Know your markets
In the world of public relations, market and sector expertise are a must if you want to put yourself in the best position to support challenging client initiatives. Nowhere is this more true than in the international PR sphere, where one innocent cultural misstep can cause a product launch to fall flat, a firestorm of negative public opinion to be unleashed, or even worse—make a company or a product the butt of jokes on a national level. With the stakes so high, it’s no surprise that businesses come to PR agencies expecting a such a high level of local expertise.
Needless to say, a basic understanding tends to fall short. Public relations is a business in which cultivating strong personal relationships is key, and a high level of cultural competency and a strong understanding of relevant political and economic trends is essential for making these interpersonal connections. These are not skills which can be learned in the classroom, on an app, or on YouTube. Rather, these are skills that are cultivated through live experiences, meetings and interactions.
Before I began at Jeffrey Group I was working as a volunteer at a public high school in Medellin, Colombia, teaching English to 8th-12th graders from one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. Certainly, this is a far cry from working on the accounts of multi-billion dollar companies from a beautiful office in Miami. However, what I learned about Colombia and its people during my year and a half experience is proving valuable in my current line of work.
Living and working in Colombia, I learned new things about the country, its people, and its culture every single day. Everything from what Colombians eat for breakfast (“No arepa? Fake breakfast”), to the political leanings of its everyday citizens (far more complex than many might think), to the importance they put on family and enjoying life.
So when a client or potential client with little to no market experience comes knocking, I can provide them with quick answers to things that an internet search would be unlikely to quickly turn up. Questions like: Who is the best Colombian YouTuber to partner with to pitch a specific product to a specific demographic? What’s the best venue to demo this product for maximum impact? Additionally, there is the benefit of cultivated networks—for anything I don’t know personally, a Colombian friend of mine will be happy to provide a quick answer.
What applies in Colombia from a PR perspective does not apply throughout all of Latin America. While Latin American countries as a whole share more similarities than they do differences, to group the whole region into a single entity is to ignore the details that allow one to excel in this line of work. My experience traveling throughout Peru and Panama, two countries just next door to Colombia, made me ever-more aware of these minute differences. Cookie-cutter solutions just don’t cut it in an increasingly complicated region, and that’s why firsthand experience is key top being able to deliver at the highest level. I’m glad that each day is bringing me more.