The US has long been the marrow of public relations development and with much reason. Our long-standing democracy, dedications to the ideals of free speech and press, are the nutrients necessary for a robust and growing communications field. However, as the US has grown the field, the impact of globalization, emerging markets and the Internet have created opportunities in regions such as Latin America. In this region, time, product evolution, creativity, legislation and technology are leapfrogging traditional stages of development, yielding new models, strategies and successes for the field of PR.
The new face of creative public relations often entails the following elements: a live, interactive Internet event to launch a new portal site; sophisticated seminars designed to bring the best and brightest of a company's R&D division in direct touch with the people who use the products; and loyalty programs that link consumers to special members via wireless paging.
Interestingly, all of these programs were created and implemented in Latin America by AT&T in 1995, Lucent Technologies in 1996 and Motorola in 1997 respectively. If you haven't heard what's happening on the cutting edge of communications in Latin America, you may be missing out.
In Brazil, PR pros played a key strategic role in communicating the benefits of privatization for the Brazilian economy as Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, Brazil's state owned mining company, became the world's single largest privatization project of 1997. In Mexico, the PR industry has communicated the features and benefits of open competition in the long distance telecommunications sector with detailed community relations initiatives being carried out by all competitors. Agencies have also been breaking new ground with Spanish language Internet portals such as Starmedia, Yupi.com and El Sitio.
Today, Latin America represents an early adopter of technology, and communications firms are learning from decades of practice in the US. Each new leapfrog in the evolution of business and technology brings both change and uncertainty of what lies ahead for multinationals in Latin America. This, in turn, is bringing new challenges for PR practitioners. Together with fast-paced growth, this information convinces companies to place the onus of results, measurement and creativity in the hands of PR professionals. More than advertising and/or direct marketing, public relations has a seat at the boardroom table and the ear of the chairman.
Alberto Durig is managing director and chairman of the technology practice for Burson-Marsteller in Latin America.