Whether launching a B2B technology service, a medical device or new consumer product, many of the rules of the (international) road remain the same. This month, for example we will provide PR support for the international debut of a health technology product at a prominent overseas trade show. Next month, we’ll be launching a social app that’s popular in Europe but unknown on these shores. Those are very different assignments but there are some common requirements.
Gather best practices. It’s helpful to study key business categories, particularly those in regulated industries where rules vary by country and culture. Research the successful global debuts of companies in particular who have succeeded in pharma, technology, online advertising, and franchising. Note Subway’s secrets to success found here. Find common tenets and practices for guidance.
Choose your international partners wisely. The founder and CEO of international client Edible Arrangements compares finding the right overseas associates to getting married—it’s a relationship, not a sale. When searching for the right partner, Farid employs the “airport test” — if you were on a plane next to this person, would you wish the flight was delayed or lasted longer because of how much you enjoy spending time with them? If the answer is yes, add them to your short list!” For our company, being a partner in PROI, a network of independent PR firms, has provided us with strategic and tactical support.
Think global, write local? Best to avoid jargon when expressing key messages and get straight to the point. Translate press releases, announcements and presentations into the local language, and use images wherever possible. Hire an on-site interpreter if necessary. This is particularly true if the client news is packed with technical terms.
It’s a small social media world. The HQ-based team sets the strategies and defines the content. The local team adapts the content and implements the campaign. Therefore, they must be fluent in the native language/s, social media mores, cultural nuances and the target audience. It’s also key to set up a structure to match your social media needs. How often does your campaign need posts? Do sites need to be monitored 24/7 and just how many languages are there in each country you’re headed to?
Consider the optics. Assess a brand’s visual identity, including logo, and consider how the colors, shapes and even font choices could be perceived in other cultures. It’s also important to note how the senior officers will be perceived. If it’s an all-male team, 100% racially homogeneous, and all under 30 or over 60, it can hurt the public image of the business in many communities and cultures. Our experience favors working with local partners to gauge media and public perception and advise on presentation.
Study ethics and issues. Finally, when expanding internationally, know the hot-button issues and reputational threats specific to each environment. These include hiring and wages, manufacturing, environmental considerations and p0litics. Take a page from Walmart (yes, Walmart) which seeks to source produce for its food sections from local farms that are near its warehouses. Walmart has learned through tough experience that this practice is not only good for business, but helps build allies and good will.
Have a local presence. Even if it’s a small office, it helps to have a local address and place of business. More importantly, a qualified in-market executive who can serve as occasional media spokesperson will multiply opportunities and help enhance reputation in case of any kind of customer service breach or issue. Where possible, commit to the local business community with local philanthropy, small sponsorships, or volunteer Boards. The more you give to the local community, the more “human” your brand will become.