Tomayto/Tomahto: Where US & UK PR Aligns
For the last two weeks I’ve been lucky enough to work on the other side of the Atlantic, in the New York offices of US agency, Highwire. Working in another country, with a different agency and unfamiliar sectors, I was expecting to feel like a doughnut in the big apple cart. What I wasn’t prepared for was quite how easily I’d fit in.
A few hours into my first day and it was already apparent just how many similarities there are between US and UK communications. The journalists and publications may be different, but the way we craft stories and target contacts is exactly the same; the media landscapes are shifting in parallel and clients round the world want similar outcomes.
So shouldn’t this be good news for businesses? After all, if communications can be executed globally, surely this smooths the path to achieving a global presence. And it seems that this is what businesses are looking for in 2015, as more and more organisations – from British retail stalwart M&S, to US streaming site Netflix – declare plans for overseas expansion.
But is there such a thing as cookie-cutter comms? Google “international communications blunders” and you’ll be flooded with eye-watering examples of company messaging gone awry – lost or worse distorted in translation at huge expense and embarrassment to those involved.
So while businesses are looking to operate in a global environment, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of potayto potahto. Forging a strong, universal identity is one thing, but converting this into sales will be tricky without a dusting of market relevance. While many businesses understand that tailoring their communications is key to achieving this, if my search and the numerous results tell me anything, it’s that there’s room for improvement.
International execution is a challenge comms professionals face every day. While my time in New York may have highlighted superficial similarities, it’s also reinforced my belief that there’s no substitute for local intelligence; knowing your client’s audience in an area and how to communicate to them. It’s why global campaigns can be built centrally but are better executed locally – and are best when flexible enough to accommodate local nuances.
Whether you’re looking at the problem of global roll-out from a business or communications perspective, the solution is essentially the same; know your audience and listen before you speak – because there’s a world of difference between tomayto and tomahto.
Written by Polly Robinson, an account manager at Brands2Life, a London-based Highwire PR partner