On Thursday, October 25, International Agency PR professional Jasper Fessmann, came to speak in our Introduction to PR class. As I sat in a COM 101 lecture hall seat, our professor joked that he was legitimate because of his German accent. A Boston University COM alum, Fessmann was incredibly knowledgeable on breaking into the international public relations industry.
After giving a broad introduction on PR work at an agency, Jasper delved into the topic of cultural differences and how they affect PR practitioners. A fantastic example he gave was the importance of symbolism and meaning behind everyday gestures. His examples, the “peace sign” or “victory sign,” are understood very differently depending where in the world you are. Although it has positive connotations in the U.S., the peace sign can be taken very offensively in other countries. Jasper stressed this example to show the importance of research. Know your client; be aware of cultural differences, biases, and stereotypes when working in international PR.
Jasper also discussed the different views PR has around the world. Each country has a different perception of what makes up public relations work. Although the concepts of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation still apply, many countries face different challenges when it comes to PR. State media regulations dominate some countries, while other countries face censorship and even threats. As Americans in international PR, it is important to conduct press work according to the press culture.
The major takeaways from Jasper’s presentation was that it is more than possible for us to break in and succeed in the international PR industry as Americans. A graduate of BU, Jasper assured us that our PR expertise is highly valued; we are coming from the best-developed PR system in the world. If you are interested in pursuing international public relations, Jasper offers two pieces of advice. First, you must have a second language to work in the international market. Language barriers exist; do what you can to break them down. And secondly, take an intercultural communications class. Jasper knows what he’s talking about.