Global PR is nothing new, nor is the concept of a global economy. However, now for the first time we are seeing what a global economy really means and that in turn is changing PR thanks to what I’d call Flat Issues and borderless communities. In the past a global economy meant new business models and new markets for goods and services. Now it means common attitudes to brands and common fears about issues. Consumers around the developed world pay little attention to where their products are made but they do care about many of the same things. “Are these bananas organic?” “Is Microsoft evil?” “Should America leave Iraq?” Ten years ago I’d theorize that only a small percentage of the issues people cared about in one country were shared with people in another. Today I’d suggest that on any given day almost a third of the issues on people’s minds are common across multiple markets.
Now this both poses a challenge and creates an opportunity for anyone trying to build brands. On one level brands need to worry about where input to issues will come from. For example a firm in Sunnyvale CA may well get berated online by someone in Frankfurt, Germany even though they don’t officially do business in that country. On the other hand, a brand that is having a tough time in one country may turn to customers in another to help them shift perceptions. This idea isn’t new but for the first time people may actually find it works thanks in large part to the rise of social networks/media. Social media offers the chance to break out of a country by country approach to influencing opinions and instead focus on communities with common interests. For brands wanting to take advantage of this they need to know where there is common ground (the flat issues) and understand the scope of a community. This means either doing some research or making an educated guess. I’d of course vote for the former.
So for anyone trying to build a global brand, I’d suggest they start by identifying both the communities that break borders and the flat issues that unite them. That’s where the opportunity to take advantage of global markets really lies.