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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firefly has been selected to serve as the lead, international PR agency of record for Steria Group. Firefly will assume responsibility for driving Steria’s global communications strategy, working closely with Steria Group Communications Director, Sally Robins. As part of its remit, Firefly will deliver bespoke campaigns focused on Steria’s senior leadership, international growth strategy and IT service delivery model; as well as coordinate international PR efforts, working with in-country PR managers and agency teams in ten markets across Europe and India. Firefly is currently Steria’s UK public relations team of record and has served in this capacity for more than three years, pre-dating Steria’s acquisition of Xansa.
The Steria Group PR team at Firefly will comprise bilingual PR consultants based in Firefly’s London and Paris offices. The combined team will oversee key, pan-European media relationships and will be tasked with the responsibility of proactively communicating Steria’s business capabilities and performance across Europe, as well as raising awareness for Fondation Steria, Steria’s CSR programme, running since 2001 and focused on community IT projects to bridge the digital divide.
Sally Robins, Communications Director for Steria Group, said, “This was a highly competitive pitch and we were impressed with the overall quality, creativity and energy demonstrated by the participating agencies. In the final analysis, it was Firefly who demonstrated the right mix of passion, strategic thinking and collaborative spirit that tipped the scales in their favour. We are delighted with the results of our PR agency search and excited to begin working with our new teams.”
Claire Walker, CEO of Firefly Communications, said: “The Steria business in the UK has been one of our prestige clients and we are thrilled to be able to significantly expand our remit and work as communications advisors to Steria Group.”
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