(Image credited to article Making Headways into International Business.)
It is majorly important to know your audience in a global audience, so imagine how major it is for a communication professional. Multinational businesses that operate in other countries, whether they are ran locally or not, need to always be aware of their audience. Between language barriers and cultural differences, it is not that hard to have a slip up. That’s why it’s so important to do your research. Fraser P. Seitel, author of The Practice of Public Relations, said it best: “The actions of individuals and organizations in one part of the world are felt instantly and irrevocably by people around the globe”.
Public relations professionals must always consider the audience, no matter what country- especially if it’s one that has had any hiccups with the one they’re from. There could be numerous reasons as to why two countries don’t exactly “get along”, but the most prominent reason today is because of the companies. When I say that you really need to do your research to prevent a slip up, I mean for every T to be crossed and I to be dotted. If the entire world was watching your organizations every move, was listening to every work-related phone call, and had access to all of your top secret information, would you be able to sleep at night? That is the mindset you should have if you’re in a multinational business.
Unfortunately the utility company Con Edison didn’t take that step. Instead, The New York Times shed light on something that hurt their reputation. In 2007, The New York Times published a report that manhole covers made for their company were being produced by “barefoot, shirtless, whip-thin men” in oven-like temperatures in India” (Seitel). Con Edison made claims that they had no idea of these working conditions, but immediately changed them and improved the safety standards on its manufacturer. If they did their research, they could have fixed it before the Times revealed it to the world.
(Image credited to referenceforbusiness.com’s article Multinational Corporations.)
China had a slow start into the public relations world, but they might have the biggest finish. China is the world’s fastest growing economy, second only to the US, which it should pass soon (Seitel). It has even been presumed that by 2020, 70% of the world will speak Mandarin as their principal language. These two factors alone should be an alert to PR professionals around the world; the competition will be tough. Additionally as stated earlier, language barriers are a key concern. Nothing ever translates perfectly from language to language, so have translators; a single translator usually isn’t an expert in PR messaging.
Dr. Kevin Lin, head of KL Communications, stated these considerations to have when doing PR in China: translation is barely given any thought and most translators in China aren’t established enough in English to fully understand highly condensed messages. Coca-Cola said in China “If everyone could see the glass as half full and not half empty, the world would be a much better place” (Lin). They could have had ten translators- the concept doesn’t exist in China. Instead, the audience was confused beyond belief. It ties in perfectly with the next consideration I mentioned: don’t complicate the reader. The company I work for does most of their work overseas. My boss always finds himself re-writing certain employees business proposals; they’re focused on sounding highly intelligent, but all they end up doing is confusing the client.
As the nation with the largest consumer population, China ranks fifth in world trade and is climbing (Seitel). China’s public relations field has grown significantly since its start. They have over 1,500 public relations firms and employ more than 30,000 people; more than 15,000 of them are professionals. Their public relations field is responsible for $400 million of their annual revenue. A big reason of its expansion is their vast media competition. China has 8,000 magazines, 2,000 newspapers, and 3,000 television stations; no wonder why it’s predicted that their PR will only increase.
It’s hard to decipher what news outlets are reputable and the most reliable in a region you are foreign to. This is something PR professionals need to thoroughly research before doing PR anywhere outside of their comfort zone. China Daily provides authoritative information and analysis to global readers. Their main focus is China, but they also share information on other areas: United States, Asia, Europe, etc. They incorporate print media, as well as digital media; their digital media outlet works around the clock which is a great feature to have when you’re on a different time zone. Additionally, media outlets like Xinhua, CCTV, and People’s Daily have great market share in China and they are all state-ran. My advice to a PR professional would be to have more than one- or even two- news sources.
Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. Print.
Lin, Kevin. “A Quick Introduction to Doing PR in China.” PR Success Monthly. n.d. n. page. Print. <http://www.peterbartram.co.uk/downloads/train5.pdf?PHPSESSID=cdf5c4f9df4ddb01d0793fb24c19c5c4>.