Public relations is becoming a truly international industry. But before going straight for a PR career overseas, do some research. The industry's growth abroad is slower than you might think, and there may be unforeseen challenges involved in creating a global campaign. You'll also want to consider looking at both PR firms abroad and domestic companies that have an international presence.
The field is, first and foremost, a "service business," says Paul Ewing, former managing director at Hill and Knowlton, one of the top public relations firms to maintain a global presence with 72 offices in 38 countries. As more companies go global, the trend is to hire PR firms with a global capacity -- and that means the larger firms are at the top of the list. Burson Marstellar, Shandwick, Porter Novelli and Fleishman-Hillard are some other firms also known for their global capacity. This does not, however, eliminate the need for smaller niche firms. Some industries prefer a firm that specializes in a particular industry or specific country.
What Is PR Work Like Abroad?
If a company is selling a soft drink in one market, it will generally want to convey a consistent message about the product across all markets. At the same time, it is important to understand a particular country's cultural nuances to be able to effectively communicate the message.
Public relations professionals help corporations define and transmit this message as an integrated communications strategy -- sometimes globally. "Since every situation and set of client needs is different from the next, PR never stops challenging practitioners to learn more and stretch their skills," says Ewing. "Constant professional development means you get the satisfaction of always being a little further along than where you were a month ago. And working with a client to overcome obstacles and accomplish something remarkable can be a deeply rewarding experience."
Professionals in this field spend a lot of time listening very closely to clients' needs through emails, telephone conversations, meetings or client correspondence. They then figure out how to transmit their clients' desired message and to whom. Finally, they employ a communications strategy to transmit the message through outreach, events, third-party media and Web site development. Sometimes the work may involve training their clients to deliver the message themselves.
How Can I Get a Job in PR?
Whether looking globally or in your own city, you should know that each agency has a different model of how it hires. Some recruit only entry-level workers and expect employees to work their way up, while others are more tolerant of those with non-PR backgrounds.
Experience in media, client services and research are common for those who move into public relations at a more midlevel capacity. Sometimes PR firms look for significant experience in a sector, like healthcare or the auto industry; this familiarity allows an executive to shape messages for a particular audience. Beyond experience, Ewing stresses it's important to "understand the power of communications and how it can be maximized to benefit clients."
For More Information
Public Relations Society of America: PRSA has a wealth of information and a great list of links, including one for seminars and conferences -- why not learn and network at the same time?
PR Week: This site has regional and international editions -- a great source for international PR news. You can also subscribe to the print magazine or WorldWire, an international email news service.