In a world where global and cultural literacy is becoming increasingly important, public relations plays a vital role in various aspects of the international arena. From foreign diplomacy to domestic policy, it takes strategic communication skills to bring countries together and build support on both foreign and familiar soil.
In alliances such as the European Union (EU), building mutually beneficial relationships with fellow countries is especially imperative. However, with the recent elections in the United Kingdom (U.K.) signaling the island nation’s impending departure from the EU, the EU and the public relations industry in Europe have been thrown a proverbial curveball. The impact of the June 23 decision called “Brexit” on the public relations industry has yet to be seen.
What is European public relations?
The public relations profession, recently named the best creative job in America, is still relatively young in other parts of the world.
Within Europe itself, the relationships forged by the economic and social ties within the EU bring into question the type of public relations strategy that can be applied to it as a whole, if such a strategy even exists. Is there a particularly “European” style of public relations that can be applied to the entire EU?
In reality, the idea of an all-encompassing “European” style of public relations doesn’t exist. Like practices in the United States, each country has its own set of values and perceptions that practitioners need to tap into in order to have a maximum effect. In some countries, this can even span into qualities specific to certain regions, or even cities, qualities that still stand out even within alliances such as the EU.
Despite the unity brought forth by alliances such as the European Union, it can be said that public relations still remains a uniquely targeted and strategic function, specified to its publics wherever they may be. With the U.K.’s impending exit, it may build a barrier between public relations professionals there and the relationships they create in continental Europe.
Shaking up a young profession
Another factor in the future of European public relations is the relative immaturity of the industry as a standalone profession. While the field of public relations has grown as a profession, it is just now beginning to hit its heyday in Europe, where it has to navigate the various cultural boundaries that lie within it.
The potential impact of Brexit has sparked discussion over the future of public relations in Europe, both in the U.K. and the EU. While this new development may help the industry cement itself as a standalone profession in the U.K. and form a uniquely U.K. style of public relations, it could also lead to a further cultural divide and stylistic conflict that could hamper practice across European borders. Brexit may send the U.K. towards its own type of public relations, but it may also allow for other countries to take the lead in the future of public relations in Europe.
Public relations is about relationships, and it is yet to be seen whether or not the U.K.’s exit from the EU will be a positive or negative development for public relations practitioners interacting with the relationships between European countries.
In terms of U.S. practice, it’s still just as unclear as to where Brexit could lead. While the EU does provide American practitioners and businesses easier access to and a smoother transition between different countries, Brexit could make an impact on U.S. practitioners working within Europe and the U.K. It could build stronger relationships within the U.K., further investment in continental Europe, or some combination of the two. Either way, big days are ahead across the pond.
Drew Pendleton is a senior at The University of Alabama majoring in public relations and Spanish. He is currently the editorial director for Platform Online Magazine, the freelance editor for Mosaic Magazine and a media relations strategist for Capstone Agency, the university’s student-run firm. He will serve as the publications committee leader for UA’s PRSSA Chapter beginning in August. Connect with him on Twitter @drew_pendleton, LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.