The past couple of decades has seen global Public Relations (PR) scholars across the globe calling for more research as well as education in multicultural communication. In presenting the literature review on corporate culture and public relations, scholars such as Sriramesh and Buffington (1992) contend that culture is an ideology whose time has come. This essentially means that it is essential that a time will come when the public relation body of literature across various countries will significantly integrate culture into its pedagogy owing to the significance of this particular variable to human communication and also relationship building (Cropp & Pincus, 2009). Based on this premise, Japan, as a country, has substantially incorporated its culture as well as its tradition on the practice of public relations and communications within the country. This being said, this essay primarily draws on the Hofstede (2001) dimensions of cultural variability to explain how culture and the Japanese history has continually affected the PR practice within the country.
To begin with, when compared to other countries such as the United States, the Japanese PR industry remains under-developed. According to various scholars such as the current situation of the Japanese PR, the system is highly attributed to the dominant corporate and societal culture in the country. With reference to Hofstedes four-dimensions of cultural variability, various scholars have tried to explain the existing relationship between the underdeveloped Japanese PR industry and its culture. The four dimensions, power-distance, uncertainty avoidance, collectivism, and masculinity particular aid in the comparability of the Japanese PR with that of developed countries such as the United States and Europe. According to Hofstede, various implications emerge owing to the fact that Japans PR practice matched the uniqueness of the countrys culture. With reference to the corporate culture, various scholars have increasingly stated that both Japan and the United States form the worlds largest economies. In the year 2001, when merged, the two economies notably accounted for 45.6% of the worlds GDP. Nonetheless, Japan is said to have achieved its past success without any particular influence on the United States model PR industry. This, in essence, implies a persistence in the unique Japanese culture which in turn suggests that there is the need for the Japanese society to reconceptualize the role of PR practice in a successful economy.
The History of Japanese Public Relations
Existing literature that primarily studies the history of PR in Japan in relation to its culture contends that in Japan, public relations is commonly referred to as kouhou, meaning disseminating messages or wide reporting. The primary reason why the Japanese culture is said to have uniquely impacted the countrys PR is owing to the fact that since the occupation era, the word PR has been rooted in the Japanese public with what is deemed as a wrong meaning. While PR, should logically represent a two-way communication with both the citizens and the government standing equal basis, this is not the case in Japan. Instead, in Japan, the government has since then been used to enlighten the public and hence the one-way communication (Yamamura, Ikari & Kenmochi, 2013). Therefore, this concept particularly explains why the Japanese two-way communication is extremely weak.
With reference to the history of the country, studies substantiate that the birth of the public relations department in Japan was in the 1920s at the South Manchurian Railroad in Japan controlled Manchuria, a Japanese company that was intended to help govern the North Eastern part of China. Like in many other countries in the Middle East, shortly after Japan adopted public relations, it was primarily used as a marketing support tool in which various activities such as the 1970s criticism of the environmental pollution, the collapse of Japans bubble economy in the 1990s, among others were discussed. According to Yamamura, Ikari and Kenmochi 2013, each of these activities helped steer the public relations in Japan, increased its importance and above everything else, helped expand this field. Similarly, Sriramesh (2009).) argues that, in Japan, public relations is considered an offspring of modernity that replaced the armed rule, owing to the fact that it originated from the persuasive skills employed in the power struggle vying for the support by the public among the farmers, merchants, and the leaders of pioneers during the 18th century the U.S.
The Relationship between the Japanese Culture and Public Relations
According to Drumheller and Benoit (2004), the 2001 fatal collision of the Japanese trawler and the United States Navy ship is one renowned case study that mirrors image repair in PR and as a result, taps into the crucial relationship between culture and Public Relations. When compared to other countries such as the United States, the unique Japanese culture has a lot to do with the evolution of its Public Relations. For instance, according to Cooper-Chen and Tanaka (2007), information in the United States is conveyed in a direct, explicit manner. This, is, however, not the case in Japan where their information is conveyed both implicitly and indirectly through adjusting the message to the public with the assumption that the people will catch on.
Similarly, with reference to Hofstedes dimensions of cultural variability, high masculinity, which is observed in the Japanese Public Relations has seen the in existence of high-ranking females in the corporate Public Relations and indigenous agencies. More fundamentally, Hofstede points out that the masculinity/femininity dichotomy refers to the decisions of the society concerning the implications that the biological differences observed in gender should have for both the emotional and social roles of genders. Based on this context, the manner in which the Japanese culture impacts its public relation is reflected in Hofstedes (2001) masculinity scale on which Japan was ranked the highest of all the countries, with a score of 95%. Besides, based on Hofstedes original sample, Japan recorded only 20 female IBM employees, which is the minimum acceptable analysis. This, in essence, indicates that the Japanese corporate culture has a scarcity of the number of full-time working women. Besides, other studies substantiate that owing to the high masculinity levels in the Japanese culture, female PR professionals often exposed to a somewhat strenuous and challenging work environment as compared to their male counterparts (Morimoto & Wrigley, 2003).
In a similar regard, Hofstede points out that the long-term orientation cultural dimension describes how each society is obliged to maintain certain links with its past while dealing with its current challenged and those of the future. This being the case, in the Japanese culture, the long-term orientation results in the patience of stakeholders in the face of new corporate directors which calls for crucial public relations intervention. Besides, this impacts the stability in the choice of the agency in question with regard to whether or not it performs effectively (Sriramesh & Takasaki, 1999). In the same vein, concerning the Japanese culture, the Japanese people perceive their lives as a very short moment in a long history of mankind. Based on this premise, the culture is characterized by some of fatalism which in turns calls for the intervention of the Japanese public relations.
The cultural dimension of individualism vs. collectivism is yet another factor that primarily impacts the relationship between the Japanese culture and its public relation. According to Hofstede, this particular dichotomy refers to the existing connection between the individual and the collectivity (Sui Pheng & Yuquan, 2002). In this regard, individualism is considered a blessing or rather a virtue that alienates. Japans ranking according to Hofstede (2001) scale was 46 which was a considerably low value as compared countries such as the United States which garnered 91 of the total value. According to Hofstede the low value by Japan indicates high individualism hence low context communication. This is in line with Hofstedes contention that high context communication is said to fit well in a collectivist society. Besides, collectivism is supposed to manifest itself in in-house rather than agency-based activities and therefore, based on this premise, the silence during a crisis as well as the slow reaction time in the Japanese culture is highly attributed to the high context communication style, which is exemplified in Japan. In addition, a particular aspect of collectivism, which is mirrored in Japans lifetime employment system signifies a great difference in Japans PR practice as compared to that of the United States. This, also, is attributed to the fact that in Japan, there is no system of professional accreditation.
Also, the relationship between the Japanese culture and its public relation is also mirrored through Hofstedes power-distance concept. Notably, power distance is a concept that refers to the kind of response that societies have in response to inequalities of prestige, wealth, or even power. Unlike the other dimensions by Hofstede, this dimension deals explicitly with the fact that the society is comprised of individuals who are not equal. In this regard, power distance expresses the attitude that culture upholds towards the various inequalities that are within society. With reference to Hofstedes (2001) country comparison rank, Japans intermediate score of 54 signifies that Japan is a borderline hierarchical society. Owing to the fact that the Japanese are always conscious of their hierarchical position in any social setting, is an implication that in Japan, there is a significant balance between an employee-friendly and a hierarchical environment. When this is reflected in the Japanese PR industry scholars, contend that there is, indeed, a significant relationship between the Japanese culture and its public relations (Sriramesh & Vercic, 2012).
The cultural values and the historical factors in Japan have highly attributed to the Japanese PR practice, to the modern day. Nonetheless, despite the fact that Hofstedes (2001) makes the assumption that cultures are relatively stable, various scholars have refuted his contentions claiming that this is not always true. With this put into consideration, Rhee (1999) is probably the only worlds renowned scholar who has attempted to empirically draw a relationship between public relations and all the five dimensions of culture as posited by Hofstede. In his research, Rhee argues that despite the fact that Confucianism is conceptually affiliated with high power distance, it may in one way or another, nor be detrimental to achieving excellence in the field of public relations.
In a nutshell, Japanese public relations professionals ought to recognize the fact that both organizational and societal culture is an overly crucial variable that substantially affects the public relations in Japan. More specifically, Japanese public relation practitioners who make use of friendships that are typified by the personal influence model in the realm of conducting their media relations, have a very high value for media relations. Among many others, kou-chou was, amae and tatemae are some of the renowned cultural concepts that have significantly played a crucial role in the manner in which the Japanese public relations practitioners operate. Based on this context, evidence from a majority of the public relations scholars substantiates that studies of public relations practice in various cultures substantially contributed to th...
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