Global PR revenue is expected to climb to a record $19.3 billion by 2020 — an increase of more than five billion from just three years ago. As more brands seek to expand into new markets, or drive greater visibility in existing ones, they’re ramping up public relations to maximize international opportunities.
For those tapping global PR services for the first time, however, there’s an understandable and pronounced learning curve. And knowing the core challenges and mechanics common to global PR is essential to ensuring an efficient, successful and smart program. At Crenshaw Communications, our team has developed and executed a number of high-impact PR programs across EMEA and APAC. With that in mind, here are five things to consider as a brand launches a global communications strategy.
What type of global PR model works best for your organization? There are several approaches to building a global PR team. Large brands like Unilever or Dell might have one global PR agency with offices in all key markets to support their strategy. Another common approach for big brands is to have multiple PR agencies across core regions and geographies (possibly through a network like the PROI). Other brands have a number of in-house PR team members supporting a global program, with agencies only in select markets. And, finally, an increasingly common arrangement — particularly for startups and smaller brands that may not have a multimillion dollar PR budget — is for a North American agency to execute a global PR program by tapping agency members with experience in those markets, while supporting additional cities with expert freelancers. Each model has pros and cons in terms of complexity and budget. The former models have more boots on the ground, for example, but are more expensive. The latter, more cost-efficient but without as much in-market depth of expertise.
For global PR programs, having one individual in charge of managing and overseeing the overall effort is critical. There are so many disparate parts involved in executing PR regionally. A global PR strategy might involve dozens of team members and even more initiatives. Keep in mind that every market should have its own tailored and unique approach. Having one core team member — whether in-house on the brand-side or within one of your agencies — with experience managing global communications programs is important. That person must be able to wrap their arms around everything. If a story is told prematurely in one region, it could hurt efforts elsewhere. Having a single source of truth and a one-person hub who can advise on and evaluate strategy will drive greater success.
The logistical challenges of a global PR program are expected. But, it’s important to bake the challenges into your program so that you can maintain realistic timelines and optimize your team members and agency partners. For example, global status calls with key stakeholders are a challenge to coordinate, particularly when they involve APAC partners who are 12 hours away. Similarly, press releases need time to be translated, then reviewed by a designated client-side marketing or comms person in a position to approve the material for market distribution. What about PR documents and sharing privileges? Who can access what and through which platforms (Google Docs, Evernote, Slack, etc.)? These simple factors contribute to a prolonged preparation, planning and evaluation period for each initiative. Recognize this from the outset and don’t let these challenges surprise you.
If you’re seeking to grow your business internationally, you must respect and recognize the cultural and business norms in those markets. For example, EMEA generally observes more federal holidays than the US does. That does not mean in-market EMEA team members need to work on their holidays or cater to a US-driven PR calendar. Respect the norms and work in each market. Another example — not every big announcement will play in one market or another, for whatever reason. Perhaps the technology is too advanced for the region, or it’s addressing a problem that isn’t as pronounced there. Or maybe the partner you’re announcing is well-known in North America and Europe but has no cachet in the Middle East or APAC. The point — do not try to jam puzzle pieces where they don’t fit.
Each player should have a tailored strategy that respects the customers and prospects in that market. However, in most cases your fundamental PR themes and messages won’t be dramatically different region-to-region. At the end of the day, your value proposition is generally the same. With that in mind, brands can repurpose content and ideas across markets, without having to recreate the wheel each and every time. For example, all guest articles we develop for a client in one market, we share with their sister regions, allowing those in-market the latitude to pick and choose relevant content that they translate, repitch and republish. If done with care, repurposing content across markets can deliver ongoing value.
Today, global PR is becoming table stakes for many brands. But to optimize opportunities and budget, keep in mind these considerations, best practices and factors. What other challenges or best practices are you employing in your global PR program? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @chrisharihar.