International and Global Public Relations

The Globe

International public relations refers to the practice of public relations that occurs across 

international boundaries and cultures. This type of public relations occurs when an organization and its publics are in different countries.

International public relations takes a local approach by focusing on differences among publics and audiences, while global public relations takes a global approach that focuses on similarities (Alaimo, 2017).

First, with international public relations, PR practitioners “implement distinctive programs in multiple markets, with each program tailored to meet the often acute distinctions of the individual geographic market” (Anderson, 1989, p. 413). This relates to the local approach, which states that “different countries and cultures are so different that they require strategies that are specifically designed to respond to local opportunities and challenges” (Alaimo, 2017, pp. 3-4).

Second, global public relations “superimposes an overall perspective on a program executed in two or more national markets, recognizing the similarities among audiences while necessarily adapting to regional differences” (Anderson, 1989, p. 13). This relates to the global approach, where practitioners "believe that there are certain best practices and messages that are generally successful across countries and cultures” (Alaimo, 2017, pp. 3-4).

An example of the local vs. global approach occurred in 2012 when IKEA, a Swedish furniture company, decided to airbrush a woman out of a catalog it would use in Saudi Arabia because women had to cover their faces and bodies to appear in public (Alaimo, 2017). IKEA apologized after the trade minister of Sweden, a country that advocates for women, complained. The company faced a conundrum in deciding whether to develop content specific to the Saudi culture or project a shared global identity.

Discussion questions

  1. One public relations scholar, Krishnamurthy Srimamesh (2009) has argued that there is no need to separate the term global public relations from international publications “because even ‘domestic’ publics are becoming multinational and multicultural due to globalization." What is your position on this topic?
  2. Rather than airbrushing the woman out of the catalog, what else could IKEA have done that would have been cost-effective? How does your suggestion relate to the global or local approach?
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