Should PR/Communications Strategies be Standardized or Localized?

As my bio states, I was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. However, I achieved all my higher education qualifications in the U.S., including a degree in Liberal Arts from Jefferson Community College in Watertown, NY, one in Mass Communications from Grambling State University in Grambling, LA and an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX.

I mention this because I recently moved back to Saint Lucia where I have continued pursuing my career in Public Relations/Communications which includes doing some consultancy work. And as I recently tackled one of my first big assignments, I thought about all the rules, methods, practices and techniques I had been taught both academically and professionally while in the U.S. and wondered if they could all be applied to my work in Saint Lucia, which is so vastly different than the U.S. in so many ways.

This then led me to thinking about PR/Communication strategies in general and wondering if there is a standard that could and should be applied no matter what or if certain factors, such as a completely different country, should be considered when working on a campaign. In other words, can PR strategies be standardized or should they be localized?

Some of the significant differences I found when I started working on this latest project with regards to it being Saint Lucian based, include:

  1. Language – There is the obvious language difference in terms of the use of British English spelling in the Caribbean, versus American English. However there were more significant differences in terms of PR language – such as, the use of terms like paid versus earned media. While press releases and advertisements, etc. are obviously employed, the terms did not mean anything to the people I worked with.
  2. Population – To say that Saint Lucia’s population is vastly smaller than the U.S. is a gross understatement. Honestly, there are many U.S. states, hell even counties, with much larger populations than the entire island of Saint Lucia. This was something I thought about a lot, when constructing a public relations strategy and thinking about things I’d learned while working at large global firm in the U.S. whose clients tried to reach the national population, which totaled over 200 million people versus a total population of a little over 170,000.
  3. Tools – After many months back home, observing many individuals, I came to the conclusion that certain communication tools are not as effective here as they may be in the U.S. simply because they are not as popular. For example, while social media is certainly a presence, particularly Facebook, twitter is virtually non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, people know about it and some use it but it is nowhere near the level of Facebook. And so I had to reconsider the use of Twitter in my proposal, realizing it may not be effective in reaching the national audience.
  4. Culture – Saint Lucia, like any country, has many distinctive qualities that has to be taken into account when constructing a communications strategy. It’s not just the different language but the value systems of the people, family structures, food, music, social mores, and so much more.

That said, every group of individuals in some way, is its own culture, as is every organization. In the U.S. alone, there are many different sub-cultures based on race, orientation, interests, age, geography, etc. Which is why, despite all the significant differences between the U.S. and Saint Lucia, I found that I didn’t have to alter my methods too much and so concluded that PR/Communications strategy can be standardized.

There is a reason why, no matter what, no PR/Communications strategy gets started and successfully executed without a thorough and well detailed plan. Because every PR/Communications campaign, no matter the organization, product, essentially seeks to tell the story of that organization or product or entity.And to do that successfully, an effective practitioner must always identify the key target demographic or demographics the campaign is meant to reach.

Why, because no firm or product can be everything to everyone. Not even in an island as small as Saint Lucia because no matter its size, it too has numerous sub-groups of age, geography, gender, etc. And reaching each demographic means understanding the culture of that demographic and having to tailor the strategy, tools and tactic to effectively achieve the goal. This is a fact of any successful PR/Communications strategy which remains unchanged. And so, while some significant factors should be taken into account when practicing in different countries, the core principles of PR remain unchanged – that is:

  • Know your client well
  • Precisely understand what it is they want and need
  • Correctly identify their key markets
  • Accurately understand the nature of these markets – wants, interests, demographics, etc.
  • Perfectly tailor your strategy, including objectives, tactics, tools, to said markets

These are universal practices that if all done well, guarantees success no matter the location.

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