Cultured communications

~  The Hofstede model and its role in PR ~

International PR, Hofstede model, Global storytelling

When you think about international communication, your first consideration is probably language. However, running a successful PR campaign internationally isn’t just about speaking the lingo — it’s also about culture. Understanding a country's culture can help your business to change minds in a more powerful way than just speaking their language.  

By Duncan Singer, account executive

One method we can use to find out more about a nation’s culture is the Hofstede model. It was developed by Geert Hofstede, an IBM employee in the seventies, who was responsible for personnel research and manager training. During his time at IBM, Hofstede noticed trends in global employee data. In 1971 he took a two-year sabbatical to analyse the data and form the basis of his model.

The six dimensions
Overall, Hofstede found six main aspects that separate cultures; power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation and indulgence.   Each country displays a different combination of scores, which can influence how communications professionals create their strategy.

Power distance is a measure of how much a lower ranking member of a society accepts and expects unequal power distribution.  A low power density represents a more widely-dispersed share of power, where citizens expect to be treated equally. A high score in this category indicates a more hierarchical society, where being treated as unequal is accepted.

The model also defines individualism, as the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members and masculinity as how much a country bases its success on competition and achievement. Uncertainty avoidance is defined as how much a member of a society will avoid uncertainty.

The last two dimensions were added after the original four. Next, is long-term orientation, which is how much a society is focussed on persevering towards a goal in the future, as opposed to short-term gratification. Finally, indulgence is how much a society is willing to freely gratify people’s desires. Do you buy yourself that treat, or do you save your money?

Using the Hofstede model can help communications professionals to tailor their PR strategies. For example, if you are targeting China, which has a very low score in individualism, having a message based on standing out from the crowd is unlikely to have the desired effect. Whereas if you are targeting the UK, you may have good results by focussing on indulgence, as the UK scores highly in this area.


If you’d like to find out more about the Hofstede model and its role in communications or discuss international PR in English or Italian call +44 (0) 1785 225416 or e-mail me at duncan@stonejunction.co.uk.

Duncan Singer

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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