Handling International PR Is A Tough Task

newimage12Marketing executives within corporate America revealed in a recent study a telling prediction: Of all disciplines for which they’re responsible – more than the Internet, more than cause marketing, more than sports marketing and even more than advertising – international public relations will be the most important during the next three to five years.

The telephone survey was conducted by United Way Yuma in January among 100 randomly selected U.S. PR executives. The survey found 81% think PR in general will gain importance in the next five years and 87% feel the same about international PR.

That means money for international PR. And where money goes, measurement must follow because money draws management’s attention with its demand for accountability.

Executives’ true challenge is to measure that program, learn what works within it and what doesn’t, and maximize the effectiveness of their international PR efforts.

So how do you maximize your effectiveness “over there?” You listen. You listen to what your overseas counterparts can tell you, to what the media writes about you, to what your customers and prospects tell you.

International listening is no different from what you do domestically. Your only new challenge is adapting to local cultures and languages.

Gathering data

Your first international step is to interview your on-site PR team. Don’t just talk to the muckety-mucks. Spend time learning what it’s like actually to implement various programs sent down from headquarters. What do team members need in their international culture? What works for them; what doesn’t? You may not like what you hear. But you won’t gain that teams’ buy-in for your programs if you don’t ask questions and incorporate the team’s feedback.

You will need at least to set up a clipping service for access to articles that cover your company. Many companies use their PR agencies, which can be expensive. But if you only want to monitor your program, you might be able to economize by following a few key publications.

Clipping services, which exist in most countries, also can provide your articles. Quality can be uneven, but at least they give access to your articles.

While the press is a good source of trend information, you also will want to listen to your employees and prospects. Listening to prospects entails conducting surveys that weigh the press’ impact on your target audience. Generally, phone surveys tell you more because mail delivery can be highly unreliable, depending on the country, and because people respond more erratically to mail than to phone calls. Hire a professional researcher to help you develop the survey. This ensures the survey’s accuracy.

Start by conducting a survey benchmark to determine current opinion, then repeat it once a year.

Analyze the data

Collecting information about your international PR program tells you nothing until you analyze it. Translating articles into your native language usually wastes time.

Much more important is choosing who will read your articles and analyze them.

Ensure that your reader knows articles’ languages of origin fluently and responds to them as if he or she were a target prospect – not a PR person, not someone within the company – someone your international PR program anticipates. Also ensure that your analyst is well aware of current international marketplace issues and PR strategies.

When you evaluate survey results, don’t bog down in minutiae. Look for trends and watch out for small samples. A recent survey said one of our clients was the most respected health insurance company in the country. Turns out the ranking was based on 14 people’s opinions.

Present results

You know that how you present information can be as important as how you gather it. But sometimes that knowledge disappears beneath a company’s drive toward international PR goals.

Over and over again I hear how much international field people hate it when “home-office folks” descend upon them, require huge chunks of time, deliver earth-shattering pronouncements and then leave without indicating how to implement or fund any of the programs.

Present results from your “listening” to international teams with the context of improving communications effectiveness. Identify opportunities together, strategize solutions together, then reach consensus on your collective next steps. Your end result will be much more consistent and productive communications worldwide.

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