A recent article in The New York Times' "Office Space" section featured an interview with Keith Reinhard, president of Business for Diplomatic Action and chairman of DDB Worldwide. The focus of the piece was how the tarnished image of America is impacting business overseas.
While no CEO would admit the bottom line was being hit by anti-American sentiment, Reinhard did say, "There is a cooling towards American culture generally across the globe."
Global PR brands may serve as one example of how US companies can transcend geography, particularly within its own industry. In the PR universe, it is intellectual capital that is for sale, and international thought leadership is one way of continuously feeding both the new-business pipeline, as well as the industry's pool of new ideas and perspectives.
The profession has a number of international organizations, including the International Communications Consultancies Organization (ICCO), whose biennial conference has been produced by PRWeek. The most recent summit was held a few weeks ago in Prague. Its roster was populated with speakers from around the world, including the US.
Judging from response to and attendance at sessions run by Howard Paster Of WPP, Harris Diamond of Weber Shandwick, Ray Kotcher of Ketchum, and Helen Ostrowski of Porter Novelli, there was great interest in US perspectives, as well as those offered from the many other regions represented.
Even so, it may not always be apparent just how much the US PR industry has changed in terms of its global purview, even in the five years I've been covering it. The leaders listed above, and many others, are among the tribe that spend as much, if not more, time outside the US than in it. Even many smaller US firms have international offices, as well as designs on reaching even farther beyond their borders.
These leaders are listening to the needs of local affiliates and regional office leaders, as well as to their clients, both gleaning fresh perspectives from non-US quarters and offering expertise where the PR industry is still developing. More and more, these firms are proving that PR is becoming a global business in the best sense of the word, one that can play a major role in setting standards for working, developing strategy, and building teams across borders while still respecting and protecting local culture.
ICCO has an opportunity to continue to harness the wisdom of these truly global PR officers, as well as the rich resources of such talent as Prema Sagar, principal and founder of Genesis PR in India, Jean-Pierre Beaudoin, MD of I&E Consultants in France, and Paul Kohtes, founder of German's Pleon Kohtes Klewes, and the others who populate the organization's roster. The fact is that America's PR heads don't consider themselves to be running just American companies, but companies that are engaged with the world at the most meaningful levels.
John Saunders, MD and regional director Europe for Fleishman-Hillard, has taken the leadership reigns from Carlos Lareau, COO of Burson-Marsteller. He closed the recent ICCO Summit with a rallying cry to the attendees to get engaged and tackle the problems and challenges that impact the entire profession. As an Irishman, he definitely was not talking as an American. As a Fleishman executive, the same holds true.