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Letter from Italy (Rome)

by Alesha Keenefile

I am British and am back in London now, but spent four years in Rome, working in an Italian and an international PR agency. Both agencies had a variety of clients whose corporate communication programmes we managed, such as a household appliance manufacturer, an insurance company and an organisation which produced medical devices.

My advice for someone wanting to work in Italy in PR would be quite basic: speak Italian well, be persistent and really know about Italian culture, current affairs and politics. There are ongoing discussions about impartiality of the media, journalist and publication political alliances, and a call for more transparency within the media itself and towards the general public. This is relevant for those working in PR, and there is an emphasis on personal relationships with journalists. These take time to build up and can prove more difficult for non-Italians. Jobs in general are often found through personal contacts too, so be patient when searching for a PR job in Italy. Non-Italians can have a fresh, unique way of seeing and approaching things and a lot to offer to the Italian PR market and I'm sure Italian PR agencies realise this. In my experience salaries are lower, but so is the cost of living.

On a practical level, Italians are more likely to start and finish work later in the day (and always take a lunch break). Journalists are known to start even later than PR professionals. The stereotype of Italian media abroad is that there is not much substance, semi-naked women on TV and journalists carrying out Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's PR for him. However, there are publications with substance. Furthermore, Italians, especially young Italians, tend to be more politically involved and aware than their British counterparts. I remember I was teaching English at a secondary school in Rome when an ex-student was shot dead by the police on the way to a football match. The students convened in the playground with microphone and took turns commenting on the behaviour of the police, whether they should carry guns, and how the government should react.

The PR support carried out is similar to that in the UK, and the role of social media and its growing importance is developing in Italian PR.

For more information on Italian PR I would recommend the following organisations: FERPI (FederazioneRelazioniPubblicheItaliana) and ASSOREL (AssociazioneItalianadelle agenize di RelazioniPubbliche). For international PR in general IPRA (International Public Relations Association) is a good site.