Issues in Public Relations – Global PR

Posted on February 7, 2010

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Global PR – Understand different cultures

Gert Hofstede, the influential Dutch psychologist, undertook a study to analyse the implicit differences in national culture (IBM case study 1973/1974). His work provides a framework from which insight is gained into how countries identify themselves and thereby the attitudes its employees bring to the working environment. There has been a move towards globalizing public relations in recent years, so understanding different cultures is essential.

Hofstede identified five cultural dimensions:

  1. Power Distance
  2. Uncertainty Avoidance
  3. Individualism v Collectivism
  4. Masculinity v Femininity
  5. Long v Short-term orientation

A look at the cultural dimensions of Ireland reveals the following –

Power Distance – Ireland is described as having a low power distance. There is a view within Irish society that inequality should be minimized, and subordinates and superiors should be viewed as equals.

Uncertainty Avoidance – The Irish people have weak uncertainty avoidance, thus, the culture is less formal and standardized compared to a country with high uncertainty avoidance such as Spain, as well as being more accepting of risk taking.

Individualistic – Ireland’s culture is said to be individualistic. People in this type of society are primarily concerned with themselves and their immediate family. Great emphasis is placed on personal achievement, and ties between individuals are loose.

Masculinity – In Ireland there is a lot of emphasis on success, be it financial or otherwise. Remuneration, recognition, advancement, and challenge are all important factors in a masculine culture.

Long-term orientation – When conducting the fifth cultural dimension, Hofstede did not include Ireland in his analysis. However, Ireland, like most western countries, operates to short term goals/plans whereas countries such as China and Japan generally have more long-term targets.

Fons Trompenaar and Charles Hampden-Turner

Trompenaar and Hamden-Turner are the co-authors of ‘Riding the waves of culture’(published 1997), in which they identified several dimensions to help understand cultural diversity in business. They believe each culture has to deal with several ‘universal problems’, social interactions, passage of time and those which relate to the environment. Their findings supplement Hofstede’s work by extending the number of cultural dimensions to seven. These dimensions provide an answer to the three fundamental problems.

  1. Neutral V Affective – Do we express our emotions?
  2. Individualism V Communitarianism – Do we consider ourselves part of a group or an individual?
  3. Univeriversalism V Particularism – Should there be one set of rules for everyone?
  4. Specific V Diffuse – Is our work/life relationship compartmentalized or not?
  5. Achievement V Ascription – Do we prove our status through our performance or is it given to us (age, gender, etc).
  6. Sequential V Synchronic – Do we focus on one task at a time or several at a time?
  7. Internal V External Control – Do we achieve our goals solely through personal effort or does our environment also have to play a role?

Can Globalization exist in PR?

Surely the case has been proven already, where we have the likes of Fleishman, Edelman, and Hill & Knowlton, who have all been able to successfully expand into diverse markets. For them to operate effectively in places removed from their original bases is down to each firm’s ability is to study and understand the local environment (i.e. the cultural dimensions) and adapt to it.

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Posted in: Globalization