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At its core, global PR isn’t about infrastructure or titles.

The most important factor in the success or failure of an international PR campaign comes down to mentality. Two basic questions go a long way toward revealing the presence of a global mentality:

  • Do the account team members collaborate in a way that leverages content and thinking across geographies?
  • Do the account team members care about what happens outside their local markets?

Simple stuff.

Not so simple in executing.

What got me thinking about this topic involved one of our U.S. clients. It turned out that one of the client’s scientists would be speaking at a conference in Seoul, Korea, and the client asked if we could leverage his international trek for PR purposes.

This fairly innocuous request would wreak havoc in the typical multinational PR agency.

Before going further, I acknowledge to bringing a bias to the table that our model offers advantages over the mega shops. With that caveat out of the way –

In a mega shop, such a request in would go from the U.S. office to the Korean office, triggering a negotiation along these lines:

Mega Shop in the U.S.: One of our client’s scientists will be speaking at a conference in Seoul next month. Can you arrange a media interview when he’s in town?

Mega Shop in Korea: What’s the budget?

Mega Shop in the U.S.: We didn’t originally budget for this because we didn’t know the client would end up speaking at a conference half-way around the world.

Mega Shop in Korea: You know I can’t allocate resources without a budget?

Mega Shop in the U.S.: OK. OK. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say the budget is $X. Can you do it?

Mega Shop in Korea: Are you saying that’s the budget, or do we still need to get the client to approve the budget?

Mega Shop in the U.S.:If I take it from the U.S. budget, Larry will go ballistic, so we’ll need to get client approval for the special project.

Mega Shop in Korea: Let me get this straight. You want me to jump through hoops for a piddly one-time project of $X that hasn’t even been approved?

Note: In Korea, the term used to describe the “piddly” size of the project would likely be “juikorimahnhahn” (or 쥐꼬리만한 for our Korean readers), which loosely translated means “small as a mouse’s tail.”

At this point, the conclusion depends on whether the U.S. office can work out some type of quid pro quo, sweeten the budget or escalate the issue. They probably end up exhausting more time than it would have taken to handle the project.

Now contrast this scenario with what actually happened in our model:

HA U.S.: One of our client’s scientists will be speaking at a conference in Seoul next month. Can you arrange a media interview when he’s in town?

HA Korea: Sure, assuming it’s a good story with relevance to Korea.

HA U.S.: It is. What should we budget for the project?

HA Korea: $X

U.S. HA: OK. Who from your team will handle this?

This led to the baton being passed to the account person in Seoul who worked with the team to make it happen.

You don’t need to read Korean to get the punch line that came in the form of a story in Electronic Times.

Korean publications - ETnews

In the grand scheme of any client campaign, one story in a foreign market does not constitute a breakthrough.

But it’s symbolic of our global mentality.

Our account team members do care about what happens outside their respective markets.