The Advantage of Cultural Differences


Journalists sometimes receive hundreds of emails a day. So why would they want to open one from me?

As a newcomer to the world of public relations, I learned quickly that what distinguishes a true professional in this field is the quality of his or her relationships. It’s not enough to send out press releases and follow up on them. Building a strong network requires a heavy investment in time, in getting to know the ins and outs of each journalist’s world in order to understand each one’s interests and concerns.

I recently traveled to Colombia, where I was able to meet with a journalist who had just interviewed one of our clients. It was a great opportunity to build a relationship, helping differentiate myself from the competition, but in international PR, this isn’t always an option.

If I’ve spoken to a journalist on the phone but can’t meet them in person, the first step I take is to connect on social media. Allowing journalists the opportunity to put a face to your name while showing them some of your personality helps bridge the gap left open by emails and phone calls. While this practice may be uncommon in the US, Latin Americans tend to take a more open view towards social media, a little secret that has helped both myself and my colleagues build connections across the region.

As a member of JeffreyGroup, which focuses exclusively on Latin America, understanding different aspects of local culture is key. As a native Bostonian, I’m still learning the ins and outs, even after spending a year teaching in Colombia. While this was a hurdle at first, I’ve learned to turn my “gringo-ness” into an advantage when working with the Latin American media. As a foreigner, I feel I must make an extra effort to show that I know a thing or two about their country and relate to them on their terms. My curiosity about Latin America also contributes to a rewarding conversation for both myself and the journalist.

Now, when I reach out to my media contacts, I reach out to them not only as a public relations professional, but often as a friend. And that is the key to getting my clients’ messages through the clutter, out of the spam folder, and into print.