11 July 2010

Nigeria: Importance of International Public Relations


In spite of information and communication technology (ICT), writing remains the key to public relations practice nationally and internationally. Hence the practice of public relations distinguishes professional communicators from amateurs.

It is true to say that all of us know how to write and speak better than our colleagues. In essence, communication that is effective writing and speaking is the last of the practice of public relations. Furthermore, it means that the ability to write easily, coherently, and quickly distinguishes professional public relations practitioner from others in organizations.

It is crystal clear that the practice of public relations currently is assuming a more sophisticated dimension. From records, no company, institution, or government wants to rest on its oars. In other words, every organization wants to be working properly to attract a good measure of recognition from within and outside the shores of its country of operations. It implies therefore that no corporate entity or country would like to tarnish its image or remain irrelevant in the scheme of things. Based on this, there is huge investment in various public relations activities the world over.

However, with the increasing participation in external and/or international trade and multinational business activities by different international organizations and countries, the importance to understand the different types of communication needs of the international boundaries is becoming very important. It is proper to say that no two countries can be the same; this is because they must have two different markets. To this end, a country must try as much as practicable to understudy and get acquainted with all the information needs of some other countries. In order to execute these properly, there must be need to map out the various systems to apply to reach target audiences at the international level. This is necessary because international trade contributes immensely to the total economic activity in the world. A lot of trade crosses international border each year. The role of trade in the economy varies from one nation to another.

No doubt, efficient and effective international public relations management is important for the development of international trade and governmental relations at the international level. This is because in recent years, the public relations activities of multinational organizations, religious organizations, the tourism industry, tertiary institutions, governments at all levels including the media industry have gone beyond national boundaries. It is therefore, appropriate to say that for such activities like trade and commerce to prosper, the difficulties of communicating verbally and symbolically across national and cultural borders must be overcome. This, therefore, is the proper role of professional public relations practitioners.

With the expansion in business and subsequent international spread, it has become necessary for multinational organizations to start applying PR methods and techniques in educating the foreign markets in order to create the much needed knowledge and understanding. This is because it is only when such foreign consumers know about your country and its products/services, activities, history, and the level of commitment to their cause that they will now align with your country or organization.

Obviously, international public relations is such a highly demanding and complicated area that one can't just step into. In order to function efficiently and effectively, the professional public relations practitioner must be equipped with all the facts and other necessary ingredients needed to blend well with all the forces operating in the international business scene.

It is true to say that many organizations that had already stepped into multinational business are confronted with the difficulties of operating smoothly in such foreign markets. Some of them have realized that international trade is not at the same as domestic business. International trade is more complicated, conditions of competitions abroad are often unfair, and barriers not found in domestic markets encumber the potential overseas trader.

The international public relations practitioner needs to know that international business activities tend to be moderated by four major environmental factors. First and foremost is the economic factor. This is absolutely necessary for the public relations executive or adviser working for an organization planning to go international should examine the economic growth trends, inflationary trends, balance of payments, and financial as well as labour institutions of the new host countries.

He also needs to understand the nature of some requisite facilities such as transport, communication, electricity, water and housing. He needs to work hard to win the goodwill and support of some international bodies like the European Economic Community (EEC), European Free Trade Area (EFTA), Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) and others like Southern African Development Community (SADC), Economic Commission of Africa (ECA), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The public relations executive (PRE) must also know about the socio-cultural environment, in other words, customer behaviour as it concerns product changes and/or different marketing strategies.Others include political and legal environment as well as technological environment.

An efficient and effective international public relations practitioner should be able to interpret and analyze trends in the international market or environment, and promptly predict their consequences to his home government, company or client with a view to keeping its business interest going on.

It is his duty to be able to project an institution or government's corporate image beyond the national frontiers because such activities often include those multifarious communication activities carried out in foreign countries on behalf of a company, government or clients. Now that the Federal Government of Nigeria is talking of re-branding, we need the services of professional public relations practitioners to help us market, project and protect the country's image beyond boundaries.

He should know that reputation of his country or business organization is absolutely necessary internationally. It should be noted that the reputation of a country or organization has three elements, image of different types, identity and personality. Image is the perception of various stakeholders; identity is what the organization or country says its reputation is, while the personality is the country's or company's culture, set of actions and the way it behaves.

Finally, PRE practitioners should therefore, perceive themselves as agents of change because their prime responsibility of the is to interpret the client; that is, its organization and the government to the relevant publics and vice versa using the right or relevant medium or media.

Soeze is a mass communicator with the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State.

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