Expository Essay on The Future of International Public Relations

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This examines the implications of practitioners and scholars embracing the cultural-economic model and how that affects patterns of global public relations.

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Implications for Practitioners Embracing the Cultural-Economic Model

Public relations activities are grouped into areas that include multinational corporations, nation-building, travel and tourism, nonprofits, trade associations, and sports among others. This teaches us that nothing is fixed from the meaning of cultural mores to targeted publics all of which affect our work in public relations.

Reframing Public Relations Practice Across Borders and Cultures

Public relations often is associated with crisis, perceived or actual wrongdoing, and criticism. The result is a discourse of public relations shrouded in suspicion and distrust. The public relation as a bad news discourse could become dominant enough to cancel out other competing discourses, such as those more favorable to the practice of public relations. Such discourses would spawn from the moment of regulation, which instructs us that cultural expectations can affect the practice of public relations. To reframe that discourse we need fewer discourses that offer competing perspectives.

The model offers the raw materials for public relations practitioners to encode their materials and campaigns with such new discourses. Through those efforts, public relations can also be about maintaining and protecting credibility even when things are going well. To reframe international public relations we need to use the cultural-economic model and its ethical guidance to develop discourses of public relations in periods of tranquility.

Public relations need not always be about fixing problems and reputations but also include examining the public relations techniques of organizations that are not in trouble or going through turbulent times. The answers to questions like; what are they doing? How are they building their reputation? What are they communicating? How are they communicating? And to whom they are communicating helps us identify discourses of public relations that are not predicated on strife.

Defining Global Public Relations

What is global public relations? There are two approaches to defining global public relations, first is that public relations are always occurring either good, bad, or indifferent. The second is that if the field of public relations is seeking a global definition it must be all-inclusive.

Scholars have been encouraged to shift their attention from comparative case studies built on Western public relations models to include the development of new theories and ideas.

This forces practitioners to analyze materials written not only by host nationals but also by Westerners who have traveled to foreign lands, sharing what they have learned. This helps us see cultures from the inside looking out and vice versa. The call is to examine countries according to the range of meanings they hold as found in their respective histories, cultures, and political and economic systems.

Challenging Assumptions

This is a way in which the cultural-economic model can inform international public relations by considering how the intersection of culture, identity, and power shapes how we see the world.

The intersection also influences how we view the public relations function. The product of the intersection forms the foundation of a critical and cultural public relations perspective and the paradigm shift from the positivist theories that predominate in western public relations scholarship.

For public relations to have an impact that can save lives, eradicate disease and ameliorate global strife, it must be viewed and understood in its proper context. The tides of globalization destroy the public relations industries in developing countries because nobody can afford it. This is according to the head of the Reserve Bank in Zimbabwe.

The public relations industry is disappearing from the areas in which it may be most needed due to globalization leaving uneven development, unfulfilled promise, and stunted evolution. Public relations might continue to have higher visibility in strong economies but its practice and study should not be limited to those areas. Another determinant in challenging assumptions is difference and identity caused by practitioners being unable to appreciate the difference of conceived notion of how public relations should be practiced. Embracing the cultural-economic model gives us different meanings by revealing the undercurrents of culture that exist. The challenging assumption is a process that entails work and sensitivity. This is where the practice of matrix comes in.

The Cultural-economic model emphasizes communication as the currency of communication. Placing communication over economies empowers the public by according them respect as dynamic entities that create and perpetuate the culture.

A final way in which the cultural-economic model can inform international public relations is by pushing those who embrace it to challenge assumptions. The idea here is not to unlearn or drop everything you know about public relations. You will not be surprised to find that the crux of challenging assumptions is to consider how the intersection of culture, identity, and power shapes how we see the world. The intersections also influence how we view the function of public relations. The cultural-economic model cannot be used to predict the future of international public relations.

By its very nature, it is flexible enough to keep up with the changes and remain viable as the field continues to grow and evolve.

Global Processes of Meaning Making and Public Relations

The definition, role, and scope of public relations will continue to change as marginalized voices are brought to the forefront of global public relations discourse.

We suggest that societal perceptions of its values and worth will continue to change as well as its scope of practice.

For instance, if there is no universal definition of public relations, it is contested. The lack of a base doesn't make it immune to the global tides that will bring to bear emerging discourses of public relations.

In the future, we might expect to see the function of public relations expand and blur the boundaries between public relations and similar topical disciplines such as marketing and advertising.

Debates about propaganda, persuasion, information, and point of view should not be discarded; they should be viewed in relation to public relations.

What is meant by public relations today is not necessarily what will mean years from now. This point encourages practitioners and scholars to stay abreast of the field by monitoring global perceptions of public relations and joining public relations associations.

It is important to recognize that public relations agencies and associations are generally the formalizing structures that define public relations practice around the world.

As noted earlier, those structures tend to cluster in countries with strong economies. That does not mean that public relations education and scholarship must follow the same gravitational pull toward the world's economic engines.

The challenge to public relations is to widen its frame for viewing the world through a politics of inclusion. We do not have to agree with public relations practices around the world or necessarily like them. But we can learn from the practices that are different from ours.

Again, the idea of difference is the stream of commodities in our discussion.

Acknowledging differences and embracing diversity is difficult to work.

According to Ronald Steel’s statement: we insist that they be like us. And of course, the world must be democratic. It must be capitalist. No wonder many feel threatened by what we represent

At stake is the future of public relations and whether it continues to veer toward dominant global forces or is reflexive enough to include areas of the world that are underrepresented economically developing and absent a western heritage of public relations agencies, associations, and tradition.

A first step toward broadening the scope of international public relations is to generate more studies that do not compare public relations practices around the world but consider them in their own cultural context with their own economy, political structure, and situational particulars. The result can be a much richer, broader understanding of public relations.

Along with that understanding is a need for ethnic diversity in public relations. The field must be as culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse as the audiences it seeks to reach.

Global Politics and Economy

The engines driving public relations will be political, economic, and cultural.

Culture merits special attention because of its prominence in our understanding of what it means to do and practice public relations.

However, the economy and politics are as important. Economic growth around the world brings with it the irrepressible forces of globalization. One by-product of globalization is an increase in institutional structures to define public relations.

We expect to see more institutions at the local, national and international levels that seek to label their work public relations.

These institutions might include multinational corporations, trade associations, and professional public relations associations. Technology will continue to dissolve national and organizational lines, making nations and companies more transparent and less isolated.

This trend extends into economic power, as countries emerging from developing status will bring to bear more powerful discourses about public relations.

It is still likely that the number of formalizing institutions will cluster around countries and regions of economic growth. This pluralism will translate to more voices trying to define the practice of public relations. The challenge for practitioners is to remain open to these new discourses and remain flexible to new interpretations and meanings of public relations.

The Cultural Engine

Culture is the focal point of all public relations. How culture changes our world and how we see it will continue to confound and surprise us.

The cultural-economic model gives us the tools to adapt to change and most important to ensure that culture is at the bulls-eye of public relations campaigns.

The bulls-eye will remain unfixed, moving slightly and retreating back to its original place or perhaps never returning to that spot.

When we challenge our assumptions, incorporate lessons from the circuit of culture, use the practice matrix, and eschew complacency in any public relations endeavor, the groundwork for truly effective international public relations practice is firmly in place.

One approach to elevate the status of public relations internationally is for practitioners to look for guidance outside the realm of public relations. We are not suggesting that practitioners start reading medical journals or become generalists. What we are saying is that practitioners must be open to looking beyond traditional public relations knowledge for new insights and discoveries.

Even for practitioners who have little interest in influencing the world, the knowledge of international affairs is a hallmark of a cultural intermediary. Knowing the world is the first step to understanding it.

How quickly practitioners respond to the challenges is of great importance.

It is important for practitioners to commit to being reflexive and seeing the world around them on terms other than their own. In this regard, the cultural-economic model is more than a model.

The end result of using the cultural-economic model of international public relations is a new way of seeing what we do in public relations, how it affects others, and how it can benefit diverse groups.

The model strays from many Western theories and practices...

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