By Mark Robson of The Insight Group.
Do you really need a UK PR agency?
No you don’t!
If all you want is to get ‘some’ name coverage and awareness, then no. You can use the wire services in the US and send out releases. They will get picked up. You will get some coverage. You will get name mentions.
The downside is that you can’t control which publications use the material, what material is used, when it Is used, and in what context. So yes, you can get coverage, but what it says about your company is out of your control.
Yes you do!
It has been said, and famously quoted, that the UK and America are countries and cultures divided by a common language. We both understand what the other is saying, but the hidden message of sending US spelt information on US letter size documents (digital and printed) is that the company sending the information isn’t in the UK.
The information is the same, the message is the same, but the journalists want success from their own shores (where they can). They won’t openly discriminate against non-UK information but if it’s between a UK company and a US company being printed (assuming the information is of the same merit) then the UK company will win.
This hasn’t been such a problem since the invention of the telephone and with the internet the US is literally at the end of a browser, email, webcam or online meeting.
But no amount of technical revolution (currently!) can overcome the basics of time difference or the old ‘whites-of-the-eyes’ face to face meeting.
UK editorial teams running leaner and meaner, timescales for responding to journalists, freelancers and editors is becoming shorter and shorter as pressure on them mounts.
It’s common for a media request to come complete with a timeline of a few hours. And on the other side of the coin there is so much competition that if the time hurdle can’t be overcome then you can literally fall at this first hurdle.
Face-to-face meetings aren’t essential, but if you want to build relationships with the UK media, then it is a key component of success.
Cheque Book (or is it check book?) PR
This is alive and kicking in the UK, whereas in the US the slightest hint of a ‘bribe’ is frowned upon and has to be reported or refused. A ‘jolly’ is common place, nay essential, in the UK for announcing a major event such as an acquisition, significant revolutionary launch or a major, major win.
These can’t be arranged from 3,000 miles away as journalists vie for position and play their ‘customers’ events off against each other to enjoy the maximum hospitality.
You would imagine that information is information, wouldn’t you? Well when it comes to press releases in the UK and US you couldn’t be more wrong. US releases tend to be longer, more prone to sales speak and heavy with adjectives and bullet points. A US release spanning 6 or 7 pages is not uncommon. A UK release going over 2 or 3 pages is unusual.
Time related announcements
These tend to be made first thing in the morning so that they hit that day’s edition, or that week’s edition (announced on the correct day). The announcement is distributed, the PRs hit the phones and the news is made.
If ‘first thing’ happens to be 1pm or 2pm (UK time) then the publication deadline has been met. “Don’t you care about the UK?” is a common phrase said by UK media about US companies.
American PRs spend less time writing copy than their UK counterparts. They spend more time on the phone to journos too. There is a stronger focus on strategic messaging in the US, but that’s because PRs do less of the writing. UK press don’t have the time or inclination to listen to a PR ‘pitching’.
The UK PR has to craft the announcement to catch the attention, hit the hot spots and link in to the current trends. With the correct angles covered then the UK media contact the PRs and talk at their own speed in their own time to their own deadlines. You can’t manage this approach from ‘over there’.
So how do you decide?
Well, as with any marketing, you need to go back to your objectives and your status. If you are currently a US brand with no presence outside the US, with no firm plans to expand internationally, and you just want to ‘put out feelers’ about market possibility, then stay with what you know - use a US service to distribute your announcements across the wire.
If you’re lucky you or if your service matches the market: right product, right time, right place, right price, then you might get some pickup.
But if you have firm plans to expand (or have already started extending internationally) then you need to have local presence exactly as you would and do in the US.
PR is part of the marketing plan and, as with any other element, it needs treating with respect. Invest the time and effort and you’ll get the results.
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