5 Key Facts about PR in the U.S.

…that business people from overseas often don’t know

A visitor from Europe came to discuss U.S. PR with us for his company recently.  He thought he knew just what needed to be done and how it should be done, and he had already allocated a budget for the work. Our conversation shook him up a bit and sent him back to the drawing board. What he discovered is that the American market was different from his own in many respects when it comes to communications and that many of his assumptions were wrong. Here are five of the important differences we pointed out:

1.   Size matters

The U.S. population is large and dispersed over a huge geographical area. There are as many people in all of Switzerland as in New York City alone. The number of media outlets in the U.S. is much larger compared to a country in Europe or South America, or one of the smaller Asian nations.  (I’m not saying that Americans consume more news.)

2.  From tostados to tempura

In the U.S., there are 21 languages that have at least 200,000 native speakers. Wide diversity is a fact of life in all the big American cities and even many small ones.  There are few places where so many diverse cultures live side-by-side (relatively peacefully) under the same flag.

3.      PR: not just “publicity,” a strategic function

In some parts of the world, PR is still restricted to bringing messages from senior management to the media and publicizing new products.  It is “publicity” in an old-fashioned wining-and-dining sense of the word, and not a high-ranking function.  In the U.S., PR professionals develop the messages, they don’t just deliver them. PR – and its twin sister, corporate communications – are strategic functions here that are considered very important by senior management. Often the top communications person reports to the CEO.

4.  Higher budgets

Size, diversity and the strategic nature of PR all contribute to higher costs and bigger budgets. Overseas companies often come to the U.S. with too low a budget to do an effective job of communicating.  They don’t understand that they need to spend more here to reach their target audiences (who have different lifestyles, are spread 3,000 miles apart, live in totally different climates, come from a wide variety of cultural traditions and speak different languages).

 5.   Vital importance of targeting

With such diversity and geographic spread, the way to make effective use of a communications budget is to narrow down the audience to the people you most want and need to reach – those who are the best and most important targets for your company – rather than trying to reach everyone. Unless this is done, either the budget becomes astronomical or efforts are spread so thinly they aren’t effective.

by Lucy Siegel

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