Roundtable Report: How to Succeed in the New Europe

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ROUNDTABLE REPORT: How To Succeed In The New Europe

Work with well-connected locals to unlock doors, panelists agree

Finding cost-effective ways to operate in the new Europe is a challenge facing many U.S. and multinational corporations. While larger organizations have been conducting public relations in Western Europe for decades, the prospect of a pan-European market with 320 million consumers has brought many new players into the game. In the following report, a panel of seasoned observers tells how to succeed in the Europe of 1992 and beyond.

The public relations infrastructure exists today to put even small U.S. or multinational organizations in touch with the "new united market" in Europe. While a truly unified Europe could be an impossible dream, the rapid pace of economic and political events that will culminate in a 12-country conglomerate by the end of 1992 is hard to ignore. In fact, public relations professionals who don't think globally will operate at a distinct disadvantage, if at all, by the time the new millennium rolls around.

These were some of the points made by nine panelists representing firm and client sides of public relations on two continents. At Public Relations Journal's invitation, they met November 4 for a roundtable discussion during the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Conference in New York City. There are many options for those looking for partners in the new Europe, panelists agreed. To select the right one requires patience, cultural sensitivity and good business sense as well as money.

Roundtable participants included: Everett A. Hayes, APR, consultant; Roger Haywood, The Worldcom Group; Richard Jernstedt, Golin/Harris Communications; John M. Reed, Consultants in Public Relations SA; Jeffrey A. Sharlach, Rowland Worldwide, Inc.; Barbara A. Taylor, Hill and Knowlton, Inc.; Peter L. Walker, Pielle Public Relations; P. Joan Wasylik, Cargill Europe; and H. Brian Wilson, APR, Pechiney Corp.

(Editor's note: Participants were all members of PRSA's International Committee or recommended by members thereof.)

To get their messages across in Europe, many U.S. and multinational organizations rely on public relations firms with "captive" offices around the world, such as Burson-Marsteller International, Hill and Knowlton, Inc., Manning, Selvage & Lee and Ogilvy & Mather PR. Daniel J. Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard, GCI International and Ketchum Public Relations are among the many other U.S. firms establishing company owned or operated offices around the world, including Europe.

Other organizations seek European ties through global networks, which may be structured as partnerships, cooperatives, affiliations or other equity or non-equity arrangements. Some of the largest of these are The Pinnacle Group, PRX, Rowland Worldwide, Shandwick plc and The Worldcom Group, Inc.

(Editor's note: This Roundtable Report does not purport to be an exhaustive study of public relations firms in Europe. Instead, by attempting to represent a number of client and firm approaches to the market, this Report is meant to be a starting point for an ongoing dialogue on public relations operations and opportunities, not only in Europe but elsewhere around the world. Several of the firms mentioned above were invited to participate in the Roundtable, but some could not be present. PRJ will continue to follow firms with extensive global operations as well as global networks in future issues. We welcome further input from both firm and client practitioners.)

Take various approaches

On the client side, approaches to Europe vary. While some U.S.-based corporations have public relations staff stationed in Europe, others have a Continental manager working with many local firms on a country-by-country basis. Other companies might have regional public relations managers or simply depend on senior management in a country to contract for local public relations services. …