If you have watched the show “Emily in Paris” on Netflix, you know it depicts the adventures of an American PR professional who comes to work in a French PR agency and rediscovers herself by delving into the “Parisian lifestyle”. Among other things, this series highlights the difficulties the main character encounters while dealing with the French culture of work as well as her own American habits and idiosyncrasies.
Read this article to discover:
- what are the French markets’ distinguishing factors that you need to comprehend in order to run a successful PR campaign, especially in a demanding B2B and technology industries,
- how personal aspects – like dinners with journalists – play a crucial role, much more than in other countries,
- the importance of using proper French and understanding local culture.
Emily in Paris PR vs. PR in reality
Although the Netflix series “Emily in Paris” shows a fantasized world typical of these comedies and often resorts to clichés or misconceptions, many of the ordeals Emily encounters and a number of the traits attributed to her French co-workers – however exaggerated – stem from the truth.
This post aims to give marketing and PR professionals an insightful overview of B2B PR in France, as well as some best practices and advice to put into practice while trying to increase the visibility of a business or to raise awareness over a brand or product on the French market.
Catering to the needs of the media
As in any marketing or PR campaign, the media play a crucial part in how other businesses perceive your company and products. Therefore, they should always be at the front of the minds of the team members tasked with devising the PR strategy. However, the French media have their own way of doing things, which may appear peculiar to an outsider.
The press lunch: a cultural exception
The best way to communicate and engage B2B journalists is to meet face-to-face, whether in a one-on-one meeting or by inviting several of them and have your news delivered in person over a shared meal. As many media outlets are based in Paris, this seems to play a much more crucial role than in B2B PR in the USA, where media are decentralised and spread across the whole nation. However, if you are thinking of placing a dinner – or a “tea-time” – reservation, you should rethink your strategy.
Indeed, as most French people, B2B journalists will be more inclined to meet during working hours and focus on topics with your speakers without having to contemplate working overtime. Contrary to what Emily seems to think of her co-workers, this does not speak to their laziness or their reluctance to dedicate time and effort to their work, but rather to their will to achieve a good balance between their personal and professional lives.
Therefore, lunchtime is the best time of the day to organize an encounter and make an important announcement to the B2B media – even though breakfast may also be an acceptable substitute.
When selecting the venue, it is vital to favor an intimist setting where quality food is served. It is no secret French people tend to attach great importance to quality meals and exchange over a nice plate. In other words, good cuisine can be the way to a journalist’s penmanship.
Cultivate your network
Earthly nourishment is not the only type of food B2B journalists require to frequently publish pieces on your current activities. A steady stream of relevant announcements throughout the year is key to maintaining a positive, steady relationship with B2B journalists while always remaining at the forefront of their mind.
You should also contemplate setting up less informal encounters, such as one-to-one meetings (virtual or in-person), to build rapport and keep them appraised of your current and future news. Offering embargoed and exclusive information may also be a good way to work hand-in-hand with the media and help your communication produce the desired effect at the best time possible.
Also, if you are thinking about sending gifts or goodies to journalists, no need to overdo it. A small attention may be welcome, but it is essential to keep it small and casual. You do not want journalists to think you are trying to bribe them.
Don’t let the language barrier get in the way
When trying to increase the visibility of a company or a product in a non-English-speaking country, PR specialists should always keep in mind that local journalists – and especially in France – are rarely as proficient in English as they are in their native language. Therefore, it is vital to choose your speakers carefully and to select those who are proficient enough in French to sustain a rich and lengthy conversation and tackle a variety of topics.
Relationships are built on trust. And the connection between speakers and journalists is no exception. An uneven mastery of the common language spoken may lead to misunderstandings, mistakes, and sometimes even mistrust. This is why your speakers should be well-versed in the peculiarities of the French language and culture to exchange seamlessly with the press and build sustainable relationships with journalists.
When in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask for the help of local PR agencies or branches and benefit from expert recommendations on how to deal with the French market.
To stand out, be creative… but not overmuch
Creativity is always key to extending a company’s share of voice in the B2B market. However, French B2B journalists might not be easily swayed and always prefer quality announcements to vacant razzle-dazzle.
Events? Less is more
When building your PR strategy in France, you should keep in mind that B2B journalists are few and kept quite busy by the number of conferences, salons, and press events that take place throughout the year.
Thus, it is always preferable to organize one main PR event supported by an important announcement than to disperse your efforts and energy on a large number of smaller occasions that may not give the media enough cause to raise a topic or write an article. Moreover, it prevents them from having to run from one event to the next and helps them focus on the main announcements.
To put it simply: an event well-in-hand is worth a few in a rush…
Making the French connection
To differentiate from the competition, no need to overdo things. During a PR campaign, focusing on local topics and announcements may help you gain more traction than you know, especially with the French press.
While global or general EMEA news may have the eye of the French press and audience, they will always be interested in local connections to the company and product news. Therefore, when preparing your speakers and representatives, they should always be aware of any local connections pertaining to your activity.
Also, contented customers and partners are your best ambassadors, and reaching out to local ones in order to publish a local case study or a success story will help control your narrative, while making your success obvious to the public’s eye.
To sum it up: in order to extend your global footprint, always go local!
Diversify your channels
When devising a B2B PR strategy, it is crucial to use all the tools at your disposal. Thus, you can use all channels to try and publicize your message and announcements. In the B2B sector, the most appropriate social media channel would be LinkedIn. Make sure you have a localized account and always favor local and quality content.
Finally, if the PR team wishes to resort to influence actions or campaigns, it is essential you be aware of the legislation in this sector.
A famous French rapper and producer recently launched a campaign to get rid of irresponsible influencers. The French government took notice and the regulation is now more strict in France for influencers who promote businesses or products (mandatory use of hashtags, forbidden language elements, and even banned brands, etc.)