Multi-country companies need multi-country PR support if they want to raise awareness internationally to attract new partners and generate customer leads.
To reach media, influencers and analysts outside of your home market, the easiest way, and one which many companies run with, is to use local teams to manage their PR.
Vitis PR offers a truly international service, for both for non-UK companies that need to grow their UK profile and our UK clients that need to reach an overseas audience. Our clients benefit from our strong network of international partner agencies, and we also have a ‘tried and tested’ process in place to support and manage multi-country campaigns, working alongside other PR agencies, for our international PR clients.
From our experience in securing and working with global PR clients on an ongoing or project basis, these are our top – and very simple - tips for you to ensure the very best service to your international PR clients.
Project management – ensure everyone can access information about a project’s current status
Having a good web-based project management system - like Basecamp, Apollo, Asana or Trello – allows for simple team-wide collaboration, which is key for all clients but especially for international PR when different teams may be awake and/or working on projects at different times. Not only do project management systems make adding and assignment of tasks, easy, they also enable team members to insert and read comments to keep everyone updated and organised so they know which stage each activity is at, and which are nearing deadline dates, whatever the local time may be.
Language - mind your Ps and Qs
Although most clients seeking an agency in another country won’t expect you to know their own language fluently, it can be an advantage to make your clients’ lives easier if there is any language barrier. At Vitis PR, we have team members who speak German, and can read Spanish, Russian and Punjabi too.
Even if your customers speak English be aware of differences in language and spelling to avoid writing to them about “colour” instead of “color”. Also mind your own country slang and colloquialisms, and avoid idiomatic expressions, because their meaning could be totally lost on your counterpart. For example, European counter parts may not know what you’re talking about if you mention “Monday Blues” and “kill two birds with one stone” could cause some concern you’re about to head outside to throw rocks at the sky.
The most important thing, in all of your email, phone and in-person conversations, is to ensure you’re not inadvertently using a word that actually means something else (or worse, something offensive) in your client’s country. Good examples here are “bloody” and “knob” which are both derogatory and/or curse words in the UK but not in the US, and “Puff” which is a euphemism for a brothel in Germany. Try to be educated so you don’t let a careless phrase land you in hot water. One thing a French partner does with us is to check email copy that is going out to influential contacts. We alerted our contact to stop writing about STDs (save the date in PR speak, but it just evokes sexual health problems to many in the UK).
Market - when in Rome
Following the education on words, phrases, etc, cross-cultural communication is far more than knowing just what local holidays your client has. An example would be the Chinese New Year, when the whole country shuts down completely for a full five days in February. This means that your chances of successfully reaching any clients or customers in China then are non-existent.
Also, make time to understand your international PR clients’ seasons, so your “Stay warm this winter” message before breaking off for Christmas break may be completely unnecessary for clients in Australia and the whole Southern hemisphere, as those countries are beginning their summer season in December.
It is important if working on any promotions tied to seasons, such as summer, to be aware of this so you don’t promote smart air conditioning to customers where the promotion falls flat and doesn’t resonate as it’s their winter.
Timezones – be available
PR is in many cases 24/7, this is especially true when you are part of a team supporting international clients. That CEO in Taiwan may want to talk to you every Monday so you need to be aware of the time differences involved for everyone to be a part of that weekly meeting. The West Coast CEO's 1700, end of day, is the UK’s 0900, start of the day, so you may be getting invites for kick offs and catch ups outside normal working hours.
We advise having a time convertor bookmarked, setting different clocks on your phone, or wall, and posting the different foreign times next to your times in a diary or on a board next to your desk. Ensuring that you are available during your overseas clients’ daytime hours is key but so too is work life balance and we recommend not agreeing to weekly calls at 0900 TPE (Taiwan time) just because the CEO prefers a start of the day meeting – as that’s 0100 GMT!
Technology - smooth operations
Also make sure that any webinars, support or communication channels are available for your customer to reach out to you during their normal waking hours, even if you don’t pick up the message until you get out of bed. And avoid at all costs, calling media outside normal working hours as they are unlikely to thank you for a 2100 pitch call.
To make life easier, here are the solutions we advise you present through to keep communications easy and productive:
Messaging and chat programs
When things are urgent and there’s an action to be turned around quickly, or a question that needs to be answered, chat programs, like Slack and Skype, offer an opportunity for everyone on the team to get the message so, even if one person is busy, another can answer. It’s always important to respond to incoming queries as if they are urgent, to ensure our client knows they are a priority and not just an afterthought, so those chat programs can help with that. But the social component of these types of messaging systems can also bring your team closer together, and makes sure the workflow with your clients is easier and more productive.
We have separate chats on WhatsApp for a couple of our international PR clients so we can liaise with them and each other in one place – this ensures everyone sees the correspondence. For a US-based client we worked with, our weekly call included PR agencies from five other countries who were supporting the project.
Emails cannot replace face-to-face communication, so set up regular, real-time meetings for sharing between teams in different countries – this helps keep everyone on the same page and ensures a smooth workflow. Video conference platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts are useful for this. And, if time differences are a problem, set this meeting up to occur on a regular day of the week/month, and allow your employees to flex their schedules to accommodate it. This leads to less resentment if they have to come in early or stay late occasionally. We do this with a French client and it helps to speak with them regularly so we are all on the same page.
Knowledge is power and cloud storage solutions - such as Dropbox and Google Drive - make it easy to share data and documents with colleagues all over the world. By saving documents for everyone to access via a shared storage solution like that, you’re creating an effective data flow. But, to avoid your cloud storage systems getting messy, with so many people using them, be sure to map out best-practice process for what needs to be shared with whom and by whom, who has responsibility for naming formats and what sub-folders are needed in each project section. By setting up a shared file-structure, you can avoid any confusion with one team member saving an event speaker abstract into a pitch or profile folder instead of under the events one, where the client would expect to find it.
Project management - ensures everyone can access information about the project's current status having a good web-based project management system - like Basecamp, Apollo, Asana or Trello – allows for simple team-wide collaboration. Not only do they make adding and assignment of tasks, as they come up, easy, they also enable team members to insert and read comments to keep everyone updated and organized so they know which stage each activity is at, and which are nearing deadline dates.
Legal security is a must
Laws regarding privacy, copyright and usage rights, trademark rights, etc. vary across nations (and even states) and can complicate corporate communications. So, it is important that your client’s legal team discusses any potential issues that international PR may present. Also, to protect both parties, it’s recommended have contracts in place and confirm which courts they will be governed by if there is a problem.
Our tips are just the basics on how to avoid and stay ahead of, any issues, but of course, this list is not exhaustive as there will be more ways to service international PR clients well depending on where they and you are based.