By Rachel Neal
When the time comes to expand their PR outreach across the pond, it is not uncommon for some US-based tech vendors to consider folding UK PR activities into their US communications programme. Well, let me tell you: don’t!
Despite the ‘special relationship’ and our shared language, there are some major differences between the UK and the US in terms of PR – starting with whether or not to include the full stops in UK and U.S. in copy! It’s a minefield: forget worrying about the outcome of your briefing – as the meeting may actually never happen. Say you schedule it in room three on the second floor, the Brit will be waiting one floor higher than the American. Once the meeting gets started, you had better hope it’s the American who spills coffee on their pants and not the Brit, who will be wearing their pants underneath their trousers. And when it comes to AOB at the end of a meeting agenda the American won’t know what to expect.
With many tech vendor headquarters, and hence their marketing and PR departments, found in the US, there is a temptation to include PR for English-speaking countries in the US communications programme, perhaps for budgetary reasons or for simple convenience. Yet, there are some more significant considerations when it comes to local PR, which could make or break your comms efforts across the Atlantic.
Let us look at the main risks you would put your PR at, if you were to simply add UK-based press, bloggers and analysts to your US campaigns rather than treating the UK as the separate, and very different, region to the US, that it is:
1. Size matters:
Editorial teams on both sides of the pond have shrunk over recent years, with most writers covering several technologies and attending shows about different industries. As a result, competition for their attention is extremely high. It’s important therefore to allow extra time to get a response, and to have someone local who can promptly communicate with them in their own time zones.
In a typical 9-to-5 working day (which admittedly very few of us do in PR and technology!) there is no overlap between the UK and the west coast of the States. And just two hours in an 8 to 6 working day. Imagine how long it might take to complete something if you had to wait a day between each exchange! Many journalists in the UK won’t reply to emails after 5:00 or 5:30 at the latest so having someone doing the outreach from the same time zone is a significant advantage.
On UK bank holidays and school breaks, most journalists, bloggers and analysts are away from their desks. Therefore, your PR team should be aware of these dates (school holidays in the UK vary from region to region), avoid issuing news or holding events on those days, and work in extra pre-pitching time for any announcements going out around this time. Don’t be surprised that your announcement flops if you accidentally issue a release on a bank holiday, or don’t plan additional time to pre-pitch during the holidays.
On the flip side, since the US and the UK work so closely together, the UK has a little breather on US public holidays. These days are ideal to issue UK or European news as there is little-to-no competition from US or worldwide announcements.
3. The importance of local:
Local stories, local analysts and local spokespeople will always go down well in the UK. This is not to say a UK journalist won’t touch a US-focused story – we live in a global community after all – but that story will have to be especially interesting, and of course you need to know which those journalists are. Local survey results or a British customer will draw significantly more interest than US ones. The same goes for US analyst quotes: choose a globally well-known analyst or a local one. And localise your announcement: change dollars to pounds, write the date in the British English format, include any timings in GMT/BST, and use UK spelling.
Another critical consideration around the topic of ‘local’ stems from the fact that PR must align with the sales and marketing priorities, and these can vary across borders. The sales team in the UK may be having very different conversations with prospects to their US counterparts. Vendors that don’t reflect these variants in their communications activities are seriously missing out if PR is to ultimately help sales efforts.
4. Make it personal:
In non-COVID times, face-to-face briefings are much more common in the UK than in the US. Journalists, bloggers and analysts will be happy to meet you over coffee or lunch if you have hard news. Generally, briefings in-person are more likely to yield coverage and will help you build stronger relationships. So, if you have a significant announcement coming up, put aside a day for face-to-face (embargoed) briefings with your key targets in addition to your phone briefings. Vendors that don’t do this are missing out on longer-lasting relationships with key targets that will bear fruit over the following months and years.
So, are we “two nations separated by a common language” as George Bernard Shaw once said? We’ll leave that for you to decide, but remember that it is critical to recognise and address the differences between our two countries when it comes to PR and communications if you are to succeed.