From Firm Voice, a Blog from the Council of Public Relations Firms

Is your firm thinking of going global? Is it already there? More and more US firms are opening up offices around the world, and the trend should only intensify next year. Nearly a quarter of Council members have offices overseas, while several others belong to international networks that provide clients with global reach and local expertise.

To round out 2010, we spent some time reflecting on what it takes these days to succeed in global markets. Three chief executives and leaders in our industry, Burson-Marsteller’s Mark Penn, Hill & Knowlton’s Paul Taaffe, and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide’s Melissa Waggener Zorkin, sat down with us to discuss what has worked for their firms in developing markets across the world, what the big challenges are, and what firms should do going forward as they expand into developing countries.

When asked about local differences in public relations practice, our CEOs related that US firms tended to help clients in emerging markets enter Western markets and develop more strategic communications. As Taaffe remarked, “We’re partially in the position of educators. Many local clients don’t understand the different kinds of PR specialties. To their great credit, they’re trying to learn, and they’re trying to figure out what it takes to tap developed markets.” Penn agreed, noting that like many US or European companies early in their histories, firms in developing countries are expanding first, and only putting in a communications infrastructure along the way. “In many countries, there’s a tradition of not talking to the public or to media, and so their notion of what PR is becomes pretty slim. We need to help them understand that public relations isn’t about just media communications, but about a broader strategy.”

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