Balancing Public Relations with Socioeconomic and Political Environments in Transition: Comparative, Contextualized Research in Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela

Article excerpt

Abstract

This comparative, contextualized research conducted between 2003 and 2004 summarizes and discusses the impact of the socioeconomic and political environments on the practice of public relations in Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. Sixty-one in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with top-level professionals in the capital and main commercial cities in these three countries where the profession thrives but is also challenged. The main conclusion is that public relations professionals have a role to play in the transformation of countries toward globalized economies and more ethical participative, political systems in which everyone has a public platform to voice their interests and achieve full social development.

Introduction

Organizations such as the International Public Relations Association, the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the European Public Relations Education and Research Association, and the Commission on Global Public Relations Research of the Institute for Public Relations, among others, are promoting and sponsoring international research, particularly comparative and cross-national studies, in an effort to uncover trends and generic principles occurring transnationally or within regional systems. The global public relations community is beginning to recognize that further and consistent support for the documentation of common and unique characteristics of the profession and its specialized practices in cross-national or transnational environments is essential to the growth of the profession. Isolation is a term and theme of the past, while worldwide learning is currently leading research and education initiatives in many fields of study, including public relations. This research builds on this idea, establishes an understanding of the profession in three countries, and provides additional data points within the international public relations schema.

Contemporary practitioners and scholars are aware of the impact that national and global socioeconomic and political environments have on the evolution and practices of public relations (e.g., Botan, 1992; Culbertson & Jeffers, 1992; Culbertson, Jeffers, Stone, & Terrell, 1993; Sriramesh & Vercic, 2003; Sriramesh, 2004; Stanton, 1991; van Leuven & Pratt, 1996; van Ruler & Vercic, 2004; Vercic, L. Grunig, & J. Grunig, 1996; Zaharna, 2001). Globalization's complex political, socioeconomic, and cultural dimensions constitute an optimum framework for the development and analysis of public relations (Moreno, 2004). The growth of public relations and its specializations is accelerating worldwide, particularly in emerging and transitional democracies and economies. In developing countries, the necessity of trade with rich countries has encouraged the adoption of international business know-how, in essence affecting and transforming the domestic public relations industry. These exchanges generate new corporate and professional cultures between the global and local that is generating "giocai" practices (Robertson, 1995). Thus, given these emerging societal realities, international or global public relations has become an attractive area of inquiry during this globalization era, as noted by Sallot, Lyon, Acosta-Alzuru, & Jones (2003).

Contextualized Latin American Research

Despite the increasing number and quality of publications on global public relations, there is a recognized need to continue systematically documenting the practice in various parts of the world through country-bycountry and comparative studies. While research has effectively documented the profession in Asia, North America, and Western Europe, there are relatively few exhaustive assessments of the industry within a Latin American landscape. This cross-national and comparative research focuses on three developing nations in the region, specifically Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. …