By Rahel Kramer
This month’s column is brought to you by Rahel Kramer, an exchange student from Hamburg, Germany. Rahel is pursuing her master’s degree and interning with Fujita & Miura Public Relations through the first quarter of 2007.
Living in Germany and coming from a different cultural background makes me realize how German versus Kaua`i businesses operate, are structured, and how they relate to their publics. One striking difference is the degree to which Kaua`i businesses care for the local community. Kaua`i can teach the world a lot about why this makes good PR and business sense.
There are probably a myriad of reasons why Kaua`i businesses are so community focused. This “caring” trend or tradition certainly has to do with Kauai’s unique location and rural character, and also with the host culture’s concept of aloha. For example, Hawai`i Community Foundation’s 2002 “Hawai`i Giving Study” showed that “Kaua`i led the other counties in terms of the percent of the households that contribute at 97 percent.” This is astounding.
Whatever the reasons for this high level of caring, Kaua`i businesses, which are composed of these charitable people, seem to be aware of their responsibility to do something good for the community, and they clearly have a high pretension to serve. They create jobs for local people (and now Kauai’s unemployment rate is at 2.5 percent, just under the state level of 2.6 percent according to First Hawaiian Bank economist, Dr. Leroy Laney). They sponsor events and give generously to charitable organizations, they purposely diversify the economy and strengthen industries that can flourish on Kaua`i, and they protect the environment and the beauty of the island. Kaua`i businesses are made of you, and you are exceptionally caring.
German companies have some unique challenges, like the growing international competition in the European Union. This is why many German businesses outsource their labor to different countries. This is also why the concept of “local” takes on a very different meaning. It gets lost. While German businesses need to make certain choices to survive in the European and global markets, it would bode well for them to care for the people living in their local and regional communities. This is where their bonds are and where their PR work can touch people directly. It’s also where they can make long lasting, positive impacts.
Businesses caring for the publics in their own backyard may not sound special to Kaua`i residents, but from a German perspective, I assure you it is. Is it worth it from a business sense? It seems so. 2006 it will mark the state’s and Kauai’s 10th straight year of growth. Sounds like good business, and good PR, to this visitor.