Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Opening Doors in Latin America

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Opening Doors in Latin America

Article excerpt

Favorable Economic And Political Climate Presents Business And Communications Opportunities

Organizations seeking to do business in Latin America face many challenges as they consider how to position themselves in the new political and economic environment. Public relations practitioners are stepping forward to solve these problems and develop their own profession as well.

After three decades of somnolence, the public relations profession has reawakened in Latin America during the past few years.

For the first time in living memory, virtually every nation in the Western hemisphere has a democratically elected government. Although the wave of democratization that has swept Latin America received scant coverage in the U.S. media, it is no less important than the concurrent rejection of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe.

As in Eastern Europe, the demise of authoritarian governments in Latin America was linked to the general failure of centrally planned, wasteful and inefficient economic policies. The new democratically elected governments are bringing in such reforms as the denationalization of industry and the easing of external trade barriers, as the new leaders try to cope with the enormous debt left from the bank lending binge of the 1970s, rampant inflation and decline in individual incomes.

For the first time since the 1960s, when a generation of military leaders took control throughout the region, the economic climate looks favorable to business in general and the communications industry in particular. This resurgence can be attributed to the recent democratization that has swept the region, bringing favorable economic repercussions.

With democratization has come a flourishing independent media, an essential condition for the free exchange of ideas and the healthy pursuit of public relations. From the Rio Grande to the Straits of Magellan, old and new newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations are blossoming. Mexico City will soon have the first high-definition television (HDTV) station in the Western Hemisphere, while such traditional bulwarks of free expression as La Prensa of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Le Mercurio of Santiago, Chile, are again vigorous.

In this new, open political and communications environment, the public relations profession is experiencing strong growth and development. Practitioners are dealing with challenges and opportunities created by this new openness.

Multinationals inspire development

After World War II, modern public relations practice was implanted in Latin America by multinational companies, particularly those in the transportation, extractive and manufacturing fields. Airlines and shipping companies sent expatriate public relations professionals to Latin America who in turn trained local employees. Many young journalists were brought to the United States for training as public relations practitioners. Oil and mineral companies trained local personnel in community and employee relations.

During the late 1940s and on into the mid-1960s the profession grew and flourished. In 1967, the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) World Congress of Public Relations was held in Rio de Janeiro, drawing a large attendance from Latin America and the world at large. Interestingly, the next World Congress, to be held in 1994, will take place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and will be the first such gathering in Latin America since that 1967 meeting.

Evidence of the renewed interest and activity in the public relations profession in Latin America can be found in the existence of revived, active professional public relations associations in 15 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela. In addition, the Interamerican Confederation of Public Relations (CONFIARP), founded in 1960, largely at the initiative of the noted Mexican practitioner, Federico Sanchez Fogarty, has become much more active recently. …

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