The goal of this study is to enrich the body of knowledge in public relations and to augment the existing literature pertinent to whether public relations can be practiced the same all over the world by examining how public relations is practiced in Lebanon. The problem statement of the study follows in addition to background information, purpose statement, research questions, scope, and definition of terms.
As noted previously, the existing research on international public relations falls into two categories: research that argues for practicing public relations the same way all over the world and research that argues for localized public relations practices. However, there appears to be no empirical research that addresses how public relations are practiced in Lebanon. The problem of the study was to explore whether public relations in Lebanon was practiced as it is practiced in other parts of the world or whether its practices are more localized to fit Lebanon's culture.
Background of the Problem
The International Monetary Fund (2000) noted that the term "globalization" came into common usage in the 1980s, reflecting technological advances that have made it easier and quicker to complete international trade and financial transactions. Unprecedented changes in communications, transportation, and computer technology have given a new force to the globalization advocates, creating unity out of diversity, with companies such as Coca Cola, Disneyland, and MacDonald's, whose products are known and consumed all over the world, symbolizing the process.
According to Mucchielli et al. (1998), the world economy is becoming increasingly "globalized" with a touch of regionalism. Leontiades (1985) pointed to a number of factors that have contributed to globalization, the most important of which has been the impact of technology. Leontiades (1985) argued that dramatic improvement in the means of communication and transportation has reduced the barriers of distance between countries.
Perhaps the most profound observation is that of Friedman's (1999), who noted that the forces of globalization and informatization have already redefined industries, politics, cultures, and the underlying rules of social order. As a result, societies and communities have no choice but to participate in this "new international information order," but the character of their participation is shaped by specific social, cultural, economic and political conditions. This complex multi-level process of mediation between the global and the local promises to change not only the context, but also the nature of communication.
Since public relations are a form of communication, there is a relationship between public relations and globalization. Anderson (1989) used the terms global public relations to define public relations practiced in the same way throughout the world, and international public relations to define public relations customized for each culture:
Global public relations superimpose an overall perspective on a program executed in two or more national markets, recognizing the similarities among audiences while necessarily adapting to regional differences. International public relations practitioners often implement distinctive programs in multiple markets, with each program tailored to meet the often-acute distinctions of the individual geographic market (p. 413).
Taylor and Kent (1999) observed that public relations is mediated communication activities that emerged only a little over a decade ago and is used to teach multiple publics.
In order to better understand the practice of public relations in Lebanon, one of the objectives of this study, it is important to have an understanding of the country. The following section provides a general overview of Lebanon and its religious and cultural background.
Lebanon: General Overview
The Republic of Lebanon is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by Israel from the south, Syria from the east and the north, and the Mediterranean Sea from the west. Lebanon is one of the smallest sovereign countries in the world. The length of the whole country is 220 kilometers (135 miles) from South to North and varies between 20-55 miles from East to West. The area is 10,425 square kilometers (3,950 square miles) (Embassy of Lebanon, 2002). Lebanon is a democracy based on a parliamentary democratic political regime. Similar to Western democracies, the government consists of three branches: an executive, a legislative, and an independent judiciary.
The economy is a liberal capitalist one.
Lebanon's population of four million