Transnationals Opt for Latin American Hubs16 years, 11 months ago
Juan-Carlos Molleda outlines the Public Relations trends he discerns across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Public relations professionals are challenged by dynamic Latin American and Caribbean markets, which are resulting in enhanced professionalism to manage such complex environments. Diminishing confidence in political institutions, which is also spilling over into the private sector; a resurgence of moderate and radical leftist governments promoting progressive social agendas; a public demand for greater social inclusion and citizens’ rights; awakened indigenous movements backed by international NGOs; and savvier consumers who enjoy expanded product and service choices are among some of the challenges faced by today’s professional.
Traditional and new media outlets (including pan-regional media) as well as programming are also impacting their role. In the political realm, the outcome of the recent Bolivian, Mexican and Peruvian presidential elections and the international crusades of Venezuelan Hugo Chávez have also helped to accentuate nuances in government affairs. Furthermore, the constant string of corporate mergers, acquisitions and expansions; formal regulations of the industry; advancement in education; and strengthening of professional associations are also impacting practitioners these days.
For a look at the regional integration of public relations agencies one only has to observe the global and domestic firms located in Miami (pan-regional), Costa Rica and Panama (Central America), Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago (Spanish and English-speaking Caribbean), and Brazil and Argentina (South America). These hubs allow the orchestration of regional and national campaigns.
Foreign Direct Investment
Pharmaceutical, new technology and telecommunication transnational corporations are major users of these hubs. In the case of the South American hub, the largest economy and market, Brazil, leads the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and has dramatically augmented its foreign direct investment in Argentina and Chile, which demand consistent public relations strategies in more than one national market.
Public relations professionals support their organizations during periods of international expansion, acquisitions, mergers and organizational change. The case of the ARGOS Group in Colombia illustrates this function. Public relations professionals of this cement consortium develop programs aimed at the consolidation of the group’s new corporate identity, participative internal communication and employee relations, public affairs and government relations both in its home country and its new markets: Haiti, Venezuela and soon Panama.
National, regional and international competition and alleged encroachment on the practice by domestic professionals and expatriates have motivated the promotion and successful enactment of public relations legislations. Brazil has a public relations law since 1967 which was updated and re-enacted in 2004.
Similarly, Panama passed a law in 1980 which was revised and passed again in 2005 despite the opposition of important segments of the industry, and Peru obtained its own legal act in 2004. In the last three years, the Association of Public Relations Professionals of Puerto Rico has done a series of studies and consultations toward the enactment of a public relations license to achieve a formal professional registry and control over professional practices.
Legislation advocates in Venezuela already presented an economic analysis of the industry and draft of the law to the National Assembly. They are aggressively lobbying for the enactment of the law. Public relations legislations in the region have their supporters and detractors, and enforcement has proved to be difficult. However, highly visible transnational, domestic, private and public organizations are the first to be called into compliance by regulatory bodies.
Professionals and institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean seem convinced that, other than legislation, for public relations to achieve the professional status it seeks, training and education must also be reinforced. Brazil continues to be the regional leader with the greater number of recognized undergraduate and graduate public relations programs.
Peruvian Universidad de San Martín de Porres expanded its graduate offerings from a master’s to an online doctoral degree with the participation of international scholars. The Institute of Public Relations in Venezuela offers the first specialized bachelor’s degree in public relations. Other colleges and universities in Venezuela offer a combination of public relations and advertising programs and corporate communications graduate degrees.
Universidad de la Empresa in Argentina is the first Latin American program to obtain the Public Relations Society of America’s accreditation. Universidad de Medellín offers the only focused ‘corporate relations’ undergraduate program in Colombia. The demand for public relations and corporate communications education in the region is increasing. The lack of an original body of knowledge is an obstacle for education advancement; however, Brazil and Peru are exceptions. Fortunately, the only electronic journal of communication topics in Latin America, ‘Razón y Palabra,’ publishes articles about public relations with field research conducted in the sub-continent.
Moves Towards Unification
Professional associations are active actors of the public relations advancements in the region. The Inter-American Confederation of Public Relations currently based in Venezuela is striving to unify national associations. The 25th Inter-American Congress was successfully hosted in Caracas in 2005.
The flow of information among CONFIARP members is more stable and abundant. The links between CONFIARP and IPRA and the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management allow an active presence of Latin American and Caribbean public relations at international events and participation in global initiatives. The 2006 Third World Public Relations Festival took placed in Brasilia thanks to the joint support of the Federal Council of Public Relations Professionals (CONFERP), Grupo Labor and the Global Alliance. Professional development workshops, seminars and conferences are being constantly offered across the region. However, they compete and collide with each other at times.
Integration, business restructuring and regional expansions, legislations and controls, and in general dynamic socioeconomic and political scenarios are challenging Latin American and Caribbean public relations professionals. The industry and its related institutions are responding with greater education offerings and empowered regional and national professional associations.
Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda is an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Public Relations of the University of Florida. He received his Bachelor of Science in Social Communication (1990) from Universidad del Zulia in Venezuela, a Master of Science in Corporate and Professional Communications (1997) from Radford University in Virginia, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Journalism and Mass Communications with an emphasis on international public relations and international business (2000) from the University of South Carolina, where he also coordinated applied communication research projects. Between 1987 and 1993, he obtained his major work experience from a Venezuelan financial consortium, acting as manager of public relations, corporate communication, and advertising and promotions. In 2003, Dr. Molleda accomplished a ‘Professional Summer’ working for the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller Latin America, Miami.mail the author
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