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Building your PR muscle in Europe

May 23, 2007

Why shout from the Euro rooftops? Although size is, as they say, not everything, it is worth considering that the combined population of France, UK and Germany add up to 70% of the population of the US. These three countries alone can almost double your reach and earning potential. However, it is also worth considering the following areas. Creating value through a global brand  The perceived brand value of your company from the perspective of the VC community as well as of other interested parties comes in many forms. Of course it is vital to build awareness of your products in the US using your own in-house PR resources, or perhaps with a PR firm with the relative expertise. Building awareness in Europe will also add to the bottom line for IPO, acquisition or the next round of funding. Building on business opportunities Getting those first few referral sites can often be a challenge, but European buyers may be more open to your offering than you may have expected. For one thing, they may not be being courted as aggressively, if at all, by your competitors.  IT professionals in Europe are often further along the technology acceptance curve than you may have come to expect.  

Attract sales partners  

In Europe there is a lot of emphasis on the use of channel partners as part of the sales process, especially when you consider the language barrier and geo-political concerns.  One huge counterforce to these problems is the ability to sell in Euros in most of
Europe
 

Using your European successes to drive PR in the US  

Case studies and other news pieces about business wins and strategic partnerships in
Europe will give your company recognition as a global player and will add weight to your PR activities in the US and other territories.
 Once you say yes to PR in Europe, what are your options? 

1) Using your own US team 

From a cost perspective, this can be a very attractive option, especially in the short term. In some cases, it may be your only viable option.  

2) Going native By working with local PR agencies you can gain a significant advantage for your company in terms of the speed at which your message is delivered. A local agency will have a much more accurate distribution and contact list of relevant journalists that write for your target media.  

a) Going global with a global PR agency Many large PR firms with so-called global networks will undoubtedly blow too much of your cash too fast and too soon. There is no real choice of local agency in each market and this is your ‘global agreement’. This may mean that you have to take the rough with the smooth in each market. Perhaps too much of a risk for a big price tag. 

b) Local talent – small but perfectly formed? A good approach would be a team in one European country or perhaps a small consortium across key geographies. A key skill for this team would be for it to be able to function as an extension of your existing team in the US. For that they need to be experienced in your market or a closely related one or show a real ability to learn quickly. Have good references from clients and the press. On the downside, how do you find these Euro gems? Ideally, your existing agency may already have partnerships and if they fit your criteria this may work well. In addition, your contacts in other start-ups, your strategic partners and the VC community will have contacts as well. Sometimes your own activities in the
US will attract pro-active agencies that are keeping informed of markets that they operate in with other complementary clients. 
 

Once bitten, twice shy – how to minimize your risk exposure and maximize your return Good, cost-effective PR can be the best-value marketing budget you will ever spend.   Bad, low-return PR activity can at the very least burn up cash which could have been used elsewhere and effort but at worst alienate some of your key press and lose you valuable momentum. 

Finally, some top tips for making the most of PR opportunities in Europe: 

– Test-drive a prospective PR agency in Europe by hooking a small PR project onto an announcement or trade show. To make this process worthwhile it should last for at least three months. Be clear with the agency that if things go well the relationship could become a long-term relationship. If they are good they will know the market and be well positioned to provide support in
Europe, especially if they offer more than just PR services. They should be able to introduce you to professionals in other marketing disciplines such as advertising, media buying and creative. 
 

– Many PR consultancies in Europe offer their clients analyst exposure and speaking opportunities and additional services that can be purchased on an as-required basis.

– Use your team in the US to drive this activity, but listen to the local teams too. A high volume of your PR activity in Europe can originate from your US team but bear in mind it may need localization and, wherever possible, a local angle.  News with little European relevance or at worst a purely US-specific story, such as a new program or product available only in the
US, will probably not be picked up. To make the most of this type of news a team in
Europe would probably need a briefing and final copy for the release no later than 24 hours, ideally 48 hours, before it goes live.
 – For good local European stories this needs the support of your team in-house and any external agencies to provide support and strategic PR direction especially in the early days of a PR focused relationship. The advantage of close collaboration at the earliest stages is that the story can also hopefully provide a good angle for the
US press too.
 

– More haste, less speed. The window of opportunity to comment on news stories can be limited, as news hounds often want to close the story in 48 hours or less. So for you in real time this may only give you a short period in which to comment, and interviews and comments may need to be e-mailed overnight. – Be flexible. Journalists are often happy to do interviews up until 5:30PM at their local time but extending an invitation to a live web cast at 4:00PM (Central Time) you are unlikely to get much of a response except from the most avid of insomniacs.  

– Are you speaking my language? It is hardly surprising that countries where English is not the mother tongue will prefer news in their own language. Countries where English is not a problem include
Germany, Nordic countries and the
Netherlands.
 Although not always possible at the onset, most journalists will prefer to be informed in English than not at all so sometimes a compromise can be reached with a short intro and summary of the news in the European language and a contact in that country can make all the difference. Incidentally, British journalists do prefer press releases with “ise” rather than “ize” and “favourite colour” instead of “favorite color”. 

Be my guest – In Europe it is much more acceptable to be wined and dined by the vendor community than in the
US
. It would not be seen as an attempt at bribery if you were to offer a beer and a sandwich to your guests from the press at your product launches.
 
 

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