The biggest B2B PR mistakes US brands make in Europe

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You know the old tune – ‘You say tom-ay-to, we say tom-ar-toe..?’

It is often said that Britain and America are “two nations divided by a common language” – a saying that speaks volumes when it comes to PR and digital marketing.

On the global economic stage, the art of selling is shaped by the rules of supply and demand, and buying and selling is the same wherever you go, right? It’s safe to assume that customers, whether they live in LA, London, Munich, Paris or Rome are looking for a great product or service for the best value for money. So far, so homogenous.

But what many US brands consistently fail to realise is that the most effective ways to sell to us are very different from the ways that work a treat for the folks at home. That’s just for us English-speaking Brits. And what about our friends in mainland Europe you might ask? Well, that’s a whole other ball game, too.

US vs. UK PR – a different game?

The PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) defines the practice of public relations as:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” 

Meanwhile, in the UK, the PRCA and CIPR (our official PR bodies) say it’s “about reputation.” Specifically, the PRCA uses the definition:

“Public relations is all about reputation. It’s the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organisation and its various publics – whether that’s employees, customers, investors, the local community – or all of those stakeholder groups.” 

Glancing quickly at these paragraphs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the job of a public relations professional in America differs greatly from that of one in Britain. But, does it? In the end, aren’t we all working towards a common goal? The answer is yes, of course. We all want to present our clients in a positive light to their target market, to manage the audience’s perception of them and to raise the profile of given schemes, messages and/or products.

The critical point of fact is that the way we go about achieving our goals does differ. Greatly.

Just as we tailor media pitches depending on the nature of the publication or specific interest of a journalist, we should also adapt our PR strategy according to the territory we are targeting.

It’s sometimes difficult for organisations to understand the purpose of this. They pump out global brand messaging in blind certainty that customers in all markets must surely tick in the same way and that we’re all driven by the same needs and emotions.

It’s an approach we see time and time again; an American company has flourished on its home turf and is ready to promote itself in Europe. A few months into its European campaign, the CMO is demanding to know why they’re failing to gain any traction. Why isn’t the plan working? Surely it’s a case of translating the news and distributing it in the same way as has always worked so well at home?

If only it were that simple.

We could fill an entire White Paper detailing the ways in which a PR strategy should be adapted for the European market. In fact, demand for EMEA hubbing services and strategic consultancy has led us to develop a specialist service line advising US business looking for representation in Europe and delivering integrated PR and social campaigns from a UK hub.

But for the purposes of this blog, let’s focus on five key elements in a news release that must be adapted to resonate with local European markets.

#1 Legislation/organisations/currency

We’re grouping these three items together because they are fundamental pieces of content that often need adapting but are regularly neglected.

In the US, the dollar rules, the police force might be federal or state, and organisations or legislation may only be active in Northern America. The point being that the ruling group is likely to be immaterial in the UK, Germany, France or Spain. This must be reflected in the content. For example, there’s very little point banging on about the FDA to a French audience – to do so would severely restrict the opportunity for coverage or comment and red flag the business as irrelevant to the regional press.

#2 Timing

Timing is everything.

When co-ordinating news globally, PR teams in North America might decide a story should go out at 10am CDT. That’s perfect for the local press, but in mainland Europe the clock says 5pm. Most trade media at that time are at home tucking into a TV dinner. The news will become buried among their burgeoning inboxes, never to be read or given a thought.

The best way to tackle the time difference might be to agree that European versions can be distributed the following morning. Alternatively, the European media can be sent the release under an agreed embargo, allowing them to prepare news for publishing at the correct time.

Timing must also take into account local market holidays. Much of Europe shuts down during August – it can even be tough finding local translators during this month! To maximise coverage, it pays to consider whether an opted week, month or day is appropriate in the target territory.

#3 Measured comment

It is often said that the English are a conservative nation; our measured attitude can be seen in the style of our writing and the format of our spokesperson comments. In contrast, US writing and comment is sometimes seen as effusive, full of character and enthusiasm. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with either style, but when approaching a European audience, the local manner should be considered and the approach tailored accordingly.

This is important, not just in written media, but also when forming wider strategies that might include speeches, social media or video. Always keep the audience in mind, its sense of humour and attitude towards sensitive topics, whether constructing a single press release or a six-month integrated PR campaign. 

#4 Spokespeople

What appeals to one group of target customers in Europe may be off-putting or of no importance to another. In the USA, a lot of kudos is placed on the draw of local politicians and officials. In most European countries, the power of local government is far less. Companies cannot rely on the presence of a regional mayor to achieve column inches.

And, while we in the industry understand how difficult it can be to push spokesperson approvals through, it really is important to quote a local spokesperson for a company within a news release. To voice the thoughts of the US Managing Director is all well and good, but back this up with a comment from the European Regional Manager to improve the impact of the message to the European press. It may take longer to co-ordinate, but the results will be worth it; showing the press that your company truly has a European presence and isn’t a US-centric business with little or no relevance to them will help establish strong media relations.

#5 Know your audiences

As each European market is governed by different legislation, industry rules and unique challenges, a global ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ simply won’t cut it.

Also, the way the press operates in different European markets can vary greatly. Whilst the UK press tends to run editorial calendars it’s a tougher call to decipher what’s on the horizon when dealing with press in France or Germany.

The most successful US brands in Europe are those who tailor their brand messages and initiatives in a way that resonates with the wants, needs and challenges of each market – targeting the right media and influencers with the right messaging at the right time.

 

These points serve as a small lesson in ‘translating’ – both literally and figuratively, brand messaging for a European audience.

You say po-tay-to, we say po-tar-to. While the meaning is the same, we sometimes need to ‘change our accent’ to make ourselves heard, and more crucially, to gain the trust and respect of new audiences. In order to make a PR campaign truly fly in Europe, brands must tailor their personas and approach with bespoke narratives that tell their brand stories in a way that is meaningful and also proves to prospects that their specific needs are recognised and understood.

It’s knowing how to turn up the dial on both the relevancy and likeability factors that will ultimately seal the deal.

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Has the selfie craze finally gone too far?

The selfie trend has been around for a good few years now, with celebrities and brands (who can forget the famous Ellen DeGeneres Oscars selfie?) all getting in on the action. The term has even been recognised in the Oxford Dictionary! But more recently it seems this self-indulgent craze has been taken to new extremes and certainly shows no sign of dying a death.

Kim Kardashian selfie

One celebrity, who is seen to be taking a leading role in this ‘next level selfie movement’, is self-proclaimed queen of the selfie – Kim Kardashian. This month, it was reported globally (yep, August really is the silly season for news) that she is soon to release her very own 352-page hardcover selfie book – aptly named – Selfish.

TheQueen

It seems even the Royal family can no longer resist getting in on the trend. The Queen’s recent photobombing of the Australian hockey team’s selfie, resulted in the picture going viral. Of course.  Not wanting to feel left out, we also saw Prince Harry, copying his Gran by giving two thumbs up behind the New Zealand rugby coach at the Common-selfie Games.

Prince Harry

Selfies have always felt like a bit of harmless fun but in recent times, they have also taken a more disturbing turn, with people even putting their lives in danger to take the ‘perfect selfie’. Also hitting the headlines this month: a swimmer posed for a picture in front of a baited trap used to catch giant crocodiles in an infested river! Tragically, a couple were also reported to have fallen to their deaths from a cliff in Portugal, after apparently taking a ‘selfie’ too close to the edge.

So how far can this trend really go? At some point, we will surely get bored of all these ‘look at me, look at me’ photos. Question is, how long will it be before we all realise that it’s better to just enjoy the moment instead of feeling the need to get out our smartphone and snap ourselves enjoying it – and in doing so, actually missing it?

It seems that big brands certainly don’t think we will be getting over this craze for a good while yet. Only last month, Microsoft announced it will be launching a dedicated selfie phone along with other brands now making phones with an all important ‘selfie button’ featured on them.

Who knows what the next new picture taking craze will be but it seems the selfie – love it or loathe it – certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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Weekly Social Scoop

Latest news and developments on Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter – in case you missed it.

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#1 Hands on with the new Vine: 6-second videos will never be the same

By Mashable

  • The new camera features on Vine aren’t just shiny and new, they’ve totally changed the platform.
  • It’s been nearly two years since Twitter acquired Vine and added it to the canon of notable social media platforms. Six-second looping videos simply weren’t “a thing” before Vine proved that our short attention spans were, in fact, good for something.

#2 Instagram appeals to brands with beefed-up ad analytics tools

By Marketing Magazine

  • The first tool, called account insights, will show impressions, reach and engagement across all photos posted by a brand.
  • A second ad insights dashboard will specifically show how paid campaigns are performing, displaying impressions, reach and frequency for individual ads.
  • Finally, the ad staging tool will allow brands to plan future activities by creating, previewing and collaborating on campaigns.

#3 Pinterest tests news tab on mobile

By The Drum

  • Pinterest has launched a news section for those using the app on smartphones, which will be tested over the coming weeks.
  • The tab will provide Pinners with information about what their Facebook friends are up to, as well as updates about the Pinners, brands and boards that are being followed.

#4 Twitter expands its ad program to 12 new countries

By TechCrunch

  • Twitter has added 12 new countries to its advertising network, called Twitter Ads, with most markets in Central and Eastern Europe. The new countries include: Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Portugal.
  • “There has been tremendous growth in this region over the last year, and Twitter Ads will now be available in 35 EMEA markets through direct sales support teams and reseller partnerships,” the company said in its announcement.

#5 Facebook is cracking down on clickbait in your news feed

By BBC News

  • “You will never believe what happened on the red carpet last night!!!!! Click HERE to find out.” Are you sick of the sight of these kinds of headlines, where you click through only to find out nothing much really happened at all?
  • Facebook is promising to crack down on the “clickbait” in your News Feed, with two new updates to the site.

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onechocolate loves…

Our weekly round-up of the most inspiring PR and digital marketing campaigns, smart new apps, cool events, ventures and happenings that have caught our eye…

#1 Content is king

Amtrack

If, like us, you’re always on the lookout for brands doing great content marketing, then Econsultancy’s article, “A look inside Amtrak’s excellent content marketing strategy”, is a must read. We particularly love Amtrak’s use of resident writers to create subtle brand placement, ability to turn potentially dull content into must-reads on its blog, and its use of social media for audience engagement.

#2 #FixGreggs

Greggs

This week, Greggs demonstrated their capabilities in crisis management when, thanks to a Google algorithm error, their slogan was changed on Google Search to: “Providing s*** to scum for over 70 years”. News quickly went viral and the hashtag #FixGreggs was associated with the blunder. However, Greggs was quick to respond to criticism in a human, witty tone:

Greggs 2

Google subsequently fixed the issue, leading Greggs to proclaim their love for Google. Greggs’ turnaround of the potentially embarrassing and damaging incident is yet another example of why it’s so important for brands to invest in real-time and with a responsive social media strategy.

#3 StrikeoutALS

We’ve all had our Facebook home pages and Twitter feeds full to the brim with the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ in aid of ALS (also known as Motor Neurone Disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease). Everyone from Hollywood A-listers and Silicon Valley tech leaders, to musicians and sports personalities have taken up the challenge. So, of course, it was only a matter of time before brands got in on the action. Check out Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Topshop who were just a few who braved the icy water challenge. Whether you love or hate it, there’s no denying the power of the viral campaign, which has raised millions for the charity.

#4 Fat and Furious food porn

Fat & Furious

We love a bit of food art at onechocolate and this is food porn at its best! Fat & Furious Burger’s Instagram page is full of mouth-watering, creative pictures, designed to lure you into a burger-craving frenzy. French Graphic designers, Quentin and Thomas, came up with the idea after getting bored of eating the same old lunches every day. Inspiration for their artistic burgers comes from all sorts of unexpected places, from David Beckham to the Pope.

If these pics have put you in the mood for a delicious treat, we recommend BOBO Social for their peanut butter burger and sweet potato chips (yum!). It recently opened on Charlotte Street, London and is worth every calorie.

#5 Downton blunder

Downton

After Downton Abbey’s very public mistake last week – in which a water bottle was accidentally featured in the background of a publicity picture – the cast and crew have teamed up with WaterAid to promote the international charity, with pictures on Instagram poking fun at their mistake. The photo is a clever way of turning the blunder around to focus on raising awareness about limited access to clean water in developing countries.

#6 Aphrodisiac dining

match

We were treated to some yummy free food last Friday, when dating site match.com rocked up with their new ‘aphrodisiac’ dining experience in Soho Square. The series of pop-up events, taking place from 20th and 27th August, will be based around menus featuring ingredients designed to get singletons ‘in the mood’ for meeting potential new matches. We’re not sure if the secret ‘aphrodisiac’ ingredients worked but the food certainly tasted good!

 

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Nurturing talent: the value of making professional development personal

Hands holding sapling in soil

High staff turnover is a perennial problem for PR agencies across the board – on average 20% per annum – which means one in five people will leave every year. We all know how frustrating and disheartening this can be, especially when it’s an individual who has not only won the trust and respect of clients but who has also proven to be a highly cherished member of your team.

Independent boutique agencies such as ours can feel the loss more acutely on both a business and personal level, which is why it is so vital to commit to delivering ongoing professional development for staff at all stages of their career path.

What makes staff quit?

It’s time to quit assuming that laying on free breakfast, duvet days, half days for birthdays and Friday night drinks – as appreciated as these perks surely are – is enough to keep staff happy and motivated.

Leaving aside the individuals who decide to quit the PR industry as a whole (the would-be rock stars, world travellers and career changers), reasons for leaving largely fall into two tick boxes: frustration or boredom. Or both.

So what is the best way to keep staff motivated?

The art of staff retention

Show commitment: Efforts to support and develop people cannot simply be a well-meaning idea – they must be locked down in a clearly defined and transparent process that can be readily deployed for staff at all levels. This sends a clear message that you will support them in their current role and facilitate their rise up the ranks. At onechocolate, we’re now celebrating the 20th anniversary of oneAcademy, our in-house training and personal development programme, which runs across our offices in London, Paris, Munich and San Francisco. This programme has, of course, been honed and developed over the years but the core principles remain: delivery of multi-level training across all disciplines from interns to director level.

Empower people: For our junior staff, we believe that the ‘learning is in the doing’ and ensure that they are encouraged to get stuck into ‘next level’ work as soon as they are ready, albeit under careful supervision. Giving people a task or full project to run that plays to their strengths gives them a sense of ownership and a confidence boost, knowing that their progress has been acknowledged.

It’s also easy to forget the value of ensuring they gain a firm grasp of how PR agencies run as a business. Put them through a resourcing and P&L workshop and suddenly they understand why they have to fill in timesheets – and see how their work fits into the bigger picture.

Be transparent: Whilst agency fee income may rise and fall, it always pays to be open with staff about pay brackets and provide realistic, honest views of potential rises and promotions on the horizon. People value recognition for their work and honesty goes a long way to preventing people from flying the coup. It’s bad tactics such as paying new joiners more than existing team members at the same level that cause mutinies around the water cooler; that and failure to pass on the benefits of major new business wins secured by key individuals.

Play nice: Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, the shocking truth is that we’ve lost count of the number of times a new joiner has told us they left their last agency because they found the culture bullying or abusive. No one should have to put up with that.

What are your thoughts on how PR agencies can address high staff turnover…?

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