Each morning I walk down cobblestone streets, board a trolley car, pass the royal palace and head to my internship where I can look out of my window to a fjord from the North Sea. Now let me start off by saying, I didn’t know anyone in the company prior to my start and I didn’t get this internship because of chance. I networked my way across the ocean to Europe where each day I experience new culture, build language skills and I explore all that Oslo, Norway has to offer. I went from a student in Northern Michigan to working on the digital marketing team of Helly Hansen, one of the world’s largest outdoor brands, in less than a month and I haven’t looked back since.
I currently live in the capital city of the Kingdom of Norway in northern Europe. My commute to work is exciting and each day my views change. I take a new route to my apartment, to the market or to explore new neighborhoods of the city each day. The view of my audience changes daily as well. I can no longer rely on my audience to understand common American phrases or reflect on cultural norms from the USA. When your target audience becomes the world, your messages need to change. This is what international public relations is all about; expanding your message to reach as many people as possible in the most relatable and meaningful way no matter what country they live in, what culture they are a part of or what language they speak.
International relations focuses on three main points. These are the things I keep in mind at all times when copywriting for newsletters, social content and other materials that are sent around the world.
1. Understanding culture
Word choices can be the difference between capturing the attention of a new consumer and offending an entire group of people. Our beliefs, values, behaviors and societal norms often are reflective of our culture. If you’re interested in this sector of our field, begin your research by learning about new cultures around the world. For example, if you’re trying to reach the Asian market, you need to know what makes it different from the American market and its similarities for cross-cultural communication.
2. Understanding global issues
Showing that your brand or organization is up-to-date with news around the globe is more than an opportunity to create strong content — it is a chance to show corporate social responsibility. In the world of international public relations and marketing, it’s truly a necessity. At some point, global issues need to outweigh a promotional tweet for a summer sale and it may be your responsibility to make sure it’s rescheduled for a later date. If you’re trying to relate to consumers, make sure you’re aware of breaking news as they become aware of it and act accordingly.
3. Maintaining ethics within cross-cultural communication
The most important thing to remember when working in this field is that you need to remain ethical. The judgment of what is right or wrong differs based on where you are in the world. Triple-checking that your actions are not offensive to another group of your target audience and researching the beliefs of many different groups of people will allow you to make a strong, ethical decision each time.
If you need more help, download the PRSA Ethics app. It is on my phone and ready to be referenced whenever I have a question. Often times, these are learning opportunities for you as you start in your career so never be afraid to ask for advice from your supervisors, fellow colleagues or mentors. As a previous PRSSA National Committee member (2014–2015), I would be remiss if I did not thank the vice president of advocacy and the entire National Committee for their support and guidance. Reach out to them throughout your time in PRSSA and use them as a resource.
So whether you’re interested in working in the USA for a global company, in an agency with international clients or, like me, interested in moving to a new continent, make sure you’re keeping these three points in mind. The world is getting smaller and more globalized with the help of technology and we need to remember this moving forward. No matter how small our world gets, culture will still be important, global issues will still arise and remaining ethical needs to be a top priority.
If you could work in any country other than the United States, where would you go?
Jordan Paquet is a digital marketing intern with Helly Hansen, an international producer of textiles and gear for sports and work on the ocean and in the mountains. He is a recent graduate of Northern Michigan University where he studied public relations and electronic journalism. Follow him on Twitter @Jordan_Paquet or connect on LinkedIn.