Measuring PR's global scale takes more than US outlook

This year's Global Special was based almost entirely on interviews with local agency executives. In the past, our focus was divided between the large firm CEOs, who are primarily US-based, and country/regional leadership. This time, we sought to immerse ourselves in three specific countries: Brazil, China, and Germany.

This year's Global Special was based almost entirely on interviews with local agency executives. In the past, our focus was divided between the large firm CEOs, who are primarily US-based, and country/regional leadership. This time, we sought to immerse ourselves in three specific countries: Brazil, China, and Germany.

In addition, our "virtual roundtable" had leaders logging in to comment on industry trends from India, Mexico, Ireland, and other locations outside the US.

What we find every year is that the story of PR's increasing maturity and profile in every market around the world is a complex and exciting story. Distilling the insights down into a few thousand words is difficult, and some of the outtakes are just as compelling as what lands on the page.

Take, for example, the perspectives of Chris Tang, GM of China for Text 100, on the impact of blogging. "Blogging starts to take off in China as a 'leapfrog' technology," she says via e-mail, adding that according to a market research firm in Beijing, the number of registered blogs in China has more than doubled since the beginning of 2005.

But the trend cannot be understood from a purely Western perspective on the blogosphere. "Given the constraints of the political system, development here is sure to follow a different, though perhaps no less rapid path," Tang says.

"Despite the rapid growth, I'm a bit skeptical of its influence in the immediate future, as most of the blogs today in China are still personal blogs and that China essentially is a 'lack-of-trust' society," Tang adds. "People still find government and related bodies [such as government-sponsored media] are the most trustworthy and credible sources of information."

Nevertheless, Tang says the blogs have the potential to be "a watchdog to traditional media and [to] become a driving force for a more transparent and democratic media environment."

Firms of every size are taking a more global view, even those without international offices. CEOs are spending an enormous amount of time traveling outside the country, and the importance of international conferences and awards shows is growing.

We need to keep pushing for thought leadership from the regions themselves, rather than from US talking heads. The nuance of how blogging might impact China at a cultural level is not one that can necessarily be gleaned from a Midtown New York office.

What we still lack somewhat is a consistent view from corporations and local companies in regions around the world. Depending on the country, there's a greater or lesser degree of reticence to talk about PR from an in-house perspective. So while we know communications is playing an increasing strategic role, we still have to take the firm's word for it in some cases.

The culture and profile of PR in companies around the world is as fascinating as the issues that pros now face. Global case studies will help us better understand how much the landscape has truly changed.

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