International Public Relations: A Theoretical Approach to Excellence Based on a Worldwide Delphi Study

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1997

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Abstract

International public relations is one of the fastest growing areas in the public relations field. With 40,000 transnational organizations in operation, and with the myriad complexities of the international arena, there never has been a greater need for public relations practitioners who understand cultures, political systems, media, and other factors that affect these organizations. And more and more organizations and practitioners now are jumping into international public relations. Despite the rapid growth, there are no adequate guides for those who practice internationally. Most articles on international public relations are anecdotal and offer little theoretical understanding of how to effectively practice. The few theoretical examinations mostly compare public relations from one country to the next. Virtually no one has examined the pertinent influences and necessary elements of an effective public relations program in a transnational organization. The purpose of this study was to gather theories and principles that could apply to international public relations and, by exposing them to a global panel of scholars and practitioners, to create a theoretical framework for practice and research in this expanding field. The study generated fourteen propositions from related disciplines about what constitutes effective international practice. The literature implied that effective practice would balance global imperatives with factors that affect local implementation. The study thus distinguished between generic propositions, or those that may be universal, and specific propositions, or the cultures, political systems, and other factors that influence local practice. To determine if certain principles were indeed universal, and also to examine the specific influences, the propositions were "tested" through a Delphi panel of public relations experts from eighteen different countries. The results of the study indicated that the generic variables can be universally applied. The study also verified the influence of culture, language, political systems, development, the media, and activism on local and global strategies. International public relations was seen as different from domestic public relations in its increased complexities. The two-way symmetrical model of communication was accepted as the normative basis for effective public relations, and was viewed as more important for multinational entities than for exclusively domestic organizations.

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