The dramatic redistribution of wealth and influence we’ve experienced over the past few decades has opened up extraordinary business opportunities in far-flung countries – fashionably referred to as the Frontier Markets.

With fast-growing populations finally gaining access to purchasing power, consumer brands, financial services, and bold investors are rushing into places like Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa among many others, finding and creating new opportunities for growth.

Here at Media Theory, we’re proud to have been among an early adopter abroad, assisting clients with a variety of high profile issues in some very difficult countries. Throughout these experiences, we’ve worked with some great talent and scored some remarkable successes, but we’ve also seen some missteps.

When working in international public relations, it is extraordinarily important not to presume that American or British styles of working with the media are doing to be the order of the day. Culture and history of a particular country matter more than one can imagine. It’s never enough to just land in country, read a few articles in whatever English daily is to be found in the hotel, and start firing away at your team and relevant partners with the presumption that you have mastered the key issues of public interest.

Before developing a successful message, listening is the most important thing you can do. Every country has a historical experience that defines some aspect of the national character. There are traditional stories, books, and even films that are adopted in the vernacular, creating memes and communicative shortcuts and cues you may be totally unaware of, much less the national fears and obsessions.

The organization of influence bears certain dynamics, whether you are talking about the Czech Republic, Venezuela, or Thailand (three places where we have worked intensely in recent years). Every culture has unique ways of getting their point across, and every nationality has some aspect or other that is repeatedly misunderstood by the Western press. Until you can locate all these fissures and borders between groups, there is little point in pushing forward with an initiative that may be ill-adapted to the local environment.

Our approach to international public relations is highly specialized, requiring rigorous study, investment in knowledge and networks, and a good dose of humility in order to hear what our new friends want, what motivates them, and why.

Interested in learning more about what kinds of experiences we’ve had on the road? We’d love to start the conversation.