Think Global, Act Local

Local Public Relations has been known for the benefits it drives to its clients and the reputation it enhances leading to better business prospects for them. International or Global Public Relations is no different. It has a similar set of objectives based on clients need and a strategy to ensure a positive outcome. Where it varies is in the scope of its operations.

Global or Local PR?

Local PR as the name suggests acts in a localised environment and deals with a target audience which either reside in that particular area or have their interests associated with it. Segregating such a group and reaching them economically could prove to be an arduous task. Local PR deals extensively with local media and opinion leaders and tries to influence them in their clients’ favour.

International PR on the other than has a multinational approach and deals across cultures. The overwhelming challenge is to ensure that the campaign is perceived in a similar way across nations and the message doesn’t get diluted or misinterpreted. The local opinion groups rooted in their inherent culture could take a different approach on the communication being presented to them during such a campaign. It is of the utmost importance to understand what strategies work in one region and offends local sensibilities in the other.

But are they really so distinct from each other and can they function independently? ‘The best PR is that which works on both a global and a national basis,’ insisted Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond. ‘There is no question that globalization is a reality, but all PR is local. According to Diamond, even ‘think global, act local’ is not an accurate descriptor of how global PR ought to work. ‘It’s an attempt to think about PR better, but “think global, act local” implies that a central strategy exists, a sort of NASA mission control.

Innovating and adapting to this environment is the biggest challenge an international PR initiative faces at its very conception stage. Local PR has the advantage to deeply connect with the local target audience and customise their approach. The small size of the target group makes the campaign more agile and effectively ready to face problems and offer counter measures speedily. The international PR has to make sure that the campaign takes into consideration number of international factors like the ongoing political scenario in the countries where the campaign is going to be implemented. This becomes of prime importance for example if you are holding a campaign on human rights in a country like China. Anticipating the possible outcomes could help smoothen the process, however it does impact on the overall efficiency of the campaign.

Lending total responsibility to the local agencies may also not prove beneficial because their messages would be limited only to a particular sect, community or a group which comprehends the language and the context behind it.

And going completely International may miss out on the local flavour, the culture, the background knowledge and may lead to misinterpretation of the message if not put in the right context. Harris Diamond gives the example of an Australian ad for the Electrolux vacuum cleaner – suggesting that the ‘Electrolux sucks’ tagline would not work in America.

Michael Burrell, vice-president, Europe, Edelman says in an article in PR Week Nov 2005, ‘It’s how to put global brand messages into local markets. It’s about getting the trust from clients to let you give business to indigenous agencies if you don’t have the skills in a certain area already.’

In conclusion, I would say that ‘think global, act local’ is the best way a PR campaign can be executed into any market, with the right message conveyed with a global appeal that brings everybody on a common platform and yet maintains the indigenous appeal.

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