US firms must adapt to EU, urges panel

WASHINGTON DC: American PR agencies in Europe need to work harder to understand the specific national cultures and languages - despite the imminence of the 'unifying' single currency.

WASHINGTON DC: American PR agencies in Europe need to work harder to understand the specific national cultures and languages - despite the imminence of the 'unifying' single currency.

That was the message received from panelists at this week's 'Euro-K, I'm OK' conference in DC, which tackled the changing face of PR in the European Union. They said the single currency would not affect the overriding issue - the need to understand the cultures and languages of the individual nations.

'Too many American companies have never really adapted to the variety of European standards,' said Chris DeCroix, managing director of Brussels-based Attitudes PR. 'They have relied on a generic approach that won't work any more given that Europe is becoming more forward-thinking.

'Even multi-national clients in a country like Belgium need that Belgian flavor which a large US agency cannot provide if it does not have Belgian personnel.'

Willy Helin, press and public affairs director of the EU's delegation to the US, warned US agencies not to underestimate the differences in language and culture that exist regardless of the 'Union.'

But Lambert Mayer, president of Paris-based PR firm Trim International, stressed that it would be vitally important for American firms to understand and get involved in Europe, however complex a market it might seem.

'One-fifth of the world's population live in the participating countries,' he added.

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