Sport is a worldwide phenomenon. It is watched and enjoyed by people in countries with vastly different economic and political situations, religions, cultures and levels of development. Today’s international sport PR professional must be aware of political and cultural differences, and how these can impact the way in which people relate to the PR messages they wish to convey.
So, what are the challenges of international PR in the sports industry?
Anyone attempting to communicate with international audiences will face obvious challenges such as geographic area, ethnic and religious diversity and linguistic barriers. Then there are challenges imposed by different political systems, especially in emerging markets.
Understanding local culture is the key to success in international sports PR. Cultural differences require distinctly different ways of communication to ensure that the PR message is perceived as relevant by local audiences.
Social media is presenting new challenges for international sports PR, creating a requirement for 24/7 vigilance and response. What if sports enthusiasts on the other side of the world post negative comments about a sporting event on Facebook, sports forum or Twitter and you do not have anyone in that time zone authorised to respond? The situation may have spiralled to crisis levels by the time you become aware of it several hours later.
Whether you are a sports federation or a well-known brand that sponsors athletes and international sporting events, you need a clear PR strategy that addresses all these challenges to ensure that you can meet the varying needs of your global audience.
Awareness of the historical and ideological context of the region where you wish to promote your sport or event is crucial for international PR. To be successful globally, a sports PR agencmust make sure that their messages would not be deemed irrelevant or inappropriate in certain places. What works well in Europe may not be so effective in the Far East or in predominantly Islamic regions. It pays to be well informed about sensitive issues and hot topics in target countries.
To prevent misunderstandings always use a professional translation service and have their work checked by a native speaker. This ensures that you will avoid embarrassing mistakes which would make your organisation appear unprofessional and may even cause unintended offence.
One way of overcoming language barriers is to use graphics and photos. Images are much easier for international audiences to understand and usually produce a greater emotional response as an added bonus. With advances in technology, video has become the medium of choice for sharing messages with worldwide audiences through social media channels, mainly YouTube and Twitter.
Finally, make sure you have a crisis procedure in place to cope with negative comments on social media and online news channels. This must include definition of what constitutes an issue, guidelines for responses that may be given locally and the escalation process if applicable.