Thursday, July 23, 2009

Internatonal PR Networks - Masterclass

Anyone lucky enough to be at Edelman’s London office last Tuesday night would have heard some of the foremost contributors to international PR pulling apart the traditional processes around running an international PR network. More interestingly they then tried to reassemble them fit for the social media age.

Roger White, for 12 years the Communications Director at PwC, the global accountancy firm and David Brain, in charge of Edelman’s activities in Europe, both delved deeply into the argument for and against global direction compare to local decision making, particularly exploring the models which support these different approaches.

Crucially, social media is speeding the process of information and the necessity to react. Traditionally, global campaigns have not allowed local practitioners much freedom. Both contributors recognised the need to devolve decisions to the local level whilst maintaining a corporate-wide uniformity.

One recurring characteristic focussed on the influence of US-centric global brands. Scaling campaigns to fit a market is not that simple and countries with populations larger and smaller than 4-5 million require a different selection of techniques. David Brain illustrated this through the comparatively differing ways to engage within countries like New Zealand, opposed to the US. Within the smaller countries it is important to know your stuff but more importantly (than with larger countries) there is an imperative to know the stakeholders...’it’s not so much what you know but who you know’.

Many organisations have come unstuck when a successful US campaign (to a market of 300 million people) is rolled-out to much smaller markets. The strategy and techniques don’t just reduce and this is when it is most important to have good local PR counsel able to decode the requirement, advise and adapt for the local market.

There is also the issue of transferability. Some campaigns just don’t travel. For example take the Co Compare the Market / Go Compare the Meerkat...brilliant for the UK but would it work in the US – probably not. As opposed to the Singapore Airline’s Singapore Girl which has been used successfully globally for over 20 years.

If you are involved in international PR networks there seemed to be two quite distinct activities and associated skills. For those charged with running an international campaign an understanding of strategy and techniques on a global level, combined with the skill to instruct and adapt on a local level. The other side of the coin is if you are running the local campaign, instructed by global. Then the skill is to take and modify expectations on the basis of your understanding of the local market.