As a company expands globally, a smart PR strategy and the right assets to get it done are essential ingredients to building a great brand. But corralling resources across oceans, languages, and cultures is no easy feat. Even good communications people can be single-minded about their markets, so getting internal and agency teams synced can be a bit like herding the proverbial cats. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing and executing an international PR plan.
1. Accept that long-distance PR doesn't work
No matter the effort, an international PR plan simply can't be executed solely from headquarters. The power of PR comes from relationships with the local influencers, government officials, and media, as well as a firsthand understanding of local market nuances. This can only be achieved through an internal PR representative or agency that works on the ground in the region.
2. Learn about each other
The starting point for success in a region, and ultimately around the globe, is understanding and respecting each local team's marketing and PR etiquette, as well as their interpersonal styles. We've all heard it before, but it bears repeating – take the time to learn how communication differs among regions and cultures. Be mindful of slang and tone, especially over email where there is ample opportunity for misunderstandings to arise. Ask questions about media interactions and processes, and adjust tactics and expectations across regions accordingly.
3. Cooperate and coordinate
It may sound like a lesson from Sesame Street, but those guys know what they're talking about – cooperation and coordination are critical for success. Plan to talk to your regional teams at least a few times a month, even if just for a few minutes. Local and corporate PR teams need to engage regularly to discuss areas of expertise, challenges, market opportunities, and work-in-progress. Try to ensure that knowledge and training are consistently harnessed and channeled throughout the company's internal and external PR networks.
4. Think beyond the initial program
Companies may want to engage with an agency initially for a project-based program but should not lose sight of the larger picture: building a strong media presence requires a consistent flow of news, trend stories, and more to maintain visibility. Better to keep the engine running, leveraging the momentum gained from the starter project.
5. Don't assume regional PR will be inexpensive
Because it isn't. A common misconception is that engaging in PR in Europe and Asia will cost only a few thousand dollars per month. EMEA and APAC are multi-country markets, with each country requiring a different approach, usually in a different language. There's no magic budget formula, and a good agency with a strong reputation is worth the investment, so plan your spend accordingly.
6. Don't spread resources too thin
Think about where PR can have the greatest impact. Companies often find they don't have resources or budget to target all markets in a given region effectively. In this case, it's better to do a good job in two or three key markets, rather than spread resources too thinly across the entire region and not achieve good results in any country.
7. Maintain corporate oversight, but don't overdo it
Given that international PR funding comes out of headquarters, it's common for corporate to have some involvement in international PR activities, such as how the money is spent and what local content is created. However, it's important to strike a balance between ensuring a globally consistent message and exerting strict control over every PR activity. Excessive control can mean local media doesn't get the content it needs, affecting results. It also adds time-wasting bureaucracy and certainly won't be appreciated by the PR team.
8. Localize content for better results
Localizing content goes far beyond simply translating materials. Encourage local agencies and teams to shape corporate content to the specific needs of their market. It will make for a much stronger story for their target audiences, and a much easier pitch to reporters. News about a US customer or a certain product won't always grab the attention of local media, so it's also important to identify stories and announcements that will be of local interest.
To help ensure best results and consistency of messages worldwide, provide time-sensitive content in advance to allow for translation and localization.
9. Local vs. international spokespeople
Using corporate executives as spokespeople for regional opportunities often means sacrificing local market knowledge; it can also lead to language issues and coordination problems due to time-zone differences. Instead, leverage knowledgeable local spokespeople who can help build a long-term image for the company in any given market. Make sure all spokespeople are media trained, can articulate the company's value proposition and can tie the story back to the local area. The best approach is to ensure the company has both local and international spokespeople with skillets that will suit every media opportunity and guarantee best results.
10. Temper great expectations with a dose of reality
When a company enjoys a high profile and substantial market share in its home market, it may automatically expect the same profile internationally. The reality is that the media knowledge of any given company varies tremendously in different markets. The company needs to build its reputation through consistent hard work and by establishing new relationships before it reaches the same level of awareness it enjoys in more mature markets.
Ultimately, having the right resources, spokespeople and other support can make the difference between having a good profile and having zero visibility in global markets. For all PR activity, it's vital to remember that international audiences have different levels of understanding and awareness, as well as different media needs. Following the points covered here will help you to better understand and connect with international stakeholders and media audiences.
Jim Rivas is head of corporate communications for Check Point Software Technologies.