Posts Tagged ‘international communications’

How American PR Is Different from PR Overseas

February 19, 2013

Foreign companies that want to build visibility in the U.S.  are usually surprised to find that there are cross-cultural differences in the role of public relations between their countries and the U.S. In many parts of the world, including most of Asia and some of Europe, the tactics used by most public relations departments have traditionally been limited to media relations and event planning, with social media also becoming more popular recently. The goal is to win over potential customers (both consumers and business customers) and to try to safeguard the company’s public image.Morpheus on PR

In the United States, Canada, the U.K. and a few other countries, there are additional aspects of PR. In these markets, PR is not relegated to building visibility and helping market products, it also includes strategies to build and enhance a company’s reputation. PR professionals look for ways to develop and strengthen relationships that will help the entire company in its interactions with various audiences, including investors, the local community, government officials and employees, among others. In other countries, PR is more top-down, with management deciding what they want to communicate and the PR department executing those decisions. But in the U.S. there is more two-way dialogue with the public, and the PR or corporate communications department is expected to monitor the public dialogue, and also to recommend messaging and develop materials to help support the company in those conversations.

In countries where the PR staff is mostly limited to helping to market products, PR professionals have a significantly lower status than they do in countries where PR professionals have a broader role that includes strategy for and management of corporate reputation. As one would expect, in the countries where PR has a lower status, PR professionals have less contact with top executives and aren’t usually seen as strategic advisors to corporate management. In the U.S., by contrast, the top PR job is often an executive position that reports directly to the CEO. In some cases, the professionals who hold those positions make very high salaries. (In large companies, the salaries are frequently in the range of $300,000. One recent news article reported that the head of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company was being paid a million dollars a year. Those executives, and the employees and PR firms they hire to help them, manage issues important to the company, trouble-shoot in times of crisis and help with the overall positioning of their companies. They are responsible for fostering good relationships with all of their companies’ audiences, from employees to interest groups to customers and potential customers to government at the local, state and national levels. Some are also responsible for investor relations.

Often when I receive a call from a potential client from overseas, I can see the difference in attitude towards PR right away. I ask what the company is looking for from a PR agency, and the answer I get is usually a prepared list of PR tactics that the executives in the company have already decided will fill their needs. After talking to us and as they begin to work with us, the company’s staff begins to see that we can help in ways they hadn’t anticipated, and they stop telling us what tactics they want us to deploy, asking us, instead, for our counsel on helping them meet their goals.

Cross-cultural PR is a two-way educational process, since the client learns more about the U.S. business culture and sees how communications works here, while, at the same time, we have a chance to learn more about the client’s own culture.

Lucy Siegel

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Memories of an Internationalist: Ray Josephs – Author, PR Executive and Promoter Extraordinaire

October 19, 2012

This week I stumbled across a book published during World War II by an old friend, Ray Josephs, a journalist, author and international public relations executive who died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 93.  Ray was one of the best self-promoters I have ever met. It was instructive to watch him  in action, even in his 80s and 90s.

Ray started his career as a newspaper journalist in the 1930s.  He always wanted to travel, and managed to wangle an assignment from his Philadelphia newspaper to cover a story in South America in the pre-WW II years. He fell in love with Argentina and with a German

Ray Josephs in mid-career

Jewish émigré he met there, and ended up marrying her and staying in Buenos Aires for several years. Buenos Aires was the beginning of Ray’s international communications career, a journey he enjoyed until just before he passed away.

The book I found was “Argentine Diary: The Inside Story of the Coming of Fascism.” He told me about his time in Argentina but I had forgotten the details, which I discovered in an article with Ray’s byline published in the British newspaper, The Independent in 1994.  About his years in Buenos Aires, Ray wrote, “It was not only love that worked out. While in the city, I helped set up the first Latin American news bureau for Time magazine, sent stories to the Chicago Sun-Times and other dailies, and the show business weekly Variety. Through the entertainment world, I got an early lead on Evita Duarte, who later married military strongman Juan Peron, and my reporting on life in their dictatorship became my first bestseller, ‘Argentina Diary’ …”

French edition of “How to Gain an Hour Every Day”

Ray eventually moved from journalism into public relations, a new profession at the time.  He founded International Public Relations, and did work for companies and brands from all over the world, some of them quite well-known, ranging from General Motors to the Concorde.  But while his PR firm kept him busy, he never stopped writing. Among his books are “Latin America: Continent in Crisis,” “Streamlining Your Executive Workload,” and, the book he was best known for, “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day.”  This time management book, published in 1955, sold very briskly in in the U.S. and then was published in Japan as well.

Now I’ll move the clock up to around 1990 or ‘91.  Ray was almost 80. He had a soft spot in his heart for Japan, which he had first visited in the ‘50s after the war when the country was absorbed in the tough task of rebuilding and reinventing itself.  He had helped set up a PR firm in Tokyo that his firm worked closely with, and his clients included a lot of big Japanese companies. But he hadn’t been back to Japan for many years. Ray knew I had worked for a Japanese PR firm in Tokyo in the late ’80s, and called to ask if I could introduce him to some of my Japanese PR agency contacts. He wanted to take his wife Hanny to Japan and had arranged to write a trade magazine article on the Tokyo PR scene. I put him in touch with several of my colleagues in Tokyo, some of whom entertained Ray and Hanny royally while he interviewed them for his article.  When he returned, he told me an amazing story.

Vietnamese edition of “How to Gain an Hour Every Day”

A young man he met at one of the Tokyo PR firms said to him, “You’re very famous! I read your book about saving time– it is so popular here.” Ray answered, “My book was published long before you were born. Did you find it in the library?” The young man answered, “No, I bought it in the book store just last week.” Ray decided to pay a visit to his old publisher to find out how his book could still be in the bookstore, since he had not received any royalties for many years.

The publishing company (one of Japan’s largest) told him they had reprinted his book many times over the years, but unfortunately they had lost track of him and didn’t know where to send the royalties. Ray came home with a very large check and a great idea.

Ray figured if the Japanese were willing to buy his old book, which had not been updated since he wrote it, he could surely convince publishers elsewhere, both in the U.S. and around the world, to print new updated editions. He was successful in getting an American publisher to issue a new edition of his book, incorporating quotes from well-known modern day American business titans about their own time-saving tips.  Then he set off on a grand world tour to find overseas publishers.  He used his extensive network to get introductions to people who could help him in each country.  Ray’s country visits included interviews with well-known local business people so he could incorporate tips from them into locally-tailored editions of the book. He also met with potential local publishers and arranged media interviews for himself with the biggest local media outlets.  In essence, he was wearing three hats: journalist, business executive and what we would now call “talent.” He was doing his own PR and setting the stage for an incredible publishing coup.

He asked me for overseas contacts in the countries he was visiting who might be able to introduce him to publishers. I put him in touch with people in several countries who wined and dined him and Hanny while Ray fished for contacts with publishers and journalists.

When Ray came back from Europe, he showed me a very impressive binder full of media coverage he’d gotten for himself. The media in Europe were quite taken with this dapper little old man (he was very short and always smartly dressed), who, in his 80s, had revitalized his career as an author.

If you Google Ray Josephs, you’ll find “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day” for sale in a multitude of languages.  This man’s promotional skills were so well-honed that his second edition books are still selling all over the world, long after he ran out of hours himself. Ray  mentored many people during his long career, and through them, his legacy, like his books, lives on.

Lucy Siegel

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