Last week I spoke to a group of Boston University students in the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP). Most of these students are in their 20s and 30s and are looking to perfect their understanding of the English language. Many are enrolled in the program by their employers or looking to make themselves more attractive for hiring. The class I spoke to had a majority representation from Korea was focused on studying American business acumen and culture. I shared with them tips on how to interview successfully when transitioning from school to the corporate world and discussed current U.S. marketing/PR trends.
Their responses were fascinating and I learned a great deal of just how different- and similar we are. Here are the highlights:
1. The importance of “the team” – American PR agencies most commonly service accounts in teams. This concept resonated well, as the class shared their companies run the same way. However, they take the team concept to a new level. Seniority is taken very seriously. One woman shared that she was a vegetarian until joining a new company where her team dined on either meat or seafood everyday at lunch. Since she was junior to the team she gave up her vegetarian habits to fit in- as expected.
2. The challenge of managing your personal brand – The class was surprised to learn about the challenge many American students launching into the corporate world face today- managing all the information they’ve shared about themselves online via social media tools. Too often college grads have to wipe the online slate clean to remain attractive to potential employers. The class was unfamiliar with the term “social media,” many were on Facebook, but few had profiles on LinkedIn. Some shared that they have struggled with the “friend or not to friend” issue when dealing with employers or clients. Their solution was to establish two accounts on each site- one personal and one professional.
3. Still a boys’ club – The class shared that the PR teams at their companies work mostly at night, because they are busy taking reporters out for cocktails. We discussed how this was more accepted in the past in U.S. culture, but largely today reporters are too busy and often have editorial policies in place that prevent them from accepting meals or gifts from PR folks.
4. Transparency is in the eye of the beholder – When talking about traditional PR pitching, one man volunteered that it is typical for reporters to ask for and then print word for word as an editorial article content provided to them by a company. I shared how this is less common among U.S. press, with contributed articles disclosing the company author being more acceptable.
Overall, it was clear that while there are great similarities with the international concept of PR and marketing, there are significant differences in how practitioners in other countries achieve the same end result. What international PR practices or trends have you noticed?