International Partnership


“International PR is also Intercultural PR” (Botan, 1992)

Discuss Highlights: Oct. 31st, 2013

Points: 25 points


As Kent and Taylor (2001) put it: “central to intercultural competence is that, like interpersonal relationships with our friends and family, effective intercultural communication is based on shared patterns of experience and interaction as well as a general and specific understanding of individual cultures.” They advocate that, the PR practitioner should “start by learning the answer to certain ‘generic’ cultural questions” (p. 52).

The main goal of this assignment is to gain competency as an effective intercultural and international communicator. This means you need to understand the cultural context enough to interpret the intent of the message accurately.

As Amiso M. George (2003) states: “creating the appropriate image of a country or a corporation requires an understanding of how the media in different countries operate. Whether covering war in a foreign country, representing foreign clients in the U.S., or marketing products and services to international consumers, intercultural communication practitioners and scholars should recognize the need for a clear understanding of their publics, the appropriate channels of communication, and strategies for using various media most effectively” (pg. 403). This exercise will also be insightful in dealing with different publics from different racial, cultural, national, or ethnic backgrounds in the U.S.


Set aside time to meet (hang out, chill, discuss books, or otherwise get to know) an international partner/friend that you identify. In your interactions every week, try to learn about/be aware of one of the following aspects of your interaction. I hope these dimensions will help you know, understand, and appreciate each other better. This is also an opportunity to know our international friend, so feel free to chill, chat, and basically enjoy developing your partnership.

At the end of 7 weeks, you should have completed all the dimensions. Each week, you will write a 400—500 word blog post on the IPR website. Respond to at least one other class participants’ entry under that category.


1. To understand our own cultural values and our assumptions about other cultures.

a. What are your cultural assumptions of right and wrong, acceptable or non-acceptable behaviors in different contexts (social, personal, family, business, professional, religious).  For example, ”expats in France consider it impolite to keep their hands in their pockets while talking to someone. Similarly, hands should not be kept below the table during a formal dinner with casual acquaintances or business contacts.When invited for dinner in a private home of someone living in France, don´t bring wine, as choosing the right wine is considered the responsibility of the host.  A small present, however, will be appreciated.”

*Some more on French social customs here.*

Similarly, in Japan, “sympathy [is] expressed in many situations by the term “kawaiso” (可哀想). This means something like, “Oh, how pitiful!” But then I was also confused by the lack of any intention to do anything about the pitiful situation. The attitude seemed to be, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” I guess this has roots in fatalism, or as my well-studied Japanese friend told me, “In the Edo period, Japanese rulers used a certain type of Confusio-Buddhist thought to convince people to passively and willingly accept violence and suffering without hope for improvement. It helped the ruling class to better subjugate the people.” The Japanese word for this kind of patience is “gaman” (我慢), and perhaps “gaman” is really at the root of this whole issue.”

*Some thoughts on parent-child relationships in Japan here.*

b. How do your own perceptions of cultural ethics influence your perception of the other culture?

*See a YouTube video of how U.S. kids react to Japanese Hatsune Miku here.*

c. Have you ever observed yourself reacting or behaving a certain way because of your assumptions about members of another culture?

d. Provide an illustrative context in any three of the spheres where there are differences in what we assume to be right/wrong and those of the host country. Explain what you learnt about yourself and the host culture from your illustrations.

2. To develop competence in language, business protocol, social relationships, and respect for other cultures

a. If you know the language of your intercultural partner, please do use that in this goal. Either ways, knowledge of language needs to be combined with the business protocols in the culture in which the IPR professional will practice. For example, you need to understand the importance of status/position while doing business in Japan.

b. In interaction with your intercultural partner, explore a job description from that culture. Understand how performing in that role will be different from/similar to performing in that role in the U.S. How are the similarities and differences connected with cultural values and norms? For example, when accepting a dinner invitation with your Norwegian host, “ the person sitting to the left of the hostess is usually the guest of honor. As such, that person is expected to give a Skål and short speech at the end of the meal to thank the host and hostess for the meal (takk for maten). The speech/toast usually includes flattering references to the food, decor, and company, a joke, and then the Skål.”

*See more on social norms in Norway here.*

c. In conversation with your intercultural partner, share and learn about a popular business, social, and family practice/norm/activity that illustrates cultural differences. How would your cultural hosts interpret your practices?

3. To understand the nonverbal cues and the cultural context in which communication unfolds.

a. In some cultures, nonverbal cues are as important as verbal cues. For example, in China, when you meet your professor, “you should lower your head and bend slightly to show respect. The same posture is used when a young man is greeting an old man.

b. In Italy, “Italians do not observe personal space and it is viewed as a sign of affection or friendship to be in close proximity of one another. Since first impressions are very important, Italians are often very well dressed to convey a good image and they carry calling cards with them for when they are introduced to others. A kiss is given on each cheek, the left first then the right, to close friends or family members upon greeting. Italians enjoy sitting close to one another during conversations and use a light touch on the arm to nonverbally communicate.”

*See some more on Italian nonverbal norms here*

c. Identify 2—3 nonverbal and verbal cues and their different significance in both cultures.

4. To realize the importance of developing a global attitude. This should be balanced with a willingness to be adaptable to changes and ambiguity.

a. We live in a global village. You may in the near future find yourself an employee of an international company or be required to travel outside for business. Flexibility and coping with uncertainty of other cultures will enhance your ability to conduct business successfully

b. When doing business in Mexico, “keep in mind that a breakfast is a setting for getting down to business, whereas a lunch is more of a social event. Because lunch is the main meal of the day, it tends to be much longer, social in nature and quite filling. At times, an important business lunch can last into the early evening.”

*See some more on doing business in Mexico here.*

c. Learn a popular business custom from your host culture and compare differences in meaning and significance with your own.

5. To learn how to conduct effective audience research.

a. PR research methods will differ in your host country. You may not be able to speak freely with members of the opposite sex in Muslim countries or with different caste or age groups in certain parts of India.

b. For example, if your product is targeted toward urban Egyptian teens, you may need to find out more about their lifestyle. Typically, for Egyptian teens, “Being members of drink and sports clubs, or “nadi,” are common among Egyptian teens and their families. Boys commonly play soccer with friends while girls often meet at each others’ homes in the evening, and strict curfews are enforced and respected. In addition to nadi, cinema, and shopping malls, cafes are also common hang outs for both boys and girls, where they can socialize and smoke water pipes.”

*See more on life in Egypt here.*

c. Discuss a common product and how its audiences/use/publics/messaging differs across both cultures. Analyze an advertisement for that product in both cultures and discuss its relevance across both cultures.

6. To be aware of how your message will be interpreted in your host culture

a. For example, for Coke in China, “took two tries to get it right. They first tried Ke-kou-ke-la because when pronounced it sounded roughly like Coca-Cola. It wasn’t until after thousands of signs had been printed that they discovered that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Second time around things worked out much better. After researching 40,000 Chinese characters, Coke came up with “ko-kou-ko-le” which translates roughly to the much more appropriate “happiness in the mouth”.

*See some more humorous cross-cultural advertising gaffes by MNCs here.*

b. Explore with your partner how will some of your messages translate to your host culture’s language? Give examples of what modifications you will need to make in order to make them work suitably.

c. Learn about the culture surrounding a national/popular local sport in your host culture. What are the practices? How did it originate? What are the social norms surrounding the game and its audiences? What is the significance of the rules? What are the media reporting rules around the game?

7. To understand the media market of your host country.

a. Discuss what media are popular and used by your target audiences. What are the characteristics of some of their popular shows?

Watch a popular movie, radio show, novel, or newspaper with your partner and make notes of all the similarities and differences in meaning/interpretation/intention and actions you see in that context.


1. Kent, M., & Taylor, M. (2001). How intercultural communication theory informs public relations practice in global settings. In N. Bardhan & C. K. Weaver, Public relations in global cultural contexts: Multi-paradigmatic perspectives (pp. 50—76).

2. Zaharna, R. S. (2001). “In-awareness” approach to international public relations. Public Relations Review, 27, 135—148.

3. Macnamara, J. R. (2004). The crucial role of research in multicultural and cross-cultural communication. Journal of Communication Management, 8, 322-334.

4. Augustine, I. (2000). Understanding the cultural patterns of the world–An imperative in implementing strategic international programs. Public Relations Quarterly, 38-44


Your posts will be evaluated on the basis of: (a) Interesting, thorough, and insightful examples, illustrations, cases; (b) application of take-away’s from our above reference articles in each of your posts; (c) thoughtful responses engaging with another of the posts on the blog.


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