Europe. It’s only one continent. It can’t be that hard to implement PR campaigns across, right?

You’d be surprised how often that attitude is taken when businesses expand their operations into Europe. The reality is that it’s considerably more complex than many firms anticipate.

There are 51 countries, speaking 24 official languages (and more than 100 unofficial ones). Cultures vary wildly too; France is the country closest to the UK in proximity, yet the two countries are vastly different – there are different languages, different attitudes, different traditions, and different cultural references. Now, consider that every country will vary in at least one of these ways to all other countries in Europe and you can quickly see the challenge for cross-Europe PR.

With this in mind, here are my top three (and a half) tips for getting your PR across Europe right first time:

  1. Don’t bundle – think bigger

Bundling is a common, but usually ill-advised, approach to PR when entering or expanding in Europe. Primarily, this relates to budget – companies will create a budget that is shared among multiple countries. Having one pot quickly proves inefficient, since different countries have different requirements for the budget, so spend – and results – can be disproportionate. Instead, establish clear, separate budgets for each country and tailor those budgets to the needs of each country.

Regions are often bundled too. The Nordics, for example, is five separate countries, with five languages, and five media landscapes. Allocating the same budget for the Nordics as you would for France or Germany is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, break down the region into individual countries and target the individual audience and media.

To bypass budget limitations, companies sometimes take the switch on and switch off approach. Here, a chunk of budget is invested in a country for a specific period, such as three months, to “make a splash” or “boost presence”, and then switched off in that country and switched on in another. It means multiple countries can secure coverage, but long-term has minimal effect on brand awareness or reputation. You’re better to establish the company in two key countries, than spread resources too thin and have a fleeting presence in four switch on, switch off countries.

Another common faux pas is bundling results. Success is different in every country – six pieces of coverage per quarter in Belgium may not compare in numbers to Italy’s 20, but given Belgium’s smaller media landscape, the fierce commitment to local stories only, and the focus on quality over quantity, the six hits in Belgium may be equally as impressive as Italy’s haul. It’s important not to play countries off against each other; set KPIs for each country and avoid the temptation to compare.

  1. Get to grips with the media and social media landscape(s)

This is often one of the most challenging aspects of communications in Europe to get to grips with. No two countries’ media landscapes are the same. A tactic that may secure outstanding results in one country, may not be picked up in another.

In many cases, the expectation is that content simply needs translating into local languages and can be pushed out. The reality is that there must be “localisation”, in addition to the translation. Localisation relates to every box you have to tick to make content suitable for a country different to the one it was initially prepared for. This includes a range of considerations, from tone and structure, the communication channel, through to the suitability of the topic that’s the focus of the story, to the use of local spokespeople, and even the time content is distributed across time zones.

Learning about, understanding, and remembering all the local preferences and practices for each country being targeted can be a huge challenge at the start. You’ll benefit from consultancy from your chosen PR agency that educates you on the local media and social media landscape. Over time, you’ll build the level of understanding required to develop strategies for stories that satisfy your audience in the various countries you’re targeting.

  1. Align expectations with level of investment

Given the different budget requirements and media landscapes across regions, expectations of what a PR campaign will look like and what it will deliver can sometimes be skewed. It’s important to know what success looks like before you start. A good PR agency will be upfront about a disparity between expectation in a brief and the reality of what can be delivered. They’ll also explain why – and there are a number of different reasons why that disparity exists, many of which go beyond budget restrictions.

Local spokespeople, either based in the country you’re targeting or who speak the local language, play a pivotal role in developing a company’s profile among media and their audience. For example, when pitching a big news story in France or Germany, a journalist may request an interview to gather more information for their write-up of the news – if there isn’t a French or German speaker available, the interview request may be rescinded, and the opportunity could evaporate. In this scenario, ‘investment’ is in the availability of employees, not the monetary cost of PR activities.

If local spokespeople are available, the next hurdle to overcome is engaging them. The best campaigns are usually those where the spokespeople provide local insights and expertise. Again, this isn’t about budget, it’s about employees making the time to support on PR efforts.

3.5. Find the right partners

It’s obvious, really, isn’t it – hence why it’s a half tip, not a full tip – but working with the right agency or agencies is critical. The ‘right’ agency is, of course, subjective and will look different to every company. The best way to find the one that suits your need requires due diligence to find a pool of quality options and a clear brief that sets out the objective(s) for each country, otherwise it’s easy to partner with the wrong one, and then you’ll be no further forward a year after the activity kicks off.

Aside from better results, working with an agency with a network of carefully selected teams across Europe will deliver cost and resource gains. Activities will be streamlined, enabling the network to focus more time on those that deliver results, as well as being easier for in-house teams to manage.

Hopefully these tips have revealed the types of factors that must be considered when embarking on a pan-Europe PR campaign. We’ll be exploring these factors, and more, in greater depth in a free webinar in April 2020. If you’d like more information on this, email us to let us know.

In the meantime, if you’d like to see how a multi-country European PR campaign plays out in practice, check out this case study about boosting awareness of PathMotion in the UK and France. Alternatively, if you have any questions on pan-European PR, don’t hesitate to get in touch via tim.williams@fireflycomms.com.

Wimbledon may be over and done, but while the sun is shining, tennis – followed by strawberries and cream, of course – is always on my to-do list. And it often makes me think that choosing an agency and running a pitch process can be a bit like a game of tennis. In short, sweaty and exhausting but thoroughly rewarding when it’s done right.

I joke, but it’s not easy on either party. And sometimes you’ve won or lost before you even get on the court; the wrong choice of opponent (or wrong shortlist of agencies) or playing on clay when you’re used to grass – inviting an SEO agency when you need a social media firm – can cause you no end of headaches for the rest of the contract period.

So, with that in mind, dust off the old tennis whites, re-string that racquet sitting in your cupboard and join me as we run through how to get the most from the pitching process – and avoid your boss uttering the infamous line “you cannot be serious!”

Before the game

The other day I played tennis with my sister, Helen, for the first time in months, but I know that we’re about the same standard. In the same way, picking the right longlist and shortlist of agencies is important – and if you haven’t played before, get a coach. There are plenty of freelance senior PR advisors who are familiar with the agency landscape and can help you find the right agency to fit you.

This is a crucial first step; working with a small, boutique agency can be very different from working with a vast multinational, full-service agency, and there are pros and cons for each. Similarly, marketing is a vast, sprawling discipline these days, so you may not be sure whether you need a ‘traditional’ (i.e. media relations) PR agency, an SEO agency or an influencer relations agency – but when you only have the budget for one of them, the temptation is to invite all three to pitch.

This ‘mixed doubles’ approach towards selecting an agency isn’t necessarily a mistake, but it’s something you should walk into with your eyes open. Different agency types have very different styles of responding to a brief, so you should be firm in specifying how you want them to respond if you’re to avoid comparing apples with oranges and giving yourself a huge headache.

It’s all in the opening serve…

Playing against a ball machine always seems like a bit of a novelty, but after a while you’ll find yourself craving a human opponent, however much they may grunt (sorry Helen, but it’s true). In the same way, during the first stage of agency selection, do a lot of it in person or over video calls.

Many of our contemporaries have made less flattering comparisons for the initial stages of the pitch process, saying that you wouldn’t marry someone after just two dates, and without having met them – and this is totally fair. You’ll be working in close proximity with this agency for (hopefully) a number of months and years, so you need to understand that their vision and energy matches yours, that they understand your company and have good experience in the space – and that you think you could work well together. Doing this face-to-face is much easier and more effective than doing it over email.

… and the final smash

The most important thing in securing the right agency partner for you, whether it’s in a phone call or during a face-to-face briefing session, is being clear about what you want to get from the relationship. Imagine the final smash that wins the match – or even a post-game review where you’re assessing the project in a year’s time. What was successful about the campaign? What did the agency achieve? What made your boss crack open the bubbly in celebration? Play this back within the brief and you’ll be onto a winner.

However, the other important component is that the resources you provide (i.e. the budget) must match your requirements. I think most people would confess to having champagne taste and a beer budget – but this rarely works professionally! If communications and marketing are vital to your organisation, then the leadership team must provide realistic resources for this – or compromise. You wouldn’t expect Rafael Nadal to come onto court with a second-hand racquet, trainers falling apart, having forgotten to train for the last fortnight – he needs the best equipment and training to stay number one.

There you have it – a few more tips on how to get the most from your agency selection process. It’s something we’ve written on quite a lot, so if you want further guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact me, or to read some of our previous pieces. It can be a tough process, but by following these steps, you can court the right agency and ace your marketing plan!

NGINX, Inc., the company based on the popular open source project and offering a suite of technologies designed to develop and deliver modern applications, has appointed technology marketing communications agency Firefly Communications Group to handle communications in the UK, France and Germany. Firefly will work in partnership with PAN Communications in the US and PR Deadlines in Australia to cover NGINX’s priority regions.

Firefly will increase NGINX’s brand awareness across all three European markets, with the agency set to handle media relations activity including press relations, speaker programs, awards, and news hijacking. Firefly will also manage analyst relations activities, directly supporting the lead pipeline.

Claire Walker, CEO and founder of Firefly added: “It’s rare to work with a company that affects so many people, but is so modest about its achievements. The simple fact that over half of all global web traffic touches NGINX code at some stage is mind-blowing, but we’re also looking forward to getting down into the technology and delving into the world of containers, microservices and making NGINX’s story front-of-mind with its prospects everywhere.”

“Through our open source roots, NGINX has incredible brand recognition and we’ve been achieving rapid growth, especially in the EMEA region. We needed to find the right agency to partner with us for the next stage of our business,” said Jesica Church, NGINX Director of Brand and MarCom. “With strong experience in multiple markets to help execute our initiatives, Firefly is already helping NGINX expand our voice in the tech landscape.”

NGINX powers two thirds of the world’s busiest sites and applications including Buzzfeed, Instagram, Netflix, Pinterest and SoundCloud. The NGINX open source project started in 2002 and was formally created as a company in 2011. Since then, it has achieved 100 percent year-on-year growth for four straight years and has recently raised $43m in Series C funding to help accelerate its mission to digitally transform the enterprise and modernise applications. Today, millions of innovators choose NGINX and NGINX Plus for delivering their sites and applications with performance, reliability, security and scale.

In the UK, we’ve been quite lucky to enjoy many warm days already this year, and naturally it’s got everyone gearing up for their summer holiday plans (and rightly so!). For our European colleagues too, we know that for many of the countries it’s not uncommon to switch off for an entire month or two over the summer to relax and enjoy – regardless of industry. While it’s an important thing for all of us to take time off and recharge batteries, it can be harder to actually ‘switch off’. One recent study found that Brits feel like they have to travel at least 1,000 miles to get away from their boss, and that more than half of workers will still check their emails when they are on holiday.

There’s never a good time for people to be going on leave, as there’s always work to be done, but it’s vital that we all get a break and there’s steps that can be taken internally to ensure your European PR campaigns still run smoothly despite any team absences. Here are five steps I recommend thinking about when planning your summer campaigns and team resourcing.

  1. Timing is everything

For whatever pan-European campaigns you have coming up, it’s important to think about the timing of them and whether they will fit with the European holiday schedule – not just how they fit within other corporate announcements going on. For example, in countries like Italy, many companies start to operate on ‘summer hours’, closing early on Fridays or not opening at all. Or they sometimes shut the entire office for anywhere between two weeks to a month during the summer.

This can mean they need more time than usual to complete tasks, or that it simply isn’t the right time to be breaking news to journalists anyway. Which makes another good point about trust – if one of your European teams or agencies suggest you don’t make an announcement when you’ve planned it since all the journalists are on holiday, it’s best to trust their local knowledge if you want to see results.

  1. Prioritise what’s important

With these differing holiday schedules in mind, take a step back and prioritise which tasks and campaigns will drive the best results and are most important to have done during the summer. There’ll no doubt be some tasks that can wait, and others that are more urgent, but it’s best to avoid burdening people on holiday unless it’s critical.

Localisation is important to keep in mind here too. You might have decided it’s important to put out an announcement in France during the peak holiday season there, but before you do – ask yourself: do I have something specific to say about the French region in this announcement? And will there be a local spokesperson available to comment on this announcement in France when I need it? If the answer to these questions is no, it’s almost certainly not worth the effort and better to delay it. The French media are highly focused on local angles, and it will be difficult to get results without that.

  1. Think about your team resourcing

With the instant communication that the internet and push-notifications give us, it’s becoming less and less acceptable to have an entire office switch off or be uncontactable – even just overnight. You always need an emergency contact to hand, ready to cover. Whether it’s summer or not, it’s a good idea to look at your company’s leave calendar at the start of every month to assess people’s availability and see when your supporting team members will be on annual leave. That way you can ensure everything you need from them is done before they go so there are no dramas during their break, and make a plan on who is going to cover for that person while they are off.

If you know your whole European account team will be off for a particular amount of time this summer, ask them now who you can speak to about any emergencies during that time. Within your own team, if it’s a bigger UK holiday like Christmas and everyone’s going to be on leave, work together to make an emergency rota. For instance, we try to share the responsibility by having one person as emergency contact each day, alternating between senior people in the team for the time that everyone’s off (typically one week).

  1. Be considerate of other countries’ customs

Whether it’s the usual summer break, or St Martin/Catherine/Nicholas Days, Sinterklaas or Christmas, Yom Kippur, Hanukah, Ramadan, Walpurgis Night or Midsummer’s Evening or a pre-wedding/honeymoon celebration (Royal or not), or if your colleague is just exhausted or near burn out, there are times when it’s very important to support your co-workers (locally and abroad) and give them a complete break. A work digital detox. Be kind to those around you, and perhaps even lead by example.

Daimler received praise a few years ago after instilling a blunt out-of-office auto-reply for its staff emails, where the recipient was told that the message would be deleted while the person was on holiday. That kind of approach won’t work for everyone – especially in the PR industry – but there’s plenty of alternative ways your company can encourage staff to switch off – like using Android for Work, which can separate your business and personal apps on your device.

Instilling these kinds of norms in your company takes the pressure off anyone who believes they have to continue to work while on holiday, and also means you have consistent expectations across the team. If you can’t make it a company-wide change, why not set an example within your own team with an out of office message that shows you yourself won’t be reading any emails on your break either – here’s some of my favourites! I rather like No 7 and No 17.

  1. Remember to think about your own ‘switch off’ too

While planning your team and agencies’ whereabouts, remember to also think about when you will have your rest and recovery too. It’s important to look after yourself as well as those around you and have faith in knowing that – if you prepare accordingly – things will still go to plan while you’re having a break. No-one is indispensable, so give other people an opportunity to step up to the plate. Some people have no issue stepping back from work while on holiday, but if you feel like you have to keep an eye on emails, start paying attention to how often you’re refreshing your Mail app so you can recognise and change that behaviour. If you can’t switch off entirely, try to set yourself some rules while away, such as no phone time between certain hours of the day, leaving your work phone in the hotel safe (or better yet – at home entirely!) or that you’ll only refresh your inbox once a day.

Ultimately the main thing to remember throughout all of this is that you need your teams to have a relaxing holiday and come back to work refreshed – not depressed about the hundreds of emails in their inbox on return. Your people will perform best when they feel listened to and cared for by their employer or client, and it makes sense to plan your campaign schedule around when people will be able to fulfil it properly.

Holidays are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the differences in European approaches to PR campaigning. To find out more, take a look at our European PR checklist to see how your current efforts score against best practice, and how you can better optimise your efforts.

Freedom of Information requests – anyone can ask to access information recorded by public organisations and they’re a great way to gather new research, garner interesting industry insight and tap into business and consumer sentiment. All with no need to fork out on commissioning your own study. But, on the other hand, they can be a little complicated, potentially very time consuming and not to mention that rather overwhelming influx of confirmations and replies into your inbox. Luckily, we’ve found out about the website, WhatDoTheyKnow, which hopes to make the whole process a lot easier, quicker and hassle free.

All you need to do is click to make a request, choose the public authority you wish to contact, input your questions and send. It’s as simple as that. The site will also keep you updated when you receive a response, so there’s no chance of missing anything and no need to trawl through your emails.

Not even sure where to begin or who you can approach? No worries, the website lists all the UK public authorities that can be sent FOI requests and, if it’s wider European organisations that you’re interested in, then just pop over to its sister site asktheEU.

Someone may have even done the asking for you. Not only does the site help you to make a new request, it also publishes all the requests and responses to other users –  the information you need may well already be there, ready to use. Or, if you’re hoping for something a little more exclusive, it’s an easy way to check if someone else has beaten you to it and submitted a request for the same information.

Regardless of the long-term ramifications of Brexit, Europe will continue to be a key region for any business looking to expand its global footprint – eight out of the top ten countries listed in the Global Innovation Index are all based in Europe. If you are looking to get your foot in the door or increase your existing presence within Europe, a strong communications strategy should be a part of this.

In approaching Europe from PR perspective, you must be aware that Europe is composed of multiple countries, each with its own unique cultural and socio-economic influences – it’s a huge mistake to think you can approach Europe as one, homogeneous region. When you break it down, there are three ways marketers can sabotage their European PR efforts:

 

  1. They assume what works for their home country will also work across Europe

You wouldn’t want to try to fit a Great Dane into a carrier built for a Chihuahua, would you? The same concept applies to doing PR across Europe. For example, press releases and content that perform exceedingly well in your home market may not necessarily produce the same results across the different European countries – in fact, it may even have a negative response from locals!

First things first: anything that needs to be issued across Europe, whether a communications strategy or press release, will need to be sensitive around timings (e.g. a press release will need to be issued at a time that works across each region), tweaked to fit the local language and local culture. In our own team in London, we have colleagues who hail from Australia and the United States – and whilst they also share the English language with the UK, there can be differences in spelling, idioms or cultural references that need to be taken into consideration.

You may want to create separate assets for each region as well. For example, if your main Twitter handle is reporting from your headquarters in Japan, it’s safe to assume that the majority of your target audience in Germany will not know how to read Japanese, nor will have a great interest in what’s happening in the Japanese market. Here you will want to create separate social media handles for each region to accommodate the different languages and interests.

 

  1. They ignore local socio-economic and cultural influences

Your PR strategy must appeal to the varying local landscapes and this is heavily influenced by socio-economic and cultural factors. Kicking off a major campaign in the middle of August wouldn’t necessarily be a major problem in the UK, but not so much in France where the majority of the media (and general workforce) will be on extended holidays. A creative PR stunt that requires strangers to interact with each other may not go down so well in Sweden, but will likely be a hit in Spain.

To get the deep insights required to do roll out effective campaigns across Europe, you will need people on the ground who understand the local trends, social nuances and economic status – which can change on a daily basis. Having these insights will be key in engaging with – or alienating – your target audiences.

 

  1. They use only spokespeople from their home market

Your main spokesperson may be the most engaging, connected and forward-thinking spokesperson on the planet – but if they can’t speak the local language, aren’t connected to the target audiences on a regular basis or even live within the target region you may lose out on connecting with your audience. A local spokesperson who understands the region’s unique challenges and opportunities will have a greater impact than someone who can speak to general trends.

When putting together your pan-European PR plan, you will need to pinpoint the key spokespeople in each region and figure out their areas of expertise and their familiarity with dealing with the local media. You may find that many of your key local spokespeople will be a bit green in this area so be sure to arrange a media and PR training for each and every one that requires it.

Each region will need its own specific PR and media training to address the unique requirements and preferences of the varying media landscapes. A local PR partner that understands your target markets and specific requirements of media for each will be key in developing the training.

 

Don’t jump into the European market without a well-thought out strategy

Branching out into Europe requires careful consideration and thorough planning. If you jump in blindly, you may alienate your audience and hurt your brand reputation across the European market.

Understanding local socio-economic nuances, ensuring your strategy and content are relevant to each region and building up local assets and spokespeople are key to a winning pan-European PR strategy.  Remember, when issuing any PR strategy across varying regions, you need to ask yourself “how is this strategy relevant to this region? Why should people in this region care?” If the answer is no, you will need to readjust or go back to the drawing board.

And if you get it right, you will be a big step closer in winning one of the key global markets.

 

Interested in learning more about doing PR in Europe? We’re hosting a webinar 5 Dec on “The Code to cracking PR in Europe”. You can register here.

As we end up saying time and time again, this year has flown by. Many things have happened, but Christmas is a time to reflect on the positive and exciting moments we shared as a PR agency in 2015, and below we’ve put together a collection of our top moments for the year and our reactions to them – in GIF form of course!

1. Hijacking drones for April Fools’ Day and PR research

Drones were a big topic in technology media this year, and through our newsjacking via consumer research, we achieved over 40 articles for Give as you Live. This contributed to an uplift in organic search – people typing ‘Give as you Live’ into Google – as well as a better sign-up conversion, based on Google Analytics Goals analysis.

Firefly also claimed to launch a new drone to deliver press releases straight into journalists’ hands, but it was all an April Fools’ joke, of course!

2. The KIDS charity Firewalk

A few of the Fireflies bravely took part in the KIDS Charity Firewalk at the start of November, walking across 20ft of hot coals and learning that “We are magnificent! We are amazing! We ARE fantastic!”

Oprah’s reactions sum up the experience pretty well.

3. Hazel, Christian and Kiran join the Firefly team

While we said goodbye to some, we also said a great big hello to Christian, Hazel and Kiran, who joined as senior account director, senior account manager, and London team administrator respectively. They’ve all been integral team members so far, and even managed the Firewalk.

4. Client wins

We were pleased to welcome some new work with a win of four new clients in 2015, including Cornerstone OnDemand, COINS, Softmaker, and Quattro Plant Group.

5. Looking into the Crystal ball

Ever wanted to know the right way to read a journalist or client, but can’t pick it just from their picture? We discovered Crystal, a tool that helps people understand and communicate with each other better by drawing a picture of their personality based on their online profiles – and it’s pretty accurate too!

2015, you’ve been swell! We look forward to seeing what 2016 brings our way.

Christian’s remit will be to support Firefly’s ongoing mission to bring greater clarity to how campaigns are run, whilst also exploiting evolving channels and tactics to help client organisations achieve their communications objectives. He joins from Threepipe where he led the B2B team, running a combination of PR, social and content-led campaigns for brands such as Oracle Primavera, MindLink and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Christian brings a range of experience to Firefly, from enterprise brands Motorola, BMC Software, Rackspace and Computacenter, to start-ups uMotif, WeSwap and pro-bono work with IDEALondon, Cisco, DC Thomson and UCL’s start-up incubator.

Firefly Group CEO Claire Walker says, “Our clients are under pressure to deliver impactful communications activity across a range of channels, without re-inventing the wheel. Christian’s work across organic and paid online channels – as well as a solid heritage in PR and media relations – will bring a great deal to our offering.”

Prior to Threepipe, Christian worked at agencies including Spark, Waggener Edstrom and The Octopus Group on a range of campaigns including launching Rackspace’s OpenStack cloud in the UK in conjunction with NASA, opening the UK’s first eSports arena with Gfinity, and running an award-winning campaign with AdaptiveMobile examining Wi-Fi filtering in public spaces.

 

Firefly London and Firefly Paris have been selected to boost awareness of Crucial.com, a one-stop-shop for computer memory upgrades.

Crucial is a leading manufacturer of RAM and SSD solutions for desktop and notebook computers. Firefly already serves as the lead European PR agency to Crucial’s sister brand, Lexar, and will use its expertise in consumer/consumer tech media to make new inroads for Crucial.com.

The Crucial.com project was awarded to Firefly in December 2010 to support its overall goal of increasing mainstream consumer footfall to Crucial.com in the UK, France and US. The Firefly London team will serve as the lead on the international PR project.

“We were impressed with the results Firefly achieved with Lexar and are excited to be working with them on Crucial.com,” said Sam Harmer, public relations manager for Crucial.com. “Upgrading your computer memory is one of the best ways to boost system performance and at Crucial.com we make the whole process extremely easy.  There’s a wide universe of mainstream computer users out there that we want to reach with our message and Firefly is the right agency to help us do that.”

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