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Draft date: 8/20/99 // Final appeared in Communication Quarterly, 48 (2000) pp. 85-100.

Intercultural Communication and International Public Relations:
An Integrated Literature Review and Critique
R.S. Zaharna
American University

        As numerous scholars have noted, international public relations is the fastest growing area within the field of public relations. Hugh Culbertson called it the "hottest" new topic. With both professionals and scholars rushing into the field, the literature that is emerging on the surface seems more than a little chaotic and random. However if one explores the trends below the surface, there appears to be distinct parallels between the birth of this new public relations field and its sister field of intercultural communication.  This paper highlights the parallels within the fields of international public relations and intercultural communication, exploring the areas of over-lap, cross-fertilizations and mutant hybrids.

The beauty of working in academia is that, theoretically, all knowledge is cumulative. Similarly, cross-fertilization among the disciplines can germinate new ideas and even have a multiplier effect on knowledge. However, cross-fertilization can also blur the distinctions between disciplines so that two appear as one. Such may be the case between intercultural communication and international public relations. The result, as some have suggested is the hybrid term, "intercultural public relations" (Vega, 1995; Vega and Dimmick, 1995).

In many ways, the movement from public relations as a generic field of study into the specialization of international public relations parallels a similar transition that occurred earlier in the field of communication with the outgrowth of intercultural communication. Because both fields deal with communication-related activities and culture, the two are ripe for cross-fertilization. However, is international public relations really intercultural public relations? Or, is it perhaps something more?

This paper explores the parallels between intercultural communication and international public relations. It highlights areas of intercultural research that may be particularly useful for international public relations practitioners and scholars. The concluding critique returns to cross-fertilization and the question of hybrids.

Birth of a Sub-discipline and Problems of Definition

An integral part of the birthing process of intercultural communication involved developing a self-definition that was distinct from, yet linked to, its parent discipline communication. Culture emerged as the pivotal term that served this dual purpose. Oliver (1962) and Smith (1966) are the two scholars most frequently cited for first raising the connection between culture and communication. As Smith (1966) stated, "communication and culture are inseparable."

Culture was seen as the larger umbrella under which communication was covered. Culture was described as a "blueprint" (Folb, 1982), "road map" (Hall, 1976), "imprint" (Dodd, 1982) and even "collective unconscious" (Barnlund, 1982). As Harris and Moran stated, "Culture influences and is influenced by every fact of human activity" (1982, p. 63). Culture was particularly important in guiding three critical variables in communication: verbal and nonverbal communication and perception. Culture provided the meaning for the various forms of communication behaviors, such spoken language or nonverbal gestures, as well as the rules and norms that governed when and how these behaviors should be used. Culture's influence on perception provided clues on how messages were structured and interpreted. As numerous intercultural scholars noted, each culture had its own unique "world view" or means for making sense of the world.

Establishing this fundamental link between culture and communication helped the field of intercultural communication define its unique research agenda: to document the cultural variations in communication patterns. Using the seminal works of noted anthropologist Edward T. Hall (1958, 1967, 1976), sometimes referred to as the "father of intercultural communication," scholars began exploring how behaviors and their meaning varied from one culture to the next.

The primary goal of intercultural communication was an increased understanding of the communication phenomenon. However, an underlying goal stemmed from Hall's (1976) observation that much of a culture's influence was "out-of-awareness." In other words, even though culture completely surrounded its own members, they lacked an "in-awareness" knowledge of its presence and force. As Barnlund stated, "Cultural norms so completely surround people, so permeate thought and action, that few ever recognize the assumptions on which their lives and their sanity rest (1982, p. 13). Or, as anthropologist Ralph Linton once quipped, "The last thing a fish would ever notice is water." Thus, the ultimate goal of intercultural scholars to expose the hidden dimensions of culture that lay "out-of-awareness" and bring them "in-awareness."

In much the same way that intercultural scholars used the "cultural dimension" to distinguish their field, international public relations scholars have used the "international dimension" to distinguish their field. Although scholars and practitioners use various terms and approaches, all suggest an expansive view of a communication profession that transcends national borders and is literally "international" in scope.

In an introductory text, Wilcox, Ault and Agee define international public relations as "the planned and organized effort of a company, institution, or government to establish mutually beneficial relations with the publics of other nations" (1989, p. 395). This broad definition reflects the multitude of views of what international public relations is and what it includes.

Some public relations scholars, for example, have focused on international public relations as public relations for multinational corporations. Baskin and Aronoff (1992) highlight three public relations functions. The first function is to represent the corporation in its home market, dealing with government and local constituents on issues related to its international enterprise. A second function is to help bridge the communication gab between foreign management and top management at headquarters. A final function is conducting public relations activities in the host countries.

Some speak of international public relations as "globalization" (Anderson, 1990; Crespy, 1986; Farinelli, 1990; Fitzpatrick and Whillock, 1993; Stanton, 1991). Globalization is reflected in the trend of large firms establishing branches worldwide and smaller firms networking with other firms around the globe. For example, International Public Relations Group of Companies has offices in forty-three countries spread across six continents (Nader and Truitt, 1987). Robert Dilenschneider, Hill and Knowlton's CEO, called "globalization" one of the most important changes affecting the function of public relations firms today (Mellow, 1989).

Public diplomacy is another area sometimes included under the heading of international public relations. Delaney defined public diplomacy as "the way in which both government and private individuals and groups influence directly or indirectly those public attitudes and opinions which bear directly on another government's foreign policy decisions" (1968, p 3). As opposed to traditional forms of diplomacy which focused on private, government-to-government communications, scholars have noted a trend toward speaking directly and publicly to the citizens of another nation-state. Former American Ambassador to France Pamela Harrison was keenly aware of the emerging link between diplomacy and public relations:

An ambassador's role has changed since the onset of instant communication and the centralization of policymaking in Washington. The job is now often one of public relations and establishing a prominent presence." (Italics mine) TIME, July 5, 1993, p. 52.

Such diplomatic public relations activities range from disseminating information, developing cultural films and videos, providing tourism information, issuing political statements and press releases, arranging trade missions, to developing radio programming. Kunczik (1996) addressed the importance of "image" for nation-states and the role public relations. Heibert suggested that words and images are "weapons of modern warfare" (1991, p. 107). Manheim went even further, calling "image management the real 'smart weapon' [as opposed to the 'smart bombs'] of the Gulf conflict" (1994, p. 39). Others have taken a more benign approach by focusing on art in their discussion of public relations and diplomacy (Balfe, 1987; Bower and Sharp, 1956; Wallis, 1991). Signitizer and Coombs argue that even though there has been a separation between international public relations and public diplomacy, both seek similar objectives and use similar tools and that "governments are recognized as actors in international public relations" (1992, p.138).

Not only are governments themselves engaged in this aspect of international public relations, but governments actively recruit public relations firms to assist them. In this regard, even though an American practitioner may be communicating with an American audience, the clientele-practitioner relationship may be considered as a form of international public relations. Some have estimated that more than 150 American public relations firms represent foreign governments (Wilcox, Ault and Agee, 1989). American practitioners assist in advancing a foreign government's political objectives and commercial interests as well as in facilitating relations with American media, business and political institutions. Unfortunately, this area has been particularly plagued by culturally mediated notions of ethics, resulting in public relations campaigns that backfire on the foreign client (Choate, 1990; Cultlip, 1987).

Another area of international public relations concerns the wide array of cross-cultural studies that highlight the role of public relations in various countries. Culbertson differentiated international public relations which "focuses on the practices of public relations in an international or cross-cultural context" and introduced the term "comparative public relations" defined as "a search for both similarities and differences between the practices in one or more countries," (1996, p. 2). Such comparative studies cover specific countries as well as larger geographic regions such as Africa, Asia, or Eastern Europe.

Developing a Rich Research Flora

Having distinguished themselves via the "cultural element," the intercultural communication field mushroomed during the 1970s (Chen and Starosta, 1997, p.9). This period resembled an intellectual brainstorm with scholars roaming all over the field. At times, cross-cultural communication and intercultural communication were used interchangeably (see, for example, Brislin, 1982; Gudykunst, 1983 and Gudykunst and Kim, 1984). These studies tended to focus on documenting the different communication behaviors within a particular culture. Scholars lamented that much of the work during this period was anecdotal and they prodded each other for more theory.

However chaotic the intellectual brainstorming period was for intercultural communication, this period was instrumental to the growth and refinement of the field. In the search for theory, intercultural scholars moved away from looking at cultures separately (or as cross-cultural comparisons) to what occurred when individuals from two cultures interacted. Focus shifted from individual communication behaviors to exploring on how different behaviors affected the communication process (i.e., Brislin 1982; Gudykunst and Kim, 1984; Samovar et al., 1981). Understanding what cultural differences meant in terms of inter-cultural interaction propelled the term "intercultural" to the fore. "Culture-specific" studies which focused on behaviors within one particular culture gave rise to "culture-general" studies which sought to explain the communication process across cultures.

Intercultural trainers, who followed the field, went back and forth between culture-specific and culture-general training approaches. What was the best way to prepare (or, train) someone for the intercultural experience? Some argued that being effective in a particular culture meant learning that culture's behaviors, norms and values. Such culture-specific approaches include, for example, how to deal with the Arabs (Nydell, 1987), the Australians (Renwick, 1991), the Chinese (Wenzhong and Grove, 1991), the Greeks (Broome, 1996), the Mexicans (Condon, 1995), the Russians (Richmond, 1996) . . . and the list continues. Others felt that it was possible to develop a broad range of "intercultural communication skills" that would help one successfully adapt to any culture. Ruben (1982), for example, suggested eight specific behaviors associated with cross-cultural effectiveness. The "BaFa" simulation and Pierre Casse's Training for the Cross-Cultural Mind (1979) are early examples of the cultural-general approach to training, while Brislin et al.'s (1986) collection of brief cross-cultural vignettes is an example of how individuals can develop an intercultural perspective.

The culture-specific and cross-cultural studies also played an important role in providing a rich base from which intercultural scholars could later develop more sophisticated analysis of communication patterns. This period was especially fruitful in identifying cultural "continuums" or cultural orientation. Instead of focusing on individual behaviors, scholars were able to look at a broad spectrum of communication phenomena. Examples of continuums include individualism/collectivism (Hui and Trandis, 1986); high-context/low context (Hall, 1976); past-oriented/future-oriented (Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck, 1961); linear/non-linear (Dodd, 1982); doing/being (Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck, 1961, Okabe, 1983; Stewart, 1972); and direct/indirect (Levine, 1985).

Intercultural scholars also ventured into higher-level or more complex communication contexts. Again, instead of focusing exclusively on individual nonverbal or verbal behaviors, scholars sought to explain the complex interaction of multiple communication behavior patterns and goals. Such studies include an intercultural dimension in negotiations (Cohen, 1991; Fisher, 1997) conflict management (Ting-Toomey, 1985) as well as diplomacy (Korzenny and Ting-Toomey, 1990).

The intellectual brainstorm that intercultural communication experienced appears to be what is presently occurring in the international public relations. A rich flora of research is slowly emerging with each new study crossing important conceptual hurdles or exposing cultural variations within the field.

This is most apparent in the studies Culbertson termed "comparative public relations". In these comparative studies scholars are delineating the cultural building blocks that serve to define public relation practices around the world: Latin America (Ferber, 1986; Tansey, et al., 1990; Valencia, 1983); the Middle East (Al-Enad, 1990,1992; Kruckeberg, 1996; Zaharna, 1995); Africa (Albritton and Manheim, 1983; Kareithi, 1991; Pratt 1985; Pratt and Ugoboajah, 1985) East Asia (Chen, 1996; DiBenedetto et al., 1992; Hong et al., 1987; Mueller, 1987) South East Asia (Bhimani, 1986; Sriramish, 1992), Western Europe (Haug and Koppan, 1997; Hazleton and Cutbrirth, 1993; Nessmann, 1995; Taylor et al., 1996), and Eastern Europe (Heibert, 1992).

While one comparative public relations study will not capture all the nuances of a particular culture, several studies will help define the cultural parameters that circumvent public relations practices in various countries. Viewed across a spectrum, these comparative studies will help produce broad generic models of international public relations. Botan (1992), for example, begins the list by talking about public relations functions, roles and goals in various countries. Van Leuven and Pratt (1996) added the role of the mass media system and other variables which can directly influence campaign design and implementation. Zaharna (1998) used Culbertson's et al. (1993) discussion of political, social, and economic systems and their relationship to domestic public relations as a basis for developing an "in-awareness" model that presented both observable features (e.g., political, economic, mass media, infrastructure systems) of a country as well as hidden, "out-of-awareness" features of a culture.

International public relations scholars have also been employing cultural research in their studies as well as using culture to discuss specific features of public relations function. The cultural continuum of collectivism/individualism (Hui and Trandis, 1986; Trandis, 1994) as well as Hofstede's (1980) documentation of cultural variations has surfaced in several studies (Vasquez and Taylor, 1994; Vercic et al., 1996). Some of the most probing works on the role of culture as a hidden variable influencing communication activities can be found in research on public relations ethics (Kruckeberg, 1996; Roth et al., 1996) as well as message appeal and strategy in international advertising (Biswa et al, 1992; Di Benedetto, 1992; Hong et al., 1987; Madden et al, 1986; Mueller, 1987 Plummer, 1986; Rice and Lu, 1988; Tansey et al., 1990; Weinberger and Spotts, 1989). Both deal with highly cultural sensitive issues such as values and persuasive logic.

While this rich flora is growing, already international public relations scholars are bemoaning the anecdotal nature or "scientifically non-serious sources" (Kunczik, 1996) of current studies. They, too, call for theory-driven discussions. In retrospect however, public relations scholars may discover that these early cultural studies, despite their anecdotal nature, constitute an important research base from which international public relations methodology and theory can grow.

Debates within the Fields

If there was a clash of perspectives within intercultural communication it revolved around methodology. What is the best way to study intercultural phenomena? This question spawned a vigorous debate between quantitative versus qualitative researchers. The quantitative researchers, who dominated the field, sought to distill cultural theorems and axioms from raw numerical data obtained through rigorous scientific inquiry (Chen and Starosta, 1997). They viewed themselves as separate from the cultural data they gathered and analyzed and set out to conquer cultural ambiguity through precision, objectivity, and reliability. The qualitative researchers, on the other hand, tended to view themselves as part and parcel of the cultural web within which they were working. Rather than separate themselves from the ambiguities of cultural phenomena, qualitative researchers introduced innovative methods such as narrative analysis (Fisher, 1987) or metaphor analysis (Deetz, 1984) that stemmed from cultural nuances which they worked in.

Given the disparity between the two approaches, both sides viewed the other's work as circumspect. The quantitative camp viewed qualitative research as less rigorous and objective, while the qualitative camp view quantitative research as less insightful and even sterile. It has only been recently that intercultural scholars have recognized the complementary nature of quantitative and qualitative methods and have advocated a "triangulation" of the two approaches which appreciates the complementary nature of the two and uses their separate strengths (Chen and Starosta, 1998).

Another area of struggle emerged in the tension between cultural universalism versus relativity and the role that ethnocentricity plays in clouding the distinction between the two. Universalism represents the obvious similarities shared by people whatever their culture. Relativism represents the unique differences that distinguish one culture from another. The problem of ethnocentric ism is that one's own cultural glasses are used to view the world. Ethnocentricity tricks one into seeing what is "unique" to one's own culture as "universal." Instead of seeing differences as neutral variations, value judgements are made. As Daniels (1975) observed, when cultural differences are not seen as "different," they are seen as "right" and "wrong." One's own cultural yardstick is to measure all human behavior. Not surprisingly, the other cultures come up short.

To this date, interculturalists still struggle with cultural assumptions buried in their research premises. Hall's notion of being culture-bound speaks to the struggle to transcend the confines of culture. As he observed, "No matter how hard man tires, it is impossible for him to divest himself of his own culture, for it penetrates the roots of his nervous system and determines how he perceives the world . . . " (1966, p. 177).

The discussion of ethnocentric scholarship and perspective is particularly relevant to the present juncture of international public relations. As more and more public relations practitioners and scholars explore public relations on a global scale they too will be challenged by culture-bound perspectives and assumptions.

The tension between cultural universalism and relativism have already surfaced. Albeit the terms vary -- "standardization vs. specialization" (Mueller, 1992); "generic vs. specific" (Vercic et al., 1996); "culture-free vs. culture-specific" (Heller, 1988), or "standardization vs. localization" (Kanso, 1996) -- the underlying debate is familiar. Can a universal yardstick be used to measure or explain public relations?

More and more are calling on Western practitioners to develop a global, cultural perspective (Anderson, 1990; Crespy, 1986; Farinelli, 1990; Howard and Mathews, 1986; Reed, 1989; Stanton, 1991; White, 1986). As one practitioner commented, "The astute practitioner recognizes his or her competence in the U.S. does not necessarily translate to competence in other countries" (Howard and Mathews, 1986, p. 10). Another put it even more bluntly, "unless everyone in the U.S. public relations industry begins to think and view the world differently, its leadership position will be seriously threatened" (Farinelli, 1990, p. 18).

American practitioners may be particularly vulnerable to mistaking what are uniquely American notions of public relations as "PR universals." This is understandable. America has played a leading role in the field (Aydin, Terpstra and Yaprak, 1984), and as Wilcox, Ault and Agee observed, "it is largely American techniques that have been adapted to national and regional public relations practices throughout the world" (1989, p. 396). Straddling the tension between public relations universalism and relativity as well as unearthing hidden assumptions may result in the very definitions of fundamental public relations roles, functions, and goals being reexamined.

The Future of Intercultural Communication

& Implications for International Public Relations

Just as communication spawned the field of intercultural communication, intercultural communication appears to have produced offspring of its own. The savvy public relations practitioner and scholar should be alert to these trends because -- although they may seem far afield from public relations now -- they may directly impact the field in the future.

Within the field of intercultural communication, the first significant trend is the increasing focus on the concept of identity. More and more scholars are highlighting the link between culture, communication and identity. An excellent example is the thematic title for last year's International and Intercultural Communication Annual, Communication and Identity Across Cultures, edited by Tanno and Gonzalez (1998). The popular intercultural reader by Samovar and Porter (1999) in its new edition has added a piece on cultural identities. Similarly, the new intercultural reader by Martin, Nakayama and Flores (1998) contains a whole section on identity. Not only are these pieces on identity new features, they are placed in the introductory sections -- before verbal and nonverbal aspects of intercultural communication. What this means for international public relations is that practitioners and scholars also need to move their sensitivity to identity issues further up their intercultural awareness ladder.

The second trend is the growing appeal and proliferation of cultural studies. Similar to intercultural communication, cultural studies also focuses on culture, communication and identity as pivotal concepts. However, cultural studies should not be confused with "the study of culture." Cultural studies takes a much broader view of "culture" than intercultural communication scholars. Intercultural scholarship grew out of the anthropological tradition: scientific methods of observation and documentation of "Other" cultures. Cultural studies is in many ways is literally the voice of "the Other" that decries that label and the power differential it signifies. From the perspective of cultural studies, all scholars, writers, artists, etc. and artifacts that they create, reflect their subjective cultural experience. Culture encompasses all of the humanities. The domain of cultural studies includes American studies, postcolonial and postmodern studies, queer studies, race studies, and women's studies. While numerous scholars point to Stuart Hall a sociologist at the Open University in England, a concentration of scholars can be found in philosophy, communication and media studies, as well as literary and film criticism. Several new journals (Cultural Dynamics, Cultural Studies & Mass Communication) have emerged as have numerous web sites and research centers (www.culturalstudies.net, CULTSTUD-L).

There are two points of significance about cultural studies for international public relations scholars and practitioners. First, is simply an awareness of this field and knowledge of how cultural studies differs from intercultural communication. Second, some cultural studies have a very pointed political and economic research agenda when they conduct textual or narrative analysis of the media. Because public relations can filter into the media mix, public relations is and will be subject to increasing scrutiny by cultural studies scholars. Thus, there is even more reason for public relations practitioners and scholars to increase their own sensitivity to the growing importance of cultural identity. This includes concepts such as "racial ideology" and "identity politics" (Banks, 1995) which have already surfaced in multicultural America and very prominently in multicultural Europe and post-colonial territories. Cultural studies is a reminder of how public relations has changed in from the art of reaching the greatest number of people to the challenge of offending the least.

Whereas identity has become a key concept that may gain more prominence in international public relations, the practices of the field may be influenced by the methods and findings of two related fields: participatory communication and social marketing. Increasingly social marketing techniques and philosophies have been used to promote a host of health, education, social and environmental issues around the globe. Examples include condumn use in the Philippines, family planning in India, or AIDS awareness in South Africa. What is particularly interesting in all of these international applications of social marketing is how the cultural component has served to define message strategies and project implementation. Traditional promotional tools such as press releases and brochures have been replaced by story tellers, village theater groups, and local parades. A good resource these innovative, culturally-based projects can be found at the Communication Initiative (www.comminit.com) which is a partnership of several major international organizations and agencies who pool their work on communication-based projects.

Whereas American practitioners may be more familiar with social marketing, another area offer cultural insight is the field of participatory communication. Participatory communication again combines public relations practices with the intercultural communication features. The field grew out of the disappointing results produced by top-to-bottom, asymmetrical communication pattern of development communication projects.

Beginning in the 1960s and throughout 1970s and '80s, the World Bank and other major Western donor governments, in concert with the leaders of developing countries, initiated development projects around the globe. These projects were designed for the people, many of whom resided in rural locations far removed from their government leaders and even more removed from their sponsors in industrialized nations. Many of the projects had very poor success rates, either producing unsustainable achievements or results that backfired. However, what grew out of these failures was radically new method for design and implementing development projects and the field of participatory communication took root.

In participatory communication, again both culture and communication are play a central role. The asymmetrical model of development communication was replaced with a uniquely symmetrical model in which the receivers of the communication messages participated in the research, design and implementation of their own development projects. Hence the term "participatory" communication. Aside from being fascinating, all of these communication projects are highly innovative and invariably reflective of the cultural sensitivities of the people. The lessons offered by participatory communication are directly applicable to the field of international public relations.

Because of the tremendous need for development throughout the world, much of the writings on the methods and techniques of participatory communication readily accessible to anyone who may need it on the Internet. The Canadians have perhaps done the most to make this information available through the Canadian International Development Agency (www.acdi-cida.gc.ca), the International Development Research Center (www.idrc.ca), and the Canadian Bureau for International Education (www.cbie.ca). Two leading scholars in the field are Guy Bessette, who has published several works through IDRC in Canada and Jan Servaes of Catholic University of Brussels who established the Participatory Communication Research Section (www.kubrussel.ac.be/psw/pcr).

Reaping the Benefits of Cross-Fertilization

This review has alluded to several areas that are particularly rich for cross-fertilization. First, is the area of culture-specific studies, or studies that focus on particular cultures. Public relations practitioners and scholars can look for parallels between their own culture and the host culture for shared similarities as well as sensitize themselves to areas of potential differences. Practitioners can use such cultural knowledge to develop campaigns that creatively incorporate features unique to the particular culture in which they are working. Knowledge of cultural traditions and symbols is not only invaluable in developing more powerful persuasive messages, but it can also facilitate practitioner-client relations by communicating a practitioner's interest in her host culture.

Another avenue practitioners can explore to enhance their effectiveness is through a general awareness of which communication-related activities in public relations are directly influenced by culture. For example, practitioners may encounter problems in securing accurate translations. Language, or verbal communication is an obvious feature of the cross-cultural setting, so much so that some firms are actively recruiting bilingual practitioners (Schuler, 1990). Less obvious are intercultural features such as nonverbal behaviors or rhetorical strategies. Because nonverbal communication includes time preferences, spacial arrangements, body orientation -- things not commonly associated with a lay person's notion of body language -- one can focus on body language and still miss important nonverbal clues. Developing a comprehensive awareness about nonverbal aspects of cross-cultural communication can alert a practitioner to problem areas in developing client relations. Understanding how rhetorical strategies vary (Starosta, 1984), can help practitioners make their presentations more "convincing" to a client as well as understanding why a particular message may be more persuasive in different cultural settings.

Finally, the problem of cultural assumptions is a vulnerability that both intercultural scholars and public relations practitioners share. Intercultural scholarship provides two basic approaches for exposing cultural assumptions and reducing ethnocentric illusions. One approach, mentioned above, it through learning about different cultures. Exposure to different cultures helps put one's own culture in perspective. Another approach for exposing cultural assumptions is to explore the peculiarities of one's own culture. For American practitioners, two works may be particularly helpful. Stewart's (1972) classic, American Cultural Patterns (recently updated, Stewart and Bennett, 1996) provides an in-depth exploration of the American "world view," while Condon and Yousef (1972) provide a more general discussion of intercultural communication which incorporates many features of the American value orientation.

Concluding Thoughts

This literature review has highlighted important aspects shared by both intercultural communication and international public relations. For some, the parallels may so strong that it may be tempting to say that international public relations is intercultural public relations. However, important distinctions can be noted between the two fields.

Public relations is clearly based on communication activities -- verbal and nonverbal communication and perception. Accordingly, intercultural communication scholars would characterize public relations as a culturally-mediated phenomenon. In other words, an interculturalist might say that culture defines public relations: what it is, what it includes, and what activities are most prominent and most effective in a given culture. For intercultural scholars, culture is not only the defining factor, but in a way, the only factor.

In contrast to this academic focus, public relations is also a profession. Dean Kruckeberg recently argued for the need to "examine public relations as a distinct professional occupation" (1989, p. 238, emphasis his). Viewed as a professional occupation, implies that more is involved than exclusively focusing on culture or even communication-related activities. Culbertson et al. (1993) detail the important role of political and economic factors in conceptualizing public relations campaigns. Zaharna (1998) spoke to how a country's legal or mass media system as well as infrastructure may determine the feasibility of actually implementing a campaign. Further, these critical factors (i.e., political, economic, social, legal, and mass media systems and infrastructure) in designing and implementing a campaign are not exclusively communication-related activities and may not be shared across broad cultural terrains, but rather are unique to a specific country.

Thus, in one respect, the communication-related activities of international public relations could be seen as a form of intercultural communication. However, because practitioners must deal with political, economic, legal, etc. aspects that are unique to particular countries within a larger cultural block, international public relations appear to be more than intercultural public relations.


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