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PR across borders: 5 golden rules for international comms

Earlier this month, our Director Tim Lines and Account Director Morag Magee made a trip out to San Francisco, and as part of this hosted an event with our sister agency, Highwire. Here, Tim shares his thoughts on best practice for building an international PR programme.

Nothing could really prepare you for a week in Silicon Valley. The energy. The smiles. The innovation. The feeling that the people you walk past in the street may well fundamentally redefine our world in the years to come. That is exhilarating.

The danger, however, is that brands get caught up in the bubble and you don’t fully appreciate the world beyond the West Coast. What works in San Francisco will not necessarily work in London, Paris or Barcelona. Companies that are making waves in the US and are considering global expansion need to think about how they approach and shape those programmes.

Last week we made the trip to San Fran and hosted a PR across borders  event with our leading partner agency Highwire. Featuring The Telegraph’s James Titcomb and Twilio’s head of global comms, Caitlin Epstein, the discussion hinged on this very subject. We explored the issues and possible approaches to international comms.

So – while there may be more – here are five golden rules to follow:

Being big in the US is no guarantee to international success.

Don’t get me wrong, success and scale in the States is a great start, but it is only the start. For success internationally, you need more than buzz… and comms should grow in line with commercial success. Local customers, partners and milestones are crucial if you need to build momentum in comms.

 

 

You can’t localise enough.

You have to understand the context in each market you operate in. That goes for local media and influencers as much a local trends and issues. In the UK, that could mean appreciating the appetite for a positive investment story in the context of Brexit, or understanding that a fleeting mention of “disruption” or “AI” does not go deep enough for local media. One size does not fit all and the best programmes are local and relevant.

 

 

Customers, customers, customers.

Local customers are essential. It’s the first request from media; to show the impact of your client’s technology and hear first-hand how it has solved a specific customer challenge. Comms without customers, especially in the UK, will be an uphill battle.

 

 

Someone in the right time zone.

It can be done but managing global programmes from the West Coast is hard. In a world where speed is everything, you can’t always wait for the HQ to come online. It is so valuable having a local comms lead. They’ll be better able to shape a story and find that all-important local customer.

 

Value your consultants.

Listen to your local agency – they know what makes a good story and how to support local media. Don’t spend money on a killer agency with no ability to shape a programme. Ask questions and listen to what they tell you. That team could be your greatest asset.

 

 

What is evident is that building PR across borders isn’t a quick and easy task. It requires a strong story, a bespoke approach, and above all, local knowledge and expertise.