Public Relations Across Cultures

My exchange program experience at Atmosphere Communications in Cape Town has taught me so many valuable lessons I could have never learned in a classroom. As I hopped on a plane from the U.S., prepared for the 24 hours of travel ahead of me, I was nervous about what to expect at the firm: would I provide value to their team? Would their team accept my thoughts and ideas? Could I do public relations in another country for two weeks? When I arrived, I felt calm within minutes of meeting my temporary colleagues because I came to realize almost instantly that public relations is universal.

I was warmly welcomed into the culture, asked to participate in internal meetings and brought into client meetings and events for some of Atmosphere’s largest clients. My fears were washed away when I understood that the work we do each day is the same across cultures.

Throughout my travels, I identified the following three tactics that remained the same in our work half a world apart from one another:

Storytelling

At the heart of every public relations campaign is a good story. As I listened in on updates for various clients, it became apparent that the foundation of everything we do in our industry is rooted in storytelling, no matter the country. Whether it’s writing a press release, working with influencers or pitching media, fundamental public relations tactics must be tied to intriguing story angles to be successful.

Strategy

Our world is becoming much more connected with technology and because of that, our industry is changing. A simple press release is no longer acceptable when raising awareness for a product or client. We must take a step back and look at the larger picture; how does social media come into play? Is there a design element we should think about? Could we work with an influencer to elevate this brand to another level? This shift in strategic thinking has taken hold of all PR professionals and that was apparent throughout my time at Atmosphere.

Service

Client service remains the top priority for all PR professionals. Amidst our daily tasks of pitching, writing, researching and strategizing, we must consistently ask ourselves “are we doing good work on behalf of our clients and are they happy?” This benchmark, client satisfaction, is also worldwide – it is the driver of our business and the key to our success. While at Atmosphere, I saw amazing work happen for clients and even more importantly, I saw fantastic client relationships that had been built through years of great service and impactful monthly reporting that demonstrated PR’s role in client success.

In addition to my professional experience in Cape Town, I’ve grown so fond of the people, the food and the culture that has surrounded me the last 12 days and I’ll forever cherish my time here.

  • I’ve had the chance to eat and shop at three different markets: Mojo Market, Oranjezicht Market and the Biscuit Mill.
  • Thanks to my fellow coworkers at Atmosphere, I’ve walked the Waterfront, breathed in the fresh sea air from the Promenade and tasted some of the best wine South Africa has to offer.
  • Staying with my host and Atmosphere founder, Nicola Nel, has taught me about the kindness of South Africans and the importance of eating healthily for every meal 😉
  • My belief that cats are the best animals on the planet was reaffirmed by staying in a home with two tiny, loving felines 😊

Fun Facts:

I was born and raised in Michigan and am originally from the Detroit area, but now live on the west side of the state in Grand Rapids. I received a bachelor of science in public relations from Grand Valley State University in 2012. I began my career at an advertising firm, but have called Lambert my home for the past 6 ½ years. I enjoy event planning, clients focused on community and impact and client relations.

I was home-schooled until high school and have 2 sisters and 9 nieces and nephews! I love beach volleyball (though I’m not that great) and play on a league each summer. My boyfriend and I have 4 cats, so I suppose you could call us crazy cat people 😊 In my spare time, I’m often found reading, on a boat or drinking a dirty martini!

By Valerie Pesonen, Senior Associate at Lambert and honourary Atmospherian!

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