International Public Relations
Public relations is hard enough as it is. Trying to maintain a strong and positive relationship between companies and customers – or potential customers – is no easy task. And, that assumes that you’re carrying out your business in your own country, or your own culture. But, what happens when you know that you will soon be dealing with a foreign audience? How will you be able to navigate your company through all of the cross cultural differences that are sure to present themselves? Well, that is where international public relations comes in.
The examples of marketing campaigns that have failed in overseas markets due to cross cultural differences that were not prepared for are numerous. For instance, the chocolate bar company that tried to market its products as being beneficial for weight loss did not fare so well in Africa, where the heavier you are, the more you are viewed as someone with money and high social status.
Tastes and values can vary dramatically between cultures and lands. Even the slightest word in a press release could bring disastrous results to a company if it is not examined ahead of time for its level of cultural awareness and sensitivity. Everything from words to pictures and symbols needs to be put in its own international context.
The first key factors that need to be taken into account for international public relations to be successful are language and culture. A poor translation of a press release or any other promotional materials will kill your campaign before it even has a chance to start. When Ford tried to market its Pinto car in Brazil, the company saw miserable sales. They wondered what was going wrong since the car had been successful elsewhere. Ford executives finally realized that, for Brazilians, the word ‘pinto’ meant small male genitals. The company quickly changed its name, but not before learning the important lesson in cross cultural marketing.
Success in overseas markets will also depend not just on the spoken word, but also largely on that which goes unsaid. In American culture, most of the importance when doing business lies in what is being said. For the most part, words in the U.S. are literal and meaning and taken at face value. In other countries and cultures, communication relies much more on the unspoken word. Who is speaking? What is the context in which they are speaking? And, what is their body language saying? These factors, and others, are of differing importance to different cultures.
The very channels of communication, or the means by which you get across your message, are also of extreme importance as you head into foreign markets. For instance, while televisions and newspapers may be the dominant media in your country, there may be other countries where most of the population you are targeting will be illiterate. Thus, spending 90 percent of your budget on newspaper marketing would be a complete waste of money.