PR Across Borders: How to Build a Global Comms Program
Highwire and U.K. agency partner, Nelson Bostock Unlimited, hosted a panel discussing the opportunities and challenges that U.S. brands face when entering the U.K. and Europe. Panelists included James Titcomb (The Telegraph), Caitlin Epstein (Twilio), and Tim Lines (NBU). Highwire’s Carol Carrubba moderated the discussion.
It was a lively evening. The conversation shed light upon how to expand into European markets, as this is an integral step in building a global brand. This can be an insurmountable challenge for some, as media, business and consumer landscapes vary widely across borders. Insights from the panel illuminate how to transcend borders and execute a strategic global communications program.
Creating a Successful Story
Caitlin Epstein, global PR Lead at Twilio, shares that in the U.K., input from local customers is critical to the success of a story. Stories that connect personally with customers validate a new company entering a market. This aspect—combined with commissioned surveys to create data points—helps stories go deeper. PR teams must understand this key difference in the media landscape in order to tell a story. Tim Lines, director at NBU, emphasized that the U.K. has more in-depth feature articles allowing for more narrative-building.
When working with press in the U.K., it is important to note a few key logistical differences in how American reporters operate. James Titcomb, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief at The Telegraph, explains that reporters in the U.K. are more willing to meet in person due to differences in culture and geography.
Communication between the U.K. and the U.S. must also take timing into account. Across the pond, it can feel a bit like everything is controlled by the U.S. West Coast. Epstein prefers a 6 a.m. PST embargo, as anything later can lead to missed opportunities.
Tech Trends Transcending Borders
When asked which tech trends will transcend borders in 2019, Titcomb cited safety in data as the most serious threat. He emphasizes companies should be ready to correctly answer social questions, including topics of representation and diversity. Titcomb also stressed that pieces of news that relate back to the core message of a company make the best stories. Lines reminded us that local trends can reflect global trends.
Carol Carrubba, principal at Highwire, broached the topic we had all been eagerly anticipating: Brexit. The panelists proved that technology has seen both benefits and challenges following Brexit. Titcomb explained that Brexit increased the levels of positivity in tech stories. Another positive effect of Brexit: tech in the U.K. has seen massive financial investments as of late. Lines was optimistic that investing in tech, including great innovation and stories, is a vote of confidence at a time of economic and political uncertainty.
On the other side of the spectrum, the split has made it increasingly difficult to recruit talent in the U.K. This may contribute to challenges faced when building an international team.
A question from the audience evoked thoughtful responses from the panelists: will GDPR come to the U.S. and create regulations? Titcomb expressed that the impact of GDPR on tech companies may not be as bad as one might expect because most companies are already preparing for the effects of the regulations. Epstein agreed, noting that executives have been planning for the long term and have taken the opportunity to get on board with regulations.
Best Practices For Your Global Communications Program
The panelists discussed best practices for approaching the development of a global communications program. All were in agreement that one-on-one time is preferred over media dinners for conversations with journalists. Epstein emphasized that companies should make the investment in hiring a PR agency in the target region that understands how to work with and handle the media market in that region. Additionally, be very honest and transparent with your agency, and let the comms program shape that. This will help bring in the best results.
Lines stressed the importance of building a good working relationship with an agency in order to shape stories, going beyond the basics of wiring press releases. He continued to advise forming a relationship with your agency where your stakeholders feel they can say no if necessary.
When contemplating how to construct a global comms program, be sure to consider what makes a story stand out, your approach to agency relationships and which tech trends can and will best transcend borders. If you are interested in additional guidance on how to build a global comms program, reach out to email@example.com—our storytellers can help guide your narrative.