Teaching International Public Relations in the International Marketing Course: An Organizing Framework

Article excerpt


While some international marketing textbooks today devote at least a few pages to the public relations function of multinational firms, coverage remains limited and unstructured. To date, there has been no organizing framework to facilitate the classroom discussion of international public relations' strategies by objective. This paper presents a framework that analyzes the practices of international PR practitioners and sets forth recommendations regarding additional strategies that may prove useful or appropriate within the framework The proposed framework organizes international public relations activities based on their potential usefulness under the conditions of market entry, maintenance (once the company has entered the market), crisis management, and government PR. The organizing framework should prove useful for those teaching international public relations, particularly as part of an international marketing course.


Public relations developed more or less simultaneously in Europe and the United States during the 19th century (Nessmann, 1995). At that time, the focus of scientific study was primarily limited to how public relations influenced the media and newspaper reporting (Nessmann, 1995). Since then, public relations has expanded exponentially in both theoretical and practical terms to PR as we know it today (Nessmann, 1995).

Today, we identify public relations as so much more than simply influencing the media, and its role is critical to long-term organizational success. Today, public relations is defined as the marketing communications function charged with executing programs to earn understanding and acceptance with the internal and external publics on whom the organization's success or failure depends (Czinkota and Ronkainen, 1996; Cutlip, Center, and Broom, 1985; see also Grunig and Hunt, 1984). Furthermore, today's PR professionals are concerned with internal and external publics that extend beyond national boundaries. PR professionals with international responsibility are called on to simultaneously create trust and harmony, build consensus and understanding, articulate and influence public opinion, anticipate conflicts, and resolve disputes (Nessmann, 1995) in and across a variety of cultural settings. International PR practitioners "must do more than choose the appropriate gift for visiting customers, they must speak to them in their own languages, take part in international business discussions, and intimately understand the global, cultural context and socio-economic negotiations (Walmsley, 1998).

Most international marketing textbooks today devote at least a few pages to the public relations function of multinational firms. Often, the coverage is limited to a select few anecdotes about public relations disasters and few, if any, textbooks provide any sort of organizational framework for the various PR activities. As such, little guidance is provided to the international marketing professor in terms of content or structure. The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework for examining the practices of international PR professionals and to set forth recommendations regarding additional activities that may be useful or appropriate within the framework. The paper is presented in six sections. First, the organizing framework is briefly described. In the next three sections, international PR practices associated with (1) market entry, (2) maintenance (including public relations setbacks), and (3) government PR are identified. Each section includes examples of public relations activities in use, as well as suggestions for additional PR activities. Next, some general guidelines to practitioners regarding implementation of public relations activities are noted. The intention here is to provide students with a link between theory and application. Finally, trends affecting the future of international public relations are identified.


International marketing textbooks generally cover the various methods of market entry (e. …


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