Firms Send Promising Internationalists to "College." (Public Relations Firms)

Public Relations Journal, August-September 1994 | Go to article overview

Firms Send Promising Internationalists to "College." (Public Relations Firms)


At least three leading public relations firms spend $100,000 or more each year on multiple-day seminars to prepare promising account executives for international practice. These gatherings of up-and-comers from around the globe focus on building effective teams, updating participants about major practice areas, and developing cross-cultural sensitivities, according to the organizers. At these seminars, formal training sessions are often supplemented with problem-solving exercises, case studies, client input, presentation critiques, informal networking and lots of fun. Following is a summary of major educational programs, based on interviews with the senior executives involved.

"We spend a lot of time, money and effort to expand our national expertise and client service to an international mindset," stated James B. Lindheim, chairman, Burson-Marsteller. B-M has a "long history of building a worldwide culture," he added.

Except in 1993, the km has held an international college every year since 1989, Lindheim noted. "This year, we will hold three regional colleges for the Americas, Asia/Pacific and Europe. We bring in 50-70 people." Usually, these are senior account supervisors or managers of client service in their late '20s or early '30s, he said. Course offerings include problem-solving excercises and case studies in a "university format" that lasts three or four days.

B-M's college is separate from quarterly senior managers meetings and practice group meetings. The latter involve about 15 people per region who meet to discuss business developments in their areas of expertise.

No dinosaurs allowed

GCI's third annual International Forum, held May 4-8, brought together 105 people from 32 cities in 26 different countries. Previous forums were held in London and Stockholm.

According to GCI's CEO Jack Bergen, the Forum includes "people at all different levels of public relations experience. The criteria for attendance is international interest. No dinosaurs allowed!" Attendees represent "the future of the finn," Bergen stated. Their average age is early '30s. "They get charged up by the interaction at the event and bring that enthusiasm to clients in offices around the world.'

Convened in Washington, DC, the 1994 Forum began with a morning program on "public affairs on the Hill," Bergen went on. Outside speakers included Ray Hoewing, executive director of the Public Affairs Council, and client Ken Berkowitz, VP & director of public affairs, Hoffman-LaRoche, based in Nutley, NJ.

Next, the Forum visited the U.S. Senate and learned bow to develop a grassroots organization. Sen. Joe Lieberman' (D-CT) and Sen. David Durenberger (R-MN) addressed Forum-goers on "global issues" at lunch. Sightseeing in the nation's Capitol and a dinner cruise on the Potomac completed the day. …

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