Bite's Karlqvist adjusts to life, PR in the Big Apple

New York City is likely less intimidating to new arrivals than it had been previously, especially in these "the-world-is-flat" days. That is doubly true for savvy global PR pros such as Bite Communications' Marta Karlqvist.

New York City is likely less intimidating to new arrivals than it had been previously, especially in these "the-world-is-flat" days. That is doubly true for savvy global PR pros such as Bite Communications' Marta Karlqvist.

Despite both that fact and her experience working with US and global companies for a decade, there still was a learning curve when Bite asked Karlqvist to move from her GM post in Sweden to run its New York office, her first official job in the US.

Now officially entrenched in the Big Apple for four months (though back in Sweden when speaking on the phone with PRWeek), Karlqvist remarked on the differences between PR in her homeland and her new country.

First and foremost, Karlqvist says the sheer bounty of information available in the US and a dedication to niche publications affords PR pros here many more opportunities to pitch clients.

"When it comes to PR, you can find [publications] on a broad variety of niche interests," she explains. "Here, for example, you can find a Web site, TV show, [or] magazine [specifically] on fly fishing. [In Sweden,] we will have [perhaps] one publication for fishing, and, in that, maybe a page on fly fishing."

Karlqvist says the differences between the two cultures extend to press releases. "When you write a press release in Sweden, it's very short [with] no adjectives," she says. "Here, we use a lot of words to describe products and services."

PR pros in Sweden also must contend with stringent anti-corruption laws that make it very hard to get journalists to travel to an event.

"You have to get really creative if you want to arrange a press conference in a location [far from] where all the media is," Karlqvist says.

Bite's GM for North America Burghardt Tenderich, who hails from Germany, says the pace differs between Europe and the US.

"There is a difference in scope [between the two]," he notes. "Budgets are high and many clients are public [in the US]. There is [also] a difference in speed. Business moves faster in the [US]."

But while the bustle of a New York office might take a Swede time to get used to, Karlqvist says one cultural trait helps her.

"Part of my [Swedish] heritage is being consensus-oriented," she explains. "If your coworkers are happy, your clients are happy, and they'll stay with you and recommend you [to others]."

Unfortunately for Karlqvist (but fortunately for the airline sector), she spent the first part of 2007 running both the New York and Sweden offices. Though she works at a predominately tech agency, Karlqvist is a proponent of face time.

"I was constantly jet-lagged, but when you are in a leadership role, you need face time with people," she emphasizes. "Good old face time can't hurt anyone."

Karlqvist adds that the legacy effects of Sweden's strict employment laws have made her very choosy in her hiring decisions.

"When you hire people in Sweden, you have to be so careful because the law doesn't allow you to get rid of people unless they're doing something very seriously [wrong]," she adds. "That makes [me] very picky."

Karlqvist is just as selective about the opportunities she encounters, but leading Bite's office in New York was an easy decision.

"I would have been happy if I stayed [in Sweden] for another year or two," she admits. "But you have to take the opportunities that come before you, otherwise you'll be miserable."

"She was a very successful GM [in] Sweden and was up for the new challenge," Tenderich says.

Despite the cultural differences, Karlqvist is smitten by her new city.

"I love New York; it's my favorite city in the world," she says. "It's a great, competitive city. You have to perform or you're out."

Marta Karlqvist

2007-present
Bite, GM New York

2004-2007
Bite, GM Sweden

2001-2004
EDS, marketing manager, Northern Europe

1999-2001
Resco (listed Swedish IT company), business area manager (communications)

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