Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Your Career and You: "PR 'Foreign Policy'"

I had a cup of coffee with a new friend the other day who wanted to try out some ideas on how, after completing her Master’s degree, she might further that education with “real-life” experience in the U.S. before returning to her home and family in Beijing.

We spent about an hour…first “session,” more to come…discussing her practical experience in China, which aspects of that experience she really enjoyed, and how she could build on the knowledge she has gained both from her previous worklife and from her graduate studies.

As might be expected, I was firing off ideas right and left, and she was taking everything in and processing it in terms of her own goals and objectives.

We parted with the agreement that I would introduce her to colleagues at upcoming PRSA Boston, Publicity Club of New England, Social Media Club of Boston and other events.

You’re probably sitting there thinking to yourself, “Okay, Kirk. This is ‘interesting’ but what’s the point?”

Good question. And one that we all, as professionals or soon-to-be professionals, should be prepared to ask and answer.

What’s the point?

Our world is shrinking at warp speed. At the recent Public Relations Society of America International Conference, I met and spoke with dozens of PR professionals from across the globe. They represented a host of practice areas as well as the gamut of public relations experience levels.

The one unifying theme in all the conversations was a desire on the part of each to practice public relations in a way that would make them…and their respective employers…proud…that would represent the public relations profession for what it is…an honorable, ethical field of endeavor.

No surprise here, but 21st century public relations has become a global concept.

What is tweeted in Boise is retweeted from Beijing to Bangladesh.

“Casual” statements in a CEO’s blog in Memphis are seen and responded to by readers in Moscow and Mozambique.

The challenge for us as professional communicators, then, becomes one of thinking “outside the box,” or, better yet, “outside the borders.”

I had a great chat with our Academic Dean at Curry College a few days ago during which he asked me a series of questions about my definition of the ideal learning environment for today’s (and tomorrow’s) students.

My response, in a nutshell, was that I wanted/expected students to be well-grounded in the liberal arts…to be familiar with history, literature, the sciences…and to be aware of events in the greater community outside their campus.

I always try to be crystal clear that the students I’m talking about are my Public Relations Concentration troops. Ideally this would encompass other disciplines as well, but I’m being the conservative here and am sticking with what I can (sort of) control.

Happily, the Dean shares my vision, so I see, as Rick said to Louis in “Casablanca,” the “beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

But that’s the reality, again. Our “world” no longer consists of friends and neighbors within driving distance of our hometown. And the impacts of our actions no longer affect merely those who are the immediate recipients of our message.

Ours is a world without borders which means that we must be aware of cultural and other differences and be prepared to communicate successfully with our various audiences.

It’s not a “new” world that we live and work in, but it is a different and rapidly-evolving world.

It’s a world in which, as communicators, our “foreign policy” will prepare us for events and opportunities that impact us and our clients.


  1. Dear Kirk,

    I can not agree more with you! I am from Ukraine, but have relocated to the USA recently and have been experiencing a bit of a culture shock at first, but now I am very proud of getting know other cultures. I makes me view so many things differently now!


    1. Welcome, Valeria, and thanks for connecting on Google+! My wife is Chinese, and I am still (40 years later) learning new things about her culture and heritage that influence my view of my own upbringing in the "Deep South"!

      I really appreciate your reading and commenting!

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