PR in Asia: How To Be Culturally Sensitive In The Region


A successful public relations (PR) campaign goes beyond communicating the best descriptions, visuals, tastes and prices.

A firm understanding of the underlying relations of the brand with culture, language and religion is necessary to ensure the success of publicity.

The South-east Asian region is home to a kaleidoscope of cultural differences, and PR professionals have to be sensitive to these differences in order to communicate a brand that successfully resonates with the hearts of the target consumers. Being cultural sensitive may mean different things to different people. Here we present three ways to be culturally sensitive in our region:

Respect Local Practices

Every country in the region has different food restrictions due to their cultural differences and religious practices, and this calls for PR professionals to be discerning in knowing what specific types of food would be suitable in each country.

Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are some key religions in the South-east Asian region that follow certain dietary guidelines, such as only consuming Halal or (lacto) vegetarian food. As such, in the event of media tastings, PR agents have to be crystal clear about the religious profiles of the target media and their dietary restrictions, if any. This is a critical step that will demonstrate a brand’s respect and sensitivity for individuals’ cultural differences and religious practices.

Besides religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds of the target consumers are also important to take note of. For example, there is little or no acceptance of the consumption of exotic meats across many cultures. As such, a Facebook post by a local online grocery store to sell exotic meats like koala sausages and panda meat was considered offensive even for an April Fool’s joke. The intention of the campaign was to raise awareness of the plight of endangered animals and the perils of illegal animal trafficking. However, the way the campaign was executed was distasteful and ill-judged, as the brand disregarded Singaporeans’ cultural norms, hence drawing much flak from the locals and the large expat community in the country.

By respecting and catering to the locals’ cultural and religious practices, PR experts are essentially sending the right brand messages to help achieve mutual respect between both parties that will enable positive rapport building and garner support for the brand.

Know The Festivals

There are a variety of cultural festivals celebrated in the region, from Chinese New Year to Hari Raya and Christmas. PR agencies should take the time to research on the target country’s festivals and incorporate them into the calendar for brand’s PR efforts. Given the huge scale of these festivals, there is much potential to leverage on them by planning to coincide a restaurant opening, festive menu launch or special promotions with these celebratory dates.

Pay Attention To Language Use

Every culture is embodied by a different language, and with no two languages being the same in terms of meaning and structure, it is essential to pay attention to language use in the culturally diversified Southeast Asia. The same words in different languages may convey a totally different meaning and often this may be overlooked without a professional and astute eye when doing translation work for any publication materials.

What works in one country may not work in another, especially in a culturally and religiously diverse region such as South-east Asia. Regional PR agencies have to ensure research is done to acquire solid knowledge and understanding of the target locals’ language and cultural practices. Here is an introductory video on cross-cultural sensitivity:


Local PR agencies would be the best bet since they are experts in the local market and culture. Brand Inc., a PR agency in Singapore and Malaysia, has always shown careful consideration and delivered successful publicity for Ramen Champion, Fossil, Wacoal Far East Hospitality, Whisky Live Singapore and many more.