In digital economy geographical expansion is easier than ever. Scaling up to reach foreign markets is a common growth strategy of most start-ups. Especially those offering online services and SaaS providers. EU markets are becoming more and more similar. However, there still are some traps awaiting communications specialists launching their products abroad. How to avoid them? Enterie.com experts have some dos and don’ts for you.
Plan, learn and adjust
The assumption that a foreign communication environment, even in a neighbour EU country, is similar to your home market, can be a costly mistake. So better do your homework – learn about your audience, get to know media landscape, identify risks, develop right messaging.
– Planning is critical when you’re entering the UK – says Kate Hartley, Managing Director at Carrot Communications, a London based agency that specializes in working with early-stage and fast-growth companies. – Always consider local trends, cultural context and what the media wants. This can be completely different from your home market.
In Sweden national newspapers and media are relatively few and regional papers have certain significance as well. – There are also a lot of smaller magazines with narrow niches – says Martin Ruist, Partner at Four PR. – That might add up and end up having a huge impact on the outcome of your PR activities.
At some markets, for example in Italy or Poland, journalist have no time to manage huge amount of emails. – This is something you will have to cope with. You often need to call them to let them know they have to read your message. Give them short but complete information including links, images and videos – says Alessandra Colao, Managing Director of a Milan based agency Doppia Elica. – Whatever strategy you choose, it is good to be aware of these issues, so you don’t waste time and money.
This is what public relations are all about. Of course, depending on a country, you will need a different approach. Some basic knowledge about local culture and the way media works will be more than helpful. For instance, the French market may appear to you as a bit hermetic, also because of a language.
Anthony Courtat, from a Paris agency Com’ I/O, who advise to introduce yourself to journalists in person. – As a foreign company you may need someone to introduce you to this entourage. Meet them one-on-one and learn what do they need and expect. It is common to invite a journalist for a lunch or dinner just to introduce your company. As reporters have less and less time for informal meetings. It is crucial to localize your approach of a new market. It is important to provide them with added value content (exclusivity, announcements, opinion pieces, infographic, etc).
As for Poland Magda Gorak, the owner of Profeina proposes a different approach. – Journalists are often overloaded with work, media conferences are less and less popular. So for new companies, we suggest media tours – individual meeting in the editor’s office with journalists interested in your field. This gives a chance to get to know each other, introduce the company and its experts. This is a very effective way to build relations for a start.
In Germany, where the media landscape is decentralized, personal meetings are rather difficult. Each region has its own major media so you must be prepared for travelling and additional expenses. In such case participation in industry events and meeting media, there might be an efficient approach.
Localize, localize, localize
Running centralized communication is tempting for every newcomer on ever market. It is obviously cheaper and easier. However, even in the UK, you should at least have your materials proofread by a native speaker. There are countries such as France, where people simply refuse to use English, if not absolutely necessary. Or Poland, where some journalists do not speak English at all. But even in countries where English is well-known and commonly used, it pays off to go native. – Even though Danish people speak English really well, please use native Danish when communicating with the media. It will save their time and can be a crucial factor whether your story will be covered or not – says Jakob Kemp Hessellund from PR agency Kemp & Kjær.
Localization is not only about the language. It also refers to examples, quotes, case studies, etc. For example, journalists and readers in Spain don’t really care about eCommerce market share in the Netherlands. Same as media in Poland will not be interested in customers attitude towards online banking in Sweden. A comment given by a local manager is always more interesting that the comment from some CEO from distant headquarter. So always focus on a local angle of your story.
Localization, as our interviewers claim, also refers to a tone of voice, sense of humour and other subtle cultural factors you should be aware of. Also, consider local specific and media expectations. – Swedish journalists have different expectation on press releases than in other European countries – says Martin Ruist from FourPR. – It’s therefore important to know the genre for Swedish press releases. Otherwise the journalists will recognize it as not suited for the Swedish market and thus not write.
Don’t be arrogant
There is no mistake more costly than lack of respect for your new audience. Imagine that you invite guests to your house, and for a start, they start acting bossy.
– We have a rather modest culture, we don’t like bragging, we don’t like arrogance – explains Jakob Kemp Hessellund. – Some companies underestimate this cultural factor. I think it was one of the mistakes which Uber made, and which resulted in its de facto ban in Denmark. Instead of a dialogue, Uber was trying to force its way to legalization, ignoring unions, being disruptive in a non-acceptable way.
Magda Gorak recalls a different story of fail, from the Polish market. – When several years ago eBay announced starting operations in Poland, there was a lot of excitement. This launch was awaited by both buyers and sellers, hoping from outraged users.
Don’t take attention for granted
– The easy days when it was enough to be a startup to get media interest and coverage are over – sadly admits Jakob Kemp Hessellund. – The peak of interest is behind us so to get attention there has to be more in your story. As with any other business, you need to find an interesting angle. His opinion is broadly shared, no matter if it’s London, Paris, Copenhagen or Warsaw. How to find an interesting angle?
Anthony Courtat advises looking for an added value for readers. – The technology is often difficult to explain. So it is important to show how users can benefit from it, how it solves problems. It is always good to have a local case study or local testimonial, especially for b2b services. The journalist will be more happy to talk about your product with your client than to listen to your sales pitch.
– Press releases, although they have their place for announcing big news, should be approached with caution – adds Kate Hartley from Carrot Communications. – There are just too many releases out there that don’t have much to say. Only ever approach media with a really strong story or pitch. Think about why they might want to talk to you. A good way to do this is to think about what you’d like to read, watch or listen to. It probably isn’t a product pitch for a company!
Also, Martin Ruist advises issuing press releases with caution. – Avoid newswires and “spray and pray” approach. Mass press releases will work only if you have a really strong brand or something extremely interesting to say. Swedish journalists expect much shorter press releases than those usually issued by corporate press offices.
And one more thing…
Don’t overdo with bragging. It refers especially to companies from the US, which definitely use too many superlative adjectives and such phrases as cutting edge, revolutionary, game-changing etc. Overusing such words effects in their devaluation and irritation of the readers. You can be absolutely sure that journalists will not use them in their articles. So don’t bother to use them, unless… you have something really, really revolutionary!