Up Close and Personal: How Media Relations Differs Across Cultures

By Alise Buehrer

It’s 8 a.m. and already 26 degrees Celsius.  You grab breakfast from a street vendor and hop a sky train to work–battling traffic by car would take at least two hours.  When you arrive at the office, printed news releases are delivered to your desk, along with gift certificates and a bouquet of flowers.  After finishing your meetings and assignments for the day, you head out for Japanese with your friend, a local PR specialist.  Your friend pays for dinner, and you decide to feature her client in tomorrow’s news.

Welcome to life as a journalist in Thailand.

When I visited the country over winter break, I had the privilege of staying with one of the best PR practitioners in Bangkok.  While most of my time was spent sightseeing and shopping, I did have a chance to visit her agency and observe the local media scene.  The experience opened my eyes to a different realm of public relations.  In Bangkok, clipping still involves scissors, tape and hundreds of magazine subscriptions.  News holes are larger, stunts are grander and presenting gifts in exchange for media coverage is completely acceptable.

When considering the hours I’ve spent making cold calls at my PR internship and the difficulty of grabbing (let alone holding) media attention, I’m convinced Thai culture creates a better platform for relationship building than the individualistic American way.  While widespread gifting to spur coverage would pose a problem in our country, the practice seems to work effortlessly overseas.  As a consumer of American media, I’m glad most media outlets don’t operate in this fashion.  As an aspiring PR practitioner, I can’t help but think how much easier my job would be if they did!

There are always lessons to be learned by observing other countries.  While we’re not likely to match the personal bonds of Thai professionals, programs like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and events like the Journal Sentinel’s Meet the Newsroom are evidence that practitioners and journalists are starting to connect amidst the changing media landscape.  Social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn are also helping to spur interactions on personal and professional levels.  Perhaps soon we’ll all be having dinner together … but in true American fashion, we’ll elect to split the bill.

Alise Buehrer is a junior studying public relations and marketing at Marquette. She currently interns for Cramer-Krasselt, the nation’s second largest independent marketing communications agency.  She also enjoys writing and blogging for the Marquette Journal, Marquette’s student life magazine.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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