Article Written by Catherine Cheong, Copywriter at Verztec Consulting
As we have examined in a previous article, Public Relations (PR) can be a valuable tool in growing a business in a foreign market. Obviously, PR efforts cannot be transplanted wholesale from the home market to a foreign one. We take a look below on key considerations when establishing PR in a new country:
1. Fine-tune Key Messages
PR is built around key messages. These are the core content for all your communications tools and what you want the audience to remember after they have heard your speech, read your interview or visited your website. An essential instrument in positioning your company and brand, a key message is a memorable, impactful and concise sentence that tells people what you do, how you are different and what value you will provide to them.
In a foreign market, what the target audience want or value may not be the same. Therefore, your company would need to position itself differently. For branding to be effective, who you are has to be consistent. But how you are different (in this country) and what value you will provide (to this target market) has to be fine-tuned for best results.
2. Establish Media Relations Protocols
The local management is likely to be the first point of contact for the media whenever they have a query. It is important to establish what kind of media queries they should manage and what they should pass to the headquarters. Simple queries are handled more quickly and efficiently by the local management. But more complex ones relating to company strategy and image should always be controlled by the head office. Having different versions of these in different countries can impact negatively on the credibility of the company.
It is just as important to look into the way media queries are redirected. Some queries are more urgent than others, especially in crisis situations. If the head office operates in a different time zone from the local office, emergency after-office numbers of key personnel have to be made available. In the absence of information from the company, an issue can quickly be blown out of proportion in the media when the head office begins operations later.
3. Media Training for Local Management
Talking to the media is very different from talking to a customer or supplier. The media is interested in news, not your product features. In the short amount of time allocated to an interview, your spokesperson not only needs to know how to work your company or brand’s key messages around a news angle but also to stick to these messages throughout the session. An outcome that does not carry your key messages is a missed opportunity. In addition, your spokesperson needs to know how to adjust these messages to the audience. Just because he knows what he is talking about does not mean the audience does, or wants to hear about it.
Doing all of the above effectively takes training. Your local management needs to be drilled on how to handle media interviews in case they have to speak on the company’s behalf one day.
In times of crisis, prior media training is especially helpful. Your company may come under a barrage of questions from journalists, some of who might jump on and exaggerate everything your spokesperson says in order to sensationalize the story even more. Media training, which would have prepared your local management for such scenarios, would enable them to keep a cool head under such pressure and put across your company’s messages clearly and precisely. Instead of reacting with alarm, your customers, shareholders and employees can now be reassured when they read the news.
4. Localize Press Releases
This goes beyond translating the press release into the local language. Oftentimes, a press release originating from another country has little local relevance. Sending it to the media is akin to spamming them. In such cases, it is best to investigate whether a local angle can be introduced into the press release before it is distributed.
5. Global vs. Local PR Plans
Your PR plans are now likely to fall into two categories – global and local. The former are company or brand wide publicity plans you would like your local office to execute. These are often tricky as they require brand consistency balanced with some customization for the local market. A good way to manage this is to introduce design templates for marketing collaterals. For large campaigns, some companies also develop briefing books to ensure consistency in brand promise, tone of communication and other communication elements. This is while allowing the local office to retain autonomy in deciding how to reach out to the target market, as they would know this better than the headquarters.
As the local market has its own business development needs that require PR support, local plans are also necessary. While most activities in such plans can be run autonomously, some would require support from the head office. For instance, the CEO might be needed to officiate an opening. Thus it is best to plan both the global and PR activities for the year together so that the amount of communication and other resources can be established.