How does the practice of PR differ between the U.S. and Germany? It’s surprisingly similar, says Panama PR’s Meike Grisson
Meike Grisson of Panama PR recently visited Stanton Communications on a professional exchange program, and discovered a lot to love during her exploration of the practice of PR in the U.S. She talked with us about her experience as a German visiting the U.S. for the first time, and delving into daily life at an American PR agency.
Tell us about yourself. How long have you been in the PR field?
I have been working for Panama PR for about seven years. In Germany, you attend school for 13 years and then decide if you want to pursue vocational training or go to a university to advance your education. I decided to pursue vocational training for three years at an agency initially, and then continue to school. During my five years of my communications studies, I worked at a press office for the German government in Berlin, which was very interesting. But ultimately I realized I wanted to go back to agency work. At the completion of my communications studies, I was matched through a job network to Panama PR, and have been there ever since!
How did you get your start in public relations?
I always found the advertising field very interesting, creative and energetic, but it was difficult to secure a vocational training at an advertising agency due to the subject’s popularity in Germany. But eventually, I found an agency that trained young professionals as advertising consultants. At the start of my job, I did not realize that their field of activity was more public relations than advertising. I never thought about pursuing public relations right off the bat, but I’d always had an interest in the German language. I was good at writing and language, and I realized that I could pursue a career in public relations that would allow me to utilize these strengths. So I truly fell into it as a complete accident. However, I’m so glad I did fall into the field because advertising is very different from public relations and ultimately not what I want to do.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities at Panama PR?
My job consists of two roles. First, I oversee our management tasks together with Christian Josephi, the founder of Panama PR. I manage our new hires, handle client contracts and invoices, conduct performance reviews, implement professional development workshops for the team and develop our new business strategy. The rest of my job is client-centric; I manage client relationships and develop their communication strategies.
What is the biggest difference between Panama PR versus Stanton Communications?
I was expecting to find more differences in our everyday work. It turns out client counseling, developing new ideas, finding new business and working with media contacts are nearly the same! However, I would say that the biggest difference is the atmosphere of the office. At Panama PR, we have a shared office space with five people sitting together in one room constantly talking on the phone with editors, journalists and clients. As you can guess, it often gets noisy. In addition, we have one designated team member who speaks with our client on the phone partly each day, as opposed to the entire team.
What about public relations practices in the United States versus Germany?
As mentioned previously, public relations in the United States is not very different from Germany. For example, take the development of the media landscape in terms of moving online. As in most other highly developed and diversified media markets, the internet and ubiquity of mobile devices has had and still has a significant impact on print runs and coverage and on the structure of the media market. Changes are still very dynamic. But our firm is still primarily focused on media relations. While we do handle digital for some clients, the overall trend/adoption of clients asking us to manage their social media in Germany is much slower than how quickly it has spread throughout the United States. I’m interested to see how that will change in Germany, however it hasn’t quite caught on yet.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working in an agency is a truly open-minded and fun experience. The industry is changing rapidly and each day is unique. I love learning about different topics, and I enjoy working with the young members of my team, who brainstorm creative ideas. It is truly rewarding when you win new business knowing that it is because of the great team behind you, or when you can simply look back at what you’ve done and see a first-hand result.
What was the favorite part of your trip to the United States?
I was nervous to come to the United States because of the language barrier, but it has been so exciting to experience a new culture. It has also been very interesting to see a public relations agency in another country and observe how it works. Luckily, the Stanton Communications team has been very welcoming and I’ve had a very positive experience here. I look forward to sharing a recap of my United States experience with the rest of my team at Panama PR and hope that this will allow us to think even bigger with new international ideas.
Finally, I will always remember this: A very interesting aspect for a European experiencing the United States is the air conditioning everywhere you go! During my first taxi ride in the United States, it felt like I got hit by a winter storm. I always carried around my sweater even when it was 90 degrees outside, just in case. Thankfully, during my time at Stanton Communications I had my own office (a luxury!) so I could regulate the temperature on my own.
About Panama PR
Curious for more insights into public relations on a global scale? Learn about PR in the Middle East here.