There are many reasons for companies to want to be better known abroad. Some see vast customer opportunities all over the world, others possibilities for exposure in many and varied press outlets.
Often the elements that make a successful international campaign are entirely different from the campaign carried out within your home market. It’s worth getting a brief handle on some of the simple factors that can make or break an international PR campaign.
Selecting target areas – where companies often go wrong
Taking your campaign international requires that you are selective: Decide in which countries, (or regions), most of your customers and key influencers are, then consider whether you’ve got the resource to support PR there. Consequently, you need to ask yourself, ‘will my budget support this?’
Remember, when choosing your target areas, don’t ‘generalise’ regions. It may sound obvious, but it is an alarmingly common mistake, (particularly for Western companies), to assume that because, for example, China and Taiwan are neighbours they can be lumped together under the bracket of ‘Asia’, and that you can therefore use a similar approach with the media. The truth is that similar geographical locations can mean completely different cultures.
Consider your story
Cultural variations will also influence the selection of the story you are going to present abroad. However, it’s always worth showing a true commitment to the region. The messages should be made relevant, preferably presenting benefits to the country you’re pitching to. Imagine you were a journalist of a publication in Spain, would you care if a company approaching you offered a story which is not relevant to the Spanish market or their plans in Spain?
Social media is incredibly important in most territories, but exactly how you should use it, and the specific channels, vary.
Looking at Twitter, for example, the massive audience in the UK just isn’t there in Germany or Italy: While there are still many Twitter users in those regions, there’s very little media presence. This will obviously affect your campaign’s media plan. And the channels of course vary from region to region, with Weibo currently being fairly key in China, whereas in Russia you would follow key influencers on a platform called VK.
Speaking the language
When you’re pitching a story to a new non-English speaking outlet you should make the effort and introduce your company in a foreign language. While some countries are more open to receiving material in English, it’s still much better to translate materials and use a local spokesperson.
In order to understand why this is, simply put yourself in the shoes of a foreign journalist and imagine that you’d just received a press release from a company you don’t know and in the wrong language. Then you need to translate and write it. And you’ve only got 15 minutes to do it. Sounds annoying, (and, most of all, unlikely), doesn’t it? Without translations your chances of getting coverage are likely to drop significantly.
If you’re going on a press tour or a media event the need for translations is unquestionable. And it may sound like a cliché but being able to speak even a few words of introduction in a foreign language will leave a good impression. At least look like you’ve made an effort!
How to time your news
For an international press tour, the embargo, (asking press to withhold on publication until a certain date/time), is both a blessing and a curse: It’s invaluable when used appropriately but can upset the media if offered without knowing their preferences.
European media are happy to be briefed in advance, though they tend to prefer to be briefed within about a week of any launch event. The US press is also happy to be briefed in advance, but tends to be happier with even longer lead-times. It’s not unusual to ask the US media to hold an embargo for a couple of weeks: In my experience the US media appreciate the lengthy lead-times.
Chinese media on the other hand prefer to receive a news release at a media event and post it online immediately, before publishing a more editorial piece. Note that embargoes are not frequently honoured in China; so don’t bet the farm on the Chinese media keeping your secrets.
The things are even more complex in Singapore and Hong Kong where it’s generally acceptable to brief the media on the news that is already live in the rest of the world, as long as the announcement has only been made public recently.
The itty, bitty details that trip companies up
On the whole, in International PR, it’s the little details that can spoil a campaign: Not offering lunch with gifts in Korea or arranging for taxis in China can leave the media with a bad first impression and ruin your chances of receiving coverage.
Embarking on international PR is exciting and rewarding, and can lead to whole, exciting new chapters for your business or business division. So get on out there, and get talking! To avoid disappointment it’s important to work with experienced international partners to make sure nothing is overlooked.