- Public Relations
I think we take international public relations for granted sometimes. In the United States, there still are too few professionals who regularly practice public relations and corporate communications among diverse cultures on multiple continents. You know the drill: Arriving at the office very early for a strategic planning call with Europe and Asia; putting out fires with Europe until about 2 p.m., and then scheduling a call with Tokyo from home in the evening – all while managing the day-to-day in the USA, taking an occasional call from São Paulo. This is not to mention the travel involved.
Even the Authentic Enterprise, thoughtful and forward-looking as it is, does not fully acknowledge and contemplate the implications for Chief Communications Officers working in a world in which we are all “competing with everyone, from everywhere, for everything.” The Boston Consulting Group authors who coined that phrase in their new book Globality cite two dimensions of an aspiration to go global. One is strategic logic; our goal of helping our companies shift their mind-sets so they can successfully take advantage of the vast opportunities that globalization offers. The other is an internal or personal conviction that values openness and trust, and thrives on the complexity that arises from communicating across cultural, social and economic boundaries.
Doing business globally presents a great variety of competitive situations and collaborative possibilities that require different strategies and approaches at different times. There are endless opportunities and many ways to play each one. Too often, this is unfamiliar territory for CCOs and their teams who are more used to seeking the single best way, the ideal organization structure, the signature leadership style.
While researching IPRA’s Gold Paper on Globalization and Public Diplomacy, to be released at the 18th IPRA Public Relations World Congress in Beijing on 13-15 November, I asked the CEO of one of the world’s top 10 public relations agencies whether the skills of agency staff are consistent globally to a point where staff can be assigned interchangeably in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, London and Mumbai. Thinking of IBM, GE and Boeing, I was hoping for a “yes” answer. Actually, that goal remains aspirational with only 30-40 percent of the agency’s global team performing at a level where client work could be completed consistently and well no matter where the staff is located, according to the CEO.
To build strategic and sustainable relationships across the world, our corporations and clients require a broad range of skills including relationship building, reputation management, dialogue, cultural interpretation, good governance and behaviour, and perhaps embracing them all – diplomacy. CCOs must be seen as combining the optimum mix of skills required to grow and sustain business globally.
Herein lies real potential for The Arthur W. Page Society as we roll out The Authentic Enterprise globally. One executive in Asia who is helping organize the upcoming Page event in Beijing characterized our opportunity this way: “I receive numerous invitations to attend communications forums in China, but when I take a close look at the agendas, they all look similar. The speakers as well as the participants are pretty much the same group each time. So there is not much influence there.”
“If the Page event has a totally different approach and distinctive content, then we should make that really clear. This is a very special event of our industry – first time for ever in China – organized by a very prestigious organization. People should feel highly privileged to be part of it, if we can build and deliver a highly differentiated statement.”
The challenge and opportunity for corporations thrust into global markets is a catalyst for Page Society members and other CCOs to rethink their role and purpose, so long as we move beyond our predominantly Anglo-Saxon heritage. Let’s use The Authentic Enterprise to further advance concepts such as dialogue and diplomacy, grounding communications and public relations in terms of credibility, relevance and effectiveness, no matter where we do business.
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