excellent pay and benefits, so I agree that this is where most field are going. Expanding our ideas outside of the United States, so that we interests each country individually is something that would be difficult, but I believe if you have strong communication skills and are opened minded you will be successful if the opportunity is presented.

    I definitely don’t think we learn everything there is to know inside the classroom, especially about other cultures. I think if you apply what you learn in the classroom, and are willing to learn about other cultures then we will be ready. We learn from our mistakes and we have to take baby steps, of course.

    Taylor Maguire

    • @Taylor. I think the possibility that we depend on other countries for finding decent jobs is weak but it does not mean that we should not trade with other countries. The enormous size of the US has made it un necessary for companies to market outside the US, with few exceptions of course. However, the economic crises, and the failure of our banks, big companies….etc, have made corporations wanting to look outside the box. They want more international presence and they want to bring more international business in. Therefore, anybody who knows multiple languages and know a lot about other countries and cultures, should be an asset to them.

      • I agree that we should trade with other countries. It’s where the world is going and people will have to adjust to the changes and I don’t think they’re bad changes. I’m not quite sure where you are going with it being unnecessary for the US to market outside the US…because everything is turning global, so marketing outside the US is going to be important. I was saying that less jobs will be local and that’s what is unfortunate.

  4. I really think this is a great topic because like you said you won’t probably get a job around here. I really liked what Dayna said about the difference even between states. I also think with the idea we should be learning more about different cultures that it takes a special type of person to beable to feel comfortable in different environments and cultures, regardless of how much training a person has. I do feel that we need to start thinking globally because we might not always think outside our comfort zone but to become sucessful with PR I think in is a skill that is helpful.

    Ashley C

    • @Ashley. I agree with Dayana too, it does make a big difference where are you marketing your product even within the US, and even to whom are you marketing the product.

      In the meantime, I see your point about how “it takes a special type of person to be able to feel comfortable in different environments and cultures…..,” and I agree with you to an extent. However, I don’t think it is that hard if you practice it. It’s juts like anything else, you need to get used to it, after you do so, you will be very comfortable and you will find yourself switching between cultures without even knowing you are doing it. You will know how to talk to the Japanese, take the dutch out for dinner, and how to close a business deal with the French, and it will all be second nature to you.

  5. Learning about other countries is just good business sense. every corporation strives to expand its market, but that would be impossible unless you knew how to target other cultures. it is in my opinion that every student should learn a little about some of the major cultures in the world. you never know what is going to fall in your lap, and it is always best to be prepared. what if you hat to meet an international client for dinner? where would you take him/her? What should you order? how should conversation be held throughout the meal? these are all very important things to think about when conducting business in foreign countries, or with visiting clients.

  6. You bring up a good point Midu. I understand the point you make about BMW and how they market to different countries but what specific role would a PR profession have played in that advertisement. The video you showed us was great. It really helped when one of the professionals said that she had to be aware of international time zones and things like that. What other skills should we acquire to be come an international public relations professional other than the having the knowledge of the fact that globalization exists? To your point about taking a class in international relations, I definitely agree! It can only help the PR professional. I really enjoyed reading this, I only wish you wrote more. This was really interesting.

    • The role that the PR team played was doing the extensive research they did, studying and understanding exactly the culture and believes of this region and then coming up with such an amazing slogan. A slogan that combines persuasive words, with pure understanding of the culture. “We don’t claim perfection” we are not perfect because no one is perfect but God. ” But we are always TRYING to be as close which sends a perfect message. Our cars are the best because, they are almost perfect. In the meantime they are telling them don’t be fooled by others who claim that they are prefect because nobody is perfect which implies we also believe that no body is perfect but God. I just think they really did an awesome job there.

      In the meantime, I didn’t mean that you need to have the title of international PR specialist to know those things, I don’t think there is that specificity in the job. You just need to know those things so you can better deal with international clients that COMES to the US to do business and to be that guy that travel with the executives to market the company in other countries. In addition, know your own culture that as we all know varies from region to region within the country.

  7. This excerpt from the Institute of PR should illustrate just how important global PR really is within our field:

    “The growth of the world’s interdependence and the role that public relations and communication management play in this dynamics have motivated the creation and development of several institutions that advocate for, represent, and contribute to the profession and professionals, such as the Center for Global Public Relations of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte since 2009, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations International Group since 2004 (CIPR), the Confédération Européenne des Relations Publiques since 1959(CERP), and the Commission on Global Public Relations Research of the Institute for Public Relations since 2005 (IPR). Other examples of organizations that support the practice are: The Federation of African Public Relations Associations since 1975 (FAPRA), the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management since 2000 (GA), the Inter-American Confederation of Public Relations since 1960 (CONFIARP), the International Association of Business Communicators since 1970 (IABC), International Professional Interest Section of the Public Relations Society of America since 1995 (PRSA), and the International Public Relations Association since (IPRA), and the USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School since 2003.”

    In fact, as Midu pointed out, our text talks about it just like most Intro to PR courses. Does that effect anyone’s opinion about the importance? Not a trick question – just looking to see what other think. Gina

  8. Pretty much any career involving other companies or with international offices need to understand other cultures. America is very nationalist, because “we’re the top” and refuse to learn other languages, apparently. But this makes little sense in a country that’s known for originating as an immigrant’s country – how many pure blooded Native Americans do you know? These are the only people that can speak against immigrants without being hypocritical. I find other cultures and customs to be fascinating, but it’s surprising how many Americans can’t even find European countries on the map – hell, sometimes they can’t even find the states of the U.S.! From a global standpoint, it’s respectful as well as business-savvy to understand the market in other cultures instead of trying to assimilate everyone to American culture. Anyone who is close minded about this will definitely fail in this process of globalization, thanks to the Internet and increased technology.


  9. You are absolutely right! as a PR person, or any business-oriented person, we should be familiar with the customs and traditions of any country we may deal with in business. There is no way around it. We should do whatever it takes to become as well rounded as possible. I believe the best PR people are probably very well rounded, knowledgeable, and may even know a few different languages.

  10. I liked your topic choice a great deal; it’s very relevant today. These kinds of skills and awarenesses are becoming more prevalent in PR and elsewhere, I’ve found…For example, every year during the orientation at the Metroparks, we receive handouts on ways to approach and properly converse with different ethnic groups, noting specific behaviors that are pleasing or insulting. It’s sadly stuff that’s not really emphasized in school settings, though I think college does make more of a point of it, as will our own class in due time.

    All of this examples of businesses getting lost in translation are funny and embarrassing, but at least those are mistakes most won’t make again! You fall, get scraped, get back up and carry on, more aware of your footing (though it’s always best to be forewarned from the get-go…).

    Personally, I’d be pretty nervous to work on a global campaign as PR worker – by myself, at least. There’s just so much I don’t know, and research can only get you so far; not all cultural nuances are well-documented or explained until you’re in the thick of it.

    • I see your point about not knowing everything through research. However, we can do the best we can do about it; extensive research as well as reading and talking to actual people will for sure make us know a lot about other cultures and ethnic groups. And I am not only talking about other countries. Even within the US, there are many things that people from certain ethnic groups or different regions don’t know about other ethnic groups or regions. People from the east don’t know everything about people from the south and vice-versa. We don’t know everything about Mexicans or Asians, those are also an audience that as a professional PR specialist might be addressing.

  11. I agree with some of your points. Although I don’t believe students are as naive as you make them seem. A lot of people are aware of the important cultural etiquette is for their career. Which is why we have such things like Rosetta Stone and other language learning systems. For years, acquiring a language other than your own has been a top priority for professionals. Universities should have mandatory culture education courses for communications students. For the simple fact that these are skills we DESPERATELY need. Although the classroom learning experience can be helpful, hands on experience is the most effective. The way we communicate globally is extremely crucial and can be the deal breaker in many situations. Clearly you are aware of this. I find that as Americans we tend to tailor ourselves to these international guidelines. It makes me wonder, do international companies bother to tailor themselves to our American needs ?

    • I would have to disagree with you on your first and second point. I think our knowledge about the outside world does not exceed 5%. But I do agree 100% when you said that “these are skills we disparately need” As for your last comment, actually we don’t tailor ourselves to any international guides at all. It’s the other way around. In the meantime, it’s not about if they are tailoring themselves to our guidelines or not. If you gonna learn Japanese, you don’t ask first if the Japanese are learning English or not. So, if they are not learning English then we shouldn’t learn Japanese?? Of course we should, because we want to do business with this country, we want to make more money and be successful.

  12. I think that the BMW slogan was an excellent example of international knowledge. As a PR practicianer, it is already challenging enough to represent a company, coming out with the greatest results possible. I took intercultural communications last semester as a way to expand my knowledge outside of the U.S., and as you’ve mentioned is very helpful for your success in this field. We as Americans need to realize that their is work far beyond the U.S. that even pays more, just because you have knowledge of what others would see as unfamiliar.
    Recently I read an article about a speech that Obama made about the improvement of jobs and education in the U.S. He said that we should never limit ourselves or our education because these international businesses are taking over and we are underqualified. You can have an education, but these days that is not enough anymore. Having the knowledge and experience somewhere other than where you live is a great start in a successful career. PR practioners really should do more research and me speaking for myself need to expand.

    • Great analysis Martise, I agree with president Obama’s speech. We should definitely expand beyond the classroom. The European Union is a great example of how PR practitioners learn to work in any environment and any situation. Employees in general, from different European countries are working all over Europe. They have to learn different culture, a different language and how to adapt to their surroundings. Germans are working in France, Italians are working in Spain, Swedish are working in Finland and so on. It is even much harder for Europeans than us here because dealing with different countries is a daily norm for them.

  13. Midu,
    Along with PR I never realized that some things could be very important that we don’t realize! Just like the BMW slogan, PR people have to be sensitives to different religions, cultures, ethnicities. There’s meaning in every word, picture, or thought that we as PR’s produce and say. This also reminds me of the Dunkin Donouts commercial with Rachel Ray! It sent an sensitive message to American viewers and others as well. Being knowledgeable about your audience and potential audiences is very crucial in the PR business!

    • It is very crucial and I am a person who would like to learn every little thing about the people I would be working with, so if I ever work with a company that does international trade, I think I would be that person that welcome guest and travel overseas. I think that the small details is even more important than the big ones, because those little ones are what make you different.

  14. Midu,
    this idea that we have to live outside our own sphere is important to both our personal and professional lives, and is in virtually every aspect of the workforce. My mother works closely with international offices, the suppliers for GM for material and production control, customer service–from all over the world! Some are from China, Australia, Singapore, Romania, etc. She’s made dozens and dozens of conference calls and all these business professionals have to all be on the phone and get the job done together as a collective unit. At the end of the conference call, my mother is evaluated by how well the conference went by her boss. So this is true for anyone, anywhere, and in any profession. Our world is getting smaller, meaning that we are able to reach each other quicker, know what’s going on all over the world faster, etc. We can’t keep the mentally that countries who are not “like us’ are “worlds away” from us.

    for our personal lives, it’s not only necessary because our world is so diverse, but many will find it insightful, interesting, and eye-opening to learn about different cultures. America itself is one big huge melting pot, adopting so many different aspects of other cultures and putting our own twist on it. That’s really what makes us who we are, in my opinion. People have to be more open-minded and mindful of other cultures.

    In the aspect of PR, it is very important to know your target audiences for your clients in order to effectively sell the positive image to them and to others, as well. Because America is made up of so many different cultures, even though it’s important and vital to learn about other cultures outside the U.S., it’s also important to learn about diverse cultures that are in the U.S. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new language, rather what is appropriate to them and what is not (i.e., the type of holidays they observe).

    What I am really trying to say is that I agree with you 100 percent. We need to know, and in a perfect society, it wouldn’t fall on our professors and classrooms, we would want to learn to stretch our spheres and experiences.

  15. Midu,
    I am glad you adressed this topic, you make a very good point and I think that it is something that a lot of people dont think about and it needs to be adressed because one little thing you say, do, or wear can really offend people from other countires. Like we talked about in class the whole Rachel Ray in the Dunkin Dounuts ad, the scarf she wore ended up offending many people. I think PR should take a little more time learning about the cultures of the people that they will be working with. Other cultures can also be very intresting so while taking the time to learn about their customs you might also find out some intesting things for yourself. You never know where you will end up working or with who, might as well do your homework and be prepared!!

  16. if companies are going to have a multicultural workplace then they need to learn to not just be able to give jobs but learn and respect peoples cultural. this big and small companies need to realize everyone in some way depend on their products. if you going to go global these companies better be ready to come out of their comfort zones. you can force the american culture on other people we don’t like when it is done to us so don’t do it to these other countries.

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