How To Make A PR Impact With International Media

Today, many U.S. PR agencies are taking on international communications for businesses as they expand beyond our borders. The digital acceleration brought on by the global pandemic has in many ways made the media landscape more accessible to PR teams. 

Many B2B tech companies with digital offerings, for example, market products and services worldwide, and they don’t always want to bring on multiple PR firms. They’re often looking for a single point of contact, supported by on-the-ground sales and media relations. 

For PR teams, media relations outside North America offers similarities to domestic outreach, but there are key differences beyond language, of course. Here are five areas to consider when pitching international media. 

Language isn’t just about translation

Any PR team will make sure a release or announcement is translated from English into the language of the population where it’s released. Yet there are less obvious factors. Proper translation — whether directly through a newswire distribution service or through a translation vendor like Gengo — can take up to several days to get back. Many announcements contain technical or legal terms, and every industry has its own vocabulary. So when devising announcement strategies, be sure to bake in extra lead time to avoid delays or last-minute confusion. Also it’s good practice to construct the release in a way that’s easy to translate. So avoid English slang or acronyms that may complicate the copy. That way ideas or concepts don’t get lost in translation, and you minimize the time-consuming back-and-forth during the review process.

Using universal language in an announcement will work in some areas. However, figuring out the best way to localize the language in a release — whether it’s with graphics that might hit home on a local level, or a reference to local standards or regulations — will help it resonate with local audiences. 

Learn local media and publications

If you work in PR, chances are you have a firm grip on the relevant U.S. media and a data resource to keep track of whom to pitch. In fact, 95% of PR folks use a media database to help manage their outreach. Yet international media is less familiar, so it’s important to take the time to research both mainstream and trade publications in all regions. After identifying key publications, dive into each to identify specific journalists for whom your announcement or story is relevant. 

When looking for media to pitch internationally, it’s wise to include foreign bureaus of U.S.-based publications. Most of the larger ones — NY Times, WSJ, etc. — have correspondents who cover news based in other countries. While these publications are familiar to anyone located in the U.S., finding the most relevant foreign contacts will help build out international media lists and ultimately be a major benefit for international PR. Understanding whom to target ensures that your announcements are reaching the right people — and ultimately the right audience.

Plan for time zones and other logistics

Logistical challenges are a given when you’re dealing with international PR. The best time to reach journalists is usually at the start of their work day. Most importantly, embargoes for most announcements lift first thing in the morning, local time. So it’s important to be strategic with timing for any international PR campaign, particularly when dealing with global news announcements that are embargoed in several time zones. 

Assess local and regional relevance

Not every story will be relevant in every region. Some could address a problem or situation that’s not timely, while others may include a technology move that’s too advanced (or not advanced enough) for a given market. A common issue is an announcement that pertains to a company that’s widely recognized in the U.S. or Europe, yet utterly unknown in APAC, for example. You’ll have to adjust the level of detail and background information in the pitch and release accordingly to make sure journalists understand the potential impact of the news. 

Know cultural differences 

Respecting and understanding all relevant cultural norms in specific markets is an essential part of conducting successful international PR. This can be everything from knowing which countries prefer more formal language in pitches, to familiarizing yourself with any slang or local dialect. Further, it’s important to know holiday schedules and local events. Several EMEA countries observe many more federal holidays than we do here in the U.S., and many Asian populations observe lengthy holidays that last days or weeks. It’s a good idea to keep an international holiday calendar that tracks holidays in the countries you’re targeting.

In addition, it’s important to know the ways that earned media is different in other parts of the world. PR efforts in some regions place a stronger value and emphasis on paid media, while the news might be controlled by the government in some fashion. Any cultural differences should always be considered when coming up with a plan for media outreach. Little things can help build credibility with the reporters you’re trying to connect with. 

While there is no question that on-the-ground and local support is essential for many markets, a single point-of-contact can also work, as can same-language media relations and pitching across borders. These are some of the ways for U.S.-based PR professionals to best conduct media relations across borders. 

Media Relations Dos And Don’ts For Holiday PR

media relations dos and don'ts for Holiday Pitching

Tying media relations activities to key calendar milestones is a time-honored PR tactic, because it works. But if holiday PR opportunities are approached carelessly, they can be squandered. From Labor Day to New Year’s Eve, fall holidays probably offer the best occasions for media coverage, but the approach needs to be relevant, respectful, and creative.

Holiday season takes thoughtful pitching

Don’t force the story

Your PR team may be determined to grab some visibility during a holiday season, but if the story doesn’t fit, don’t force it. The Christmas/Hanukkah time in particular is so cluttered that a marginal pitch that might slip through on another occasion will probably be tossed out. Having said that, the tie doesn’t need to be literal; for example, Halloween might be an excellent time for a cybersecurity pitch, or even a “scary” near-death business story about an entrepreneur.

Do consider the meaning of holidays

A tone-deaf treatment of a solemn holiday can offend audiences or even risk backlash. Even Memorial Day – generally considered the unofficial start of summer and therefore somewhat disconnected from its origins – deserves respectful events or announcements tied to the day itself. Trickier still are occasions that have special meaning to specific populations, like Martin Luther King day, or that are controversial, like Columbus Day (now known as Indigenous Peoples Day in many areas).

Commercializing a serious holiday should be avoided, and it pays to consider the current news environment when planning a specific media pitch. Also, in our opinion, 9/11 is off-limits for anything that isn’t directly connected to the day and its survivors. Remember this absolutely tasteless 9/11 mattress sale ad that featured the mattresses falling like towers? Of course no PR person would create such a pitch, but it’s a good reminder that for many people, serious holidays have deep and emotional meaning.

Do release some relevant data

Solid data-driven PR story pitches are always welcomed by reporters, but especially so during calendar milestones or big breaking stories. It may make sense to generate employment-related statistics on Labor Day, or data on Jewish tradition observance in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The weeks leading up to New Year’s, of course, offer a classic media window for year-end lists and projections for the coming year – all the more compelling when accompanied by data visualizations.

Do use editorial calendars

For data-driven PR campaigns that rest on surveys or other research information, your data bureau will need to launch its survey or analysis well ahead of time. Consider the calendar when planning an announcement or new product launch to avoid conflicts or times when editorial or broadcast staffs are reduced. It’s always wise to keep tabs on publication ed-cals at key outlets, taking note of holiday plans that present pitching opportunities. For example, this October Ad Age’s calendar indicates plans to release “The Scary Issue: Brand fails, horror stories, and superstitions” — perhaps an opportunity for that cybersecurity pitch, or maybe a chance for a brand to show its human side with a story about a failed initiative or setback.

Do work the “news hole”

The week after Christmas is nearly always a news desert, which can present great opportunities for soft media pitches during that quieter time. But of course those stories need to be locked and loaded ahead of time, because chances are good that most media outlets are working on skeleton crews. Those few reporters that are working will be looking for good content, and the entire process may be more streamlined in the “news hole.” Not only might a good byline be picked up more promptly, but it may also enjoy a longer shelf life.

Do celebrate media relationships  

The December holidays are an ideal time to cultivate media relationships the old fashioned way, face to face at parties and informal lunches. PR pros and journalists rarely have time to meet, so holiday get-togethers can be the best opportunity to do some socializing. So don’t hesitate to RSVP and have some fun while you can, before things heat up again in January!

PR Tips For Reactive Media Pitches

A company’s expertise on a subject can become instant PR currency when that topic is in the news. PR teams can take advantage of sudden extra relevance by immediately pitching a client as a news source to media hungry for pertinent expertise. Some call it newsjacking. But in truth nothing is being “jacked” or stolen; instead something is being offered — ideally in the form of informed commentary. Here are the PR fundamentals for reactive media pitches.

PR tips for reactive media pitches

Combine automation with human monitoring

PR people are news junkies, and many start scanning the headlines before hitting the snooze button. But eyeballs can’t catch everything, so most set up digital news alerts. From Google Alerts to more formalized media monitoring platforms like Cision, there are number of tools to help identify relevant items quickly. For example, if you rep an online roommate pairing service, you will want alerts on news topics like the apartment rental market, housing regulations, or even roommate horror stories. Once you spot the opportunity to showcase your client’s expertise, it’s time to pull together a smart media pitch – on the double. Keep in mind if you’re seeking to be included in some reactive news, “day of” is essential. But contrary to convention wisdom, some stories may by their nature have the legs to last.

Reactive is a not always a rush job in B2B PR

If the top media targets are in tech or trade press, some breaking stories have such large ramifications that they could never be resolved quickly. Many tech-oriented narratives, from ongoing privacy breaches to Facebook’s role as a tool for Russian disinformation in the 2016 election will be discussed for months and years after the fact. Another example is the YouTube brand safety crisis.  The story of major brands finding their ads featured along side extremist propaganda and pornography has been going on for many months. So subject-matter experts in the many segments of ad tech had multiple opportunities to offer expert commentary as the story evolved. A good PR team will milk the ongoing opps for all they’re worth.

Ready before the news even happens

When assembling that brief but compelling pitch, the PR pro will include a quote from the subject-matter expert or SME. To save back and forth, we often create a spokesperson quote for client approval instead of asking for a comment and waiting for a busy client to craft it. Over time, the PR team can build a library of pre-approved client content for use when relevant news hits. It requires legwork, but prepared content allows for a fast reaction, and the media like it so they can file quickly. We have seen this strategy work particularly well on behalf of our cyber-security-focused clients. Data breaches and hacks have become almost a daily occurrence, necessitating a steady stream of reusable content. Having that library has been critical to our success.

Choose the right media

The PR team should compile a mini-media list that begins with those journalists who reported the trending topic. Though their stories have already been published, many will retroactively include insightful commentary into their pieces. Others will also write follow-ups that lean on your SME’s expertise. After that, you can broaden the outreach in a follow-up. Other reporters on relevant beats may be hustling to cover the same topic, and your SME may be a big help in bringing a fresh perspective to the story. You may then want to cast the net more widely to those media who may not have considered the topic – in which case the existing context will be a good selling point.

Don’t forget owned media

While the PR team is pitching media, the client can make good use of owned media channels, building more in-depth collateral and content through whitepapers, vlogs and podcasts, or guest blog posts. These assets can be powerful forms of thought leadership and effective marketing materials for customers or prospects seeking information about the breaking news. As a bonus, the content can also be used be re-purposed in briefing materials to help ready a spokesperson for any interview requests that require more depth versus a quick soundbite.

The reactive media pitch by definition cannot be planned, and it takes extra attention and agility, but the outcomes can be very positive. In a PR world where you’re always battling for a reporter’s attention, a reactive news opportunity can be a quick win for the client and the agency. As well, it’s often a great way to get on a journalist’s radar and begin a longer-term relationship.

A Journalist’s POV: 3 Questions From A NY PR Firm

Our  New York PR agency was fortunate enough to be part of the very successful national launch of a new beer this past summer.  This afforded our team the opportunity to cultivate new media relationships all over the country. One that stands out is Marissa Harris, a veteran TV producer with WGN TV News in Chicago who took the time to answer the questions in our occasional series, “A Journalist’s POV.” Here’s a recap of our interview with some helpful tips for PR pros.

Tell us three things a PR person should never do when pitching you an idea. Here are my top three PR “nevers”: Never send an email, then call just minutes later to see if I read it. Never spell the contact’s name wrong. It shows that you don’t care and aren’t detail-oriented, which can become a nightmare if we work together. Never pitch “blindly.” Do the homework on the type of things the program airs and proceed from there. It can be a good opening to reference something you’ve seen on our show that makes you think we’d be receptive to your idea.

What is the most outrageous PR pitch you ever received? Since we’re so close to Thanksgiving, I’ll start with that example; it’s not outrageous, just silly. The person pitched a story for a career website on “5 Ways to Leave a Mark on Your Career,” and gave examples of how to be inspired by historical figures associated with Thanksgiving. I knew it was going to be a hoot when I saw the line that started, “Pilgrims, the original networkers,” and it went downhill from there. Actually there was a similar one for Halloween about “reviving a dead career” which began with “rise at the witching hour.”  You get the picture. My advice: not everything needs to have a theme! We appreciate clever writing and puns, but we’d rather see substance. If you have to choose between really stretching to make something fit, err on the side of a good, visual story.

Can you provide an example where a PR person “saved the day” – went above and beyond to make a story happen? A fashion segment that went awry. Two models dropped out the morning of and a good PR contact of mine made sure to snag two interns from the office to fit the bill an hour before we went live, instead of just saying there was nothing she can do. We always appreciate someone going the extra mile, even in a case where we can’t make use of the suggestion. I also appreciate not even being pitched but being asked. For example, what are you working on and can we help provide a source or a location? That kind of help really builds relationships.