World views: Career Guide 2009

Tanya Lewis profiles nine industry leaders to discover how experience working in foreign markets has helped sharpen their global perspective


Company: Fleishman-Hillard
Title: President and CEO
Location: St. Louis
Years with company: 25

In 2004, Dave Senay asked to take over Fleishman-Hillard Europe. He doesn't think he'd be in the position he is today without that experience.

“I wouldn't be leading a global communications firm if I hadn't stretched myself,” he says. “It was one of five or six career defining moves I could point to. Without that experience, I would be another very well-regarded US manager, I guess. It made me not just acceptable to the rest of our company outside the US, but desirable in that there was a feeling I'd been in the trenches and [understood the market].”

In 25 years at Fleishman, Senay has held numerous top posts, including regional president for Canada, Europe and the Middle East, and Africa. He started by managing global accounts, and says those opportunities have increased dramatically as more than two-thirds of the firm's clients need service in multiple countries.

Senay regrets only being fluent in English. He advises learning a second language and traveling off beaten paths. For example, spending time with a cultural anthropologist and a middle-class family in Shanghai helped him better understand the culture.

“It's something of a myth that North America has cornered the market on sophisticated PR,” Senay says. “There are fewer technical and professional differences. The context for communications is different, particularly in the media environment, which is a proxy for a lot of terms like culture, language, and religion. The Internet is the great leveler. In some respects, Japan and Korea are way ahead of the rest of the world in leveraging the Internet and social networks and shifting communications to a mobile platform.”

Emerging markets
The resurgence of the US market will mean a lot to everyone, explains Senay, who also believes that Brussels is “finally starting to realize the potential as the Washington, DC, of Europe.“ He notes the EU's rising importance as a governing body. He also reports major Fleishman investments in Indonesia and Abu Dhabi.

Career bio
Fleishman-Hillard, president and CEO

Held many posts with Fleishman-Hillard, from AE to regional president and senior partner

Held various roles with the St. Louis Teachers Credit Union, Neighborhood Marketing Services, and St. Louis University


Company: Mercedes-Benz, USA
Title: Director of comms
Location: Montvale, NJ
Years with company: 11

A native of Scottland, Geoff Day moved to the US six years ago from London, where he served as communications director for DaimlerChrysler UK.

“There are no boundaries and boarders to communication anymore – maybe China is an exception,” Day says. “A story will have a global audience. A PR pro's role today is to take a more holistic view of the conversation your brand is having with your customer. And remember that customer is choosing how to have a conversation with you; you're not choosing how to have a conversation with them.”

International experience has helped Day see multiple perspectives on messaging and stories. He stresses that understanding cultural differences is key to crafting effective messages. Day encourages his team to ask for and take overseas opportunities – of which there are plenty at Mercedes-Benz, he notes.

Day adds that in many countries, “traditional media isn't as church and state” as it is in the US. And dealing with Chinese media requires “a whole different set of negotiation skills.”

“Being good at PR is being a good diplomat,” he explains. “The essence is being able to understand foreign differences and find a way around them or make them work for you. Global experience also gives you opportunity to see yourself how others see you, and that's a great gift.

“For us – a German company that engineers luxury, quality designs – our story plays differently in the US than in China,” Day adds. “We have to push or pull different levers in terms of our brand story. How you push one or pull one is the alchemy of global PR.”

Emerging markets
Day says China is the “great market we're trying to tap into,” while citing India and Russia as key markets. Overall, he sees “signs of growth in the BRIC countries.”

Career bio
Mercedes-Benz USA, director of comms

DaimlerChrysler UK, comms director

GD Consulting, principal

Scottish Tourist Board, comms manager

The Scottish Office, publicity officer

The Forth Group, program manager


Company: Ruder Finn
Title: President, international and senior counsel, global strategy Ruder Finn
Location: New York
Years with company: 10

Louise Harris is British, but she spent 18 years working in Asia. She's also led business in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

“PR is much more global than it's ever been be-cause of the incredible speed at which news can spread,” she says. “Working in a foreign country helps you look at things through different lenses. It's so important to tailor communication so it has meaning in other countries, and there's no substitute for spending time there. You absorb the culture and understand how people live.”

Harris was already working for an agency in Singapore when Ruder Finn hired her to manage Asia. She doesn't think RF would have approached her if she weren't already in Singapore.

When working abroad, Harris notes that “the PR tools are similar” but “the ingredients are different.”
“You must have an understanding of the culture to make a global program work locally,” she says. “For example, a government official would be a greater draw in China or Singapore than in the UK. Every country and situation is different.”

Harris thinks companies want people who are interested in working overseas, noting that it's a big advantage to have employees with international perspective. She advises showing your interest and says doing volunteer work on vacation can be a good start.

“Don't turn anything down if it gets you closer to your goal,” she adds. “I wanted to work outside of the UK, and I requested to work in Australia. There was no job there, but there was one in Singapore. I accepted it because it took me toward my goal."

Emerging markets
Harris emphasizes how China will remain one of RF's most important markets due to its size, global influence, and propensity for innovative programming and ideas

Career bio
Ruder Finn, president, international and senior counsel, global strategy

Ruder Finn Asia, president and MD

Burson-Marsteller Singapore, various roles. Began as an account supervisor. Became an account manager in 1990. Was named director of the marketing practice in 1994

Burson-Marsteller London, AE


Company: PulsePoint Group
Title: Principal and cofounder
Location: Austin, TX
Years with company: Nine months

During his 25-year career, Jeff Hunt has led business and firms in numerous markets, including Europe, Russia, Korea, Mexico, and Latin America.

“International experience is more important than ever because of the impact social media has on further globalizing communications,” he explains. “Even if you're not selling directly into these countries, the conversation is global now. Cultural sensitivity is critical and growing in importance because cultural nuances weigh in a lot more in a conversational setting.”

Hunt lived for several years in London, Seoul, and Mexico City, and traveled extensively in the regions he oversaw. Those experiences increased his value to both the agencies he ran and to his clients.

“When I got to the point of running a global company, it gave me a lot of credibility, particularly with Europeans, because I was able to demonstrate I was respectful of all points of view and understood nuances of doing business in those countries. It made me less myopic,” he says.

Hunt regrets not having traveled overseas until he graduated from college. He encourages young people to travel as much as possible, and he notes there are many ways to get experience, including volunteer work while on vacation.

“Go in open-minded and committed to learning about the culture,” he advises.

“Don't just hang around with Americans. I always tried to get into cultural norms and events, like Day of the Dead in Mexico. I made a point of learning about the significance of those and throwing myself into them. Don't go for less than two years if you're going professionally. It takes a good year to get acclimated.”

Emerging markets
“People will be really amazed at India,” Hunt says. “Indian culture will lend itself to even more rapid growth in PR”

Career bio
PulsePoint Group, partner

President of Cohn & Wolfe after its merger with GCI Group

GCI Group. President of Texas office and Latin America. Was named global CEO in 2005

Burson-Marsteller. A plethora of top posts in various global regions

AT&T, PR manager

Burson-Marsteller, SAE


Company: Thomson Reuters
Title: Global head of PR
Location: London
Years with company: Approximately one and a half

After being appointed global head of PR for Thomson Reuters last spring, Jolie Hunt moved to London this year. Previously, she was posted in Hong Kong as director of PR for the Financial Times.

“The world is becoming more global, and our craft has followed suit,” she says. “Markets are completely global. A good communicator knows his or her audiences. Having knowledge to draw on is crucial.”

Hunt advises young people to get international experience in the first 10 years of their career. “Make it a priority and work towards it,” she says. “Trust your instincts. Don't wait for the second opportunity. Take whatever opportunity you have because you never know where it's going to lead. ”

Her various international posts have given Hunt a breadth of experience to draw upon, and they've enriched her, both professionally and personally. She points out that the same general PR rules apply in foreign markets, even with the cultural differences.

“You have to have the aptitude to keep your wits about you in different scenarios that may be challenging,” she says. “You have to be naturally inquisitive and have a real sense of who you are going into any kind of international posting because you're tested being away from things that are familiar to you.”

Hunt advises entering foreign experiences – whether as a tourist or resident – “with eyes wide open.”

“I spent my entire adult career traveling from America to London, and I didn't think it would be nearly as hard as it was getting settled in [as a resident of London],” she adds. “You really have to want it, but it's incredibly rewarding.”

Emerging markets
“There's an interesting story out of the Middle East,” Hunt says, specifying Dubai, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.

Career bio
Thomson Reuters, global head of PR

IBM, global director, corp., business affairs

FT, PR director

PR Newswire, national account manager, PR

Putnam Investments, PR associate

January-June 1999
Fidelity Investments, corporate comms intern

Brodeur Porter Novelli, Hi-tech PR intern


Company: Text 100
Title: CEO
Location: New York
Years with company: 20

Based in New York, Ireland native Aedhmar Hynes oversees 31 offices spanning North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. She began her career in Ireland before moving to London to help expand Text 100 throughout mainland Europe. When she took over as CEO, she spent a lot of time in Asia.

“Globalization has become a key factor of being an effective business,” Hynes says. “Even to operate as a strong consultant, you have to have a global mindset.

The best way to have that is to get into the subtleties of different cultures. Communications and PR have transformed as a result of the Internet and technology. Information is moving rapidly across multiple markets. To engage in dialogue, you have to understand the context of the audience, the background, and the social circumstance to make the story resonate.”

Working successfully in foreign markets also requires knowledge of political, legal, and financial systems. Hynes says it's important to understand that resources and budgets in foreign markets might be limited compared to the US market.

Hynes' global perspective is very valuable to both clients and colleagues. Forty percent of Text 100 employees have worked in more than one country, and that's a value-add for clients that she drives.

“The emotional prerequisite to working abroad is flexibility,” she says. “You must be incredibly open-minded because things simply don't work the same.”

Hynes suggests working for a large, foreign-based corporation operating in North America as an alternative to working abroad. She says the company's foreign culture will still be evident, and it can provide “tremendous perspective.”

Emerging markets
While recognizing various regions, “all our focus is on China and India,” reports Hynes

Career bio
Text 100, CEO. Began in San Francisco; relocated to New York in 2005

Text 100, regional director, North America, based in San Francisco

Text 100. Joins the board of the agency

Text 100. Joins as an account executive in London; attains various higher-level roles


Company: The Jeffrey Group
Title: President
Location: Miami
Years at company: Nearly five years

At 28, Jorge Ortega moved from the US to Mexico City to help build Burson-Marsteller's presence there with Jeff Hunt. Ortega ran the consumer practice and helped introduce and develop many major brands in Mexico.

“I worked with government officials and top officials from US companies,” he says. “I got to know the region and interact with colleagues in other countries. It helped me become an expert on Latin American communications.”

Ortega was born in Miami to Cuban parents. Though Spanish is his first language, living and traveling throughout Latin America and learning other languages, such as Portuguese, helped him advance his career and develop cultural sensitivity.

“International experience helps you become a better global counselor to clients,” he explains.

As president of The Jeffrey Group, Ortega works with both international clients and global PR agency partners. He notes that people who have lived and worked in more than one country have a higher level of sensitivity in collaborating with clients and a greater appreciation for how work gets done.

“I highly recommend that students spend a semester abroad,” Ortega suggests. “In fact, spending a semester abroad and mastering a foreign language should be mandatory.”

He recommends getting a job at a multinational company as a first step towards international work.

“Find out about the policy for being transferred abroad and ask how you can include that as part of your career trajectory,” he says. “Ask for examples of how that's worked with other employees.”

Emerging markets
Ortega highlights Brazil and Mexico, along with China and Russia. He emphasizes how Brazil has survived quite well amid the economic crisis.

Career bio
The Jeffrey Group, president

Burson-Marsteller (B-M), various roles, from consumer practice director in Mexico to founder and MD of the US Hispanic practice

Royal West Properties, director of marketing

McDonald's, field marketing supervisor

B-M. Media executive in NYC. Became an SAE in Chicago in 1987


Company: Independent PR strategist (most recently with GolinHarris/Panache)
Location: San Francisco
Years in current position: Six months

Born and raised in Singapore, Sharon Sim-Krause moved to the US to attend college. She's traveled extensively in Asia throughout her career, which began at Weber Shandwick. She worked in its Singapore office on various major accounts.

In 2000, she founded Panache Communications, which represented the governments of Singapore and Hong Kong. Panache and GolinHarris merged in 2006, with the former becoming the cornerstone of Golin's Asian practice.

“I embraced my background and sought opportunities to do cross-border US/Asia work,” Sim-Krause says.

She notes some key differences between the US and Asian press. With the latter, explains Sim-Krause, the lines between advertising and editorial are blurred. Her sense is Asian media are focused more on community building, while US outlets are focused more on truth seeking.

“In the US, you have to work harder to get pitches across and come up with creative story ideas,” she adds. “Generally, Asian media are more open to standard news hooks.”

Sim-Krause says young people seeking international experience can start by doing simple things such as watching foreign movies, taking foreign cooking classes, befriending a foreign student, or joining an international networking group. When possible, she advises going on foreign exchange programs through schools or multinational employers. In Asia, she recommends Singapore as a starting point.

“English is spoken everywhere,” she stresses. “It's a good base to check out other Asian countries.”

Emerging markets
“China is opening doors far and wide,” reports Sim-Krause, adding that the “four tigers” – Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea – are key

Career bio
PR/management consultant, San Francisco

GolinHarris, EVP; director, Panache

Panache, founder and president

Weber Shandwick. Roles from associate to SAE to account director in various markets

Shipley & Associates, associate

Asian American Austin, executive producer


American Express
Title: VP of public affairs
Location: New York
Years with company: 15

In 15 years working for American Express, Gail Wasserman has overseen business the world over.

As a consultant, she lived in Singapore and led public affairs from Pakistan to New Zealand. In 2004, she moved to London to head public affairs for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Two years ago, she returned to New York to work on American Express' global commercial card business.

“Working in foreign countries has enriched me professionally, culturally, and personally,” she explains. “It's changed assumptions I made about how things are typically done because norms are so different around the world. Seeing alternative perspectives has boosted my creativity.”

When practicing PR in other countries, Wasserman notes that regulatory, legal, and media environments can vary greatly. In Singapore, for example, the government owns the largest outlet and drives coverage. What draws media to events and what's considered news also vary.

“The increasing role and globalization of online media makes borders very porous, so we might do a simultaneous media launch verses a country-by-country rollout of a product or service,” she adds.

For those seeking global experience, Wasserman advises fostering intellectual and cultural curiosity at home by doing things such as studying art from different cultures and visiting immigrant communities.

“There's a big difference between being a tourist and a resident,” she notes. “Seeing how people live on a daily basis tells you what's important.”

Emerging markets
India and China are generally seen as key regions, Wasserman says, adding that it does depend on the industry in question. For example, for financial services, London and Hong Kong are major markets.

Career bio
American Express, global VP, public affairs

Independent marketing and corporate comms consultant. Clients included AmEx, Estée Lauder, and Nasdaq

American Express, US VP, public affairs

Ogilvy & Mather, VP, corporate PR

George Braziller, publicity/promotion manager

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