You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. PR and cross-cultural boundary spanning

March 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , )

What do Tesco,  Coca-Cola, and  Santander have in common? They are all international corporations that employ and reach out to people from all around the world. To enable people to work together with very different (cultural, social, business) backgrounds, intercultural understanding is invaluable.

When a company wants to expand to another country intercultural boundary spanning  comes into the picture. To establish good working relationships with the local stakeholders   -let them be government officials, investors or consumers, – an in depth research needs to be done about the culture.

What are the local customs?
What is expected from me as a foreigner?
What is expected from my company?
How do negotiations take place?
What is considered appropriate/ inappropriate?

These are all important questions to ask and answer before doing business in any other country.  Boundary spanning looks at these expectations and potential risks, to take the best action possible.  PR practitioners as part of their role, are often in direct communication with external groups. This means they represent the company and are the first people to gain information from the outside. For them to do their job properly as Burk argued they need to be trained to be sensitive to cross cultural differences. He also pointed out that the problem is that in practice there is little done to educate employees in this area.

From the PR perspective the risks are obvious. If a company gets the cultural things wrong, representatives (PR people, agents, board members) are found to do something inappropriate or embarrassing, it can damage the chances of business success.
Therefore research into local culture and training pays back. Especially if this training is given to the right people, in the right positions.

Sharing experiences about doing business in different countries can contribute to PR and to business a great deal. Intercultural awareness can help tackle issues with ignorance and bias that stand in the way of success.

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, right?

for more info go to:

Burk, John (1994) Training MNC Employees as Culturally Sensitive Boundary Spanners.
Public Relations Quarterly; Summer 94, Vol. 39 Issue 2, p40-44,

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