Insights from With Global Alliance

With Global Alliance, a global network of tech PR and marketing agencies, launched in January of this year with just five founding members. By June, the With Global Alliance (WGA) membership had doubled in size to include 10 firms, servicing 26 countries, all with deep tech expertise and hands-on senior leaders.  Operating in the international sphere during a global pandemic has many challenges, but each country has its own unique issues and opportunities.

We asked the leaders of WGA to share their insights on working with the media in their respective markets as well as the impact of COVID-19 on their constituents:

1.What is the biggest challenge that international companies face when entering your market for PR for the first time?

Brazil, Luis Claudio Allan, Founder, FirstCom

Brazil is a large country with diverse media outlets and the PR market is formed by hundreds of agencies, from one-person agencies to multinationals. Journalists receive a tremendous amount of content (press releases, bylines, multimedia etc.) daily from companies with brand awareness deeply established in the country, so it’s hard to conquer editorial spaces in top tier media if the company doesn’t have hard news to announce, specially without hiring a PR agency with a close relationship with key journalists. In general journalists in Brazil prefer to publish exclusive stories and depending on the news it can take some weeks to publish an exclusive, so it’s important to plan an announcement considering that the PR agency will need time to achieve results.

China, Sarah Li, Managing Director, WEdge

When a company first approaches PR in China, there are many initial challenges. It’s critical to understand the Chinese government’s development agenda, the business environment and cultural differences. Organizations need guidance to introduce their expertise and highlight their value in relation to the local market. This part of strategic positioning and storytelling is key to engaging with the local media – having a local angle and content to attract stakeholders. In addition, it’s important to understand the Chinese media focus and how best to communicate with local media.

Germany, Andrea Buzzi, Founder & CEO, Frau Wenk

We see many companies, especially from the U.S., entering Germany with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Most realize after months of hard work and painful rejections, that the largest economy in Europe differs significantly other countries and requires a very specific approach. One of the core strengths of Germany is its reputation for excellence in manufacturing and innovation. We need solid proof that a new technology works, before we implement it, and it has to fit our needs perfectly. Companies entering the German market need to keep this front-of-mind and spend a lot of time and effort gaining trust and proving that their system can deliver. Even though most German journalists and decision makers speak and understand English, it is advantageous to present and explain especially complex technologies in the local language.  Germans also appreciate it when they feel a clear commitment to the market. Ideally, this includes a local contact representative with a reliable network.

India, Minal Drozario, Co-Founder, Ideosphere

In our experience one area which does become a possible challenge is understanding and localizing the story based on the Indian context and sentiments. As India has multiple cultures within one country, it would be an advantage for international brands to have a customizable approach and talking points specific to the India market. Otherwise, there are no huge challenges for international companies to be spoken about in the Indian media. The basics would be timeliness and relevance but I believe that is important across the globe. 

Netherlands, Sabine Steen-Lakerveld, Founder, DOK30

The Netherlands is a small country with big ambitions. Our economy is highly globalized and so is our media. For companies entering this market, it is important to combine their level of innovation on a global level with their local presence and contribution to Dutch society and economy – as they will be judged on both. Companies should be prepared to back their stories up with objective facts and figures. The Dutch media in particular is very skeptical about ‘marketing-laced’. This is why we start every partnership with creating a storybook, where we will look for the best stories on all levels and the proof to back them up. If you have done your homework, the Dutch will definitely appreciate the effort. It is important not to use a ‘hit and run’ strategy put in the effort in building lasting relationships. Dutch can distinguish fact finding from relationship building, and both are equally important and often combined.

Russia, Alexander Izryadnov, Co-founder, Vinci Agency

It might seem obvious that a company entering a new market would adapt its approach to reflect the characteristics of the market. But large companies still try to apply unified guidelines, topics and channels they use in other territories irrespective of the market differences. For example, American companies often insist on having a Twitter presence but in Russia no one is using Twitter, rather people use local, large, well-established social networks. In terms of start-ups they are normally so focused on their product development they don’t even think of modifying their PR approach to dovetail with the characteristics of the new market. As such it is always advisable to look in detail at the market and equally important to identify the cultural mores and drivers. This in turn helps identify popular topics, discussion angles, the channels most commonly used, the media landscape and who the major opinion leaders are. 

Singapore, Oliver Budgen, Managing Director, Bud Communications

International companies setting up in Southeast Asia all too often fall into the trap of approaching the region as a single market. The reality is that Southeast Asia is far more fragmented than many realize. Sustainable growth requires local insight and finding partners who understand the landscape and how to penetrate the highly competitive tech space. In comparison to North America and Europe, many tech sectors are in a comparatively nascent stage and sustainable growth depends on a comms strategy that emphasizes education over product pushing and helping audiences to make sense of complex challenges. That being said, the increasing uncertainty of Hong Kong is placing greater significance on Singapore as Asia’s most stable regional hub for international businesses. We’re seeing more businesses redistribute their teams and focus to Singapore as a result. 

South Africa, Samantha Hogg, Owner, MD GinjaNinja PR 

South Africa is a small market, but an important one as it is a springboard into Africa.  Our budgets are not large enough to often warrant much attention, but yet we are needed if a network wants a global footprint. While we share a continent, other African countries work very differently to South Africa, charging in U.S. dollars and making the costs almost prohibitive. Often, the solution is to invest in South Africa, where the strategies and content can be generated, and a network is set up into African countries for dissemination and media relations. It is a challenging continent with many issues, but PR remains one of the tools that can make a difference.

United Kingdom, Debbie Zaman, CEO & Founder, With PR

As an agency, With works right across Europe. Often companies see the continent as one entity but with many languages, and differing levels of economic success as well as tech infrastructure, it couldn’t be more diverse. Conversely, companies coming into Europe may just decide to focus on the U.K. as their hub. The tech market in the U.K. in particular is highly competitive, highly sophisticated and uniquely British. Storytelling here is different than in Asia or the U.S. and navigating these complexities can be more challenging than anticipated. The press will want your business to have a British angle, and opening an office here won’t really cut it. 

United States, Sandra Fathi, Founder & President, Affect

In many ways, the U.S. is the land of opportunity but it is also the land of competition. Many companies entering the American market see it as a critical step in growing their customer base. Some may have significant success in their home markets and believe that it will automatically translate to success in the U.S. However, in order to stand out from a PR perspective, companies often need a unique and compelling story, proven success with U.S. customers and a keen understanding of local interests and culture. Even when approaching tech press or top tier business media, there are certain expectations that international firms may not be prepared for – sharing financial information, providing U.S. customer references, having a senior spokesperson in market and garnering third-party endorsements through certifications, awards and investing in analyst relations.

2. Beyond COVID-19, what is the media most focused on in your market? Where do you see areas of growth or interest (in particular for tech clients)? 

Brazil, Luis Claudio Allan, Founder, FirstCom

The Venture Capital scene is hot in Brazil despite the pandemic. Fintech is the hottest market in the startup ecosystem right now, but there are others growing, such as apps for delivery of anything, healthtech, edtech, foodtech and agtech (technology for farming and agriculture). Artificial Intelligence, SaaS, streaming services and ecommerce solutions are also areas of interest. 

China, Sarah Li, Managing Director, WEdge

In the post-pandemic era, to gear up new growth engines, China has called for new infrastructure construction including 5G, AI and the industrial Internet. Such efforts are in line with the nation driving to ensure stability in domestic and foreign investment. With more and more industries and companies going back to business as usual, the media focus has spread to wider industries such as biological pharma, fintech, e-commerce, software and hardware, where growth is expected after being on hold during the past half year. 

Germany, Andrea Buzzi, Founder & CEO, Frau Wenk

The media focus a lot on the digitalization of traditional industries and companies and new technologies, such as artificial intelligence or blockchain. Corona is seen as a catalyst for digitalization of traditional industries. Currently, there is much discussion in the media about the role and power of big platforms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook or Apple and how to deal with them.

India, Minal Drozario, Co-Founder, Ideosphere

Beyond COVID – 19 the media has been focusing on two primary talking points: 

·       ‘Work from home’ and its impact on overall company culture and disruption of the entire working culture. 

·       Technology adoption and opportunity for innovation. As a people, we have been divided into two groups: the first, having no exposure to the new technologies and the pandemic has forced us to adopt them for our essential needs, the second, people who have widened their exposure to technological platforms for various services and needs. These disparities are dominating the conversations in India. 

India being a hotspot for COVID – 19 is gradually opening businesses, but there still lies a lot of ambiguity in the overall sentiment of the people. 

Netherlands, Sabine Steen-Lakerveld, Founder, DOK30

Following the ‘coronacrisis’ there are a number of topics that the media are focused on ranging from the use of offices versus remote working (and the tools to make that work), new management styles, office interior, smart work spaces, but also the change to a more sustainable economy and sustainable world where the economy and environment are better balanced out. The pandemic saw a rise in ecommerce, which has not subsided since the lockdown ended. Smart ecommerce solutions, tech-driven services, apps to stay in touch with people / find new people in the area are also of interest when talking about ‘the new normal’. Before COVID-19, there was a lot of interest in sustainability solutions, sustainable companies and smart healthcare solutions. The current situation has only strengthened this interest, as now is the time to change for the better! And tech can deliver on a lot of the much needed change and promises in this respect.

Russia, Alexander Izryadnov, Co-founder, Vinci Agency

Clearly Covid-19 is a big focus for the media. Interestingly a significant amount of coverage looks at the personal impact which reflects a popular and growing approach in other areas the media covers. It’s important to not only write about actions but also show some emotional involvement and share real thoughts and feelings about a company, its technology and its impact and influence. It’s fair to say there is no more B2C and B2B communications rather everything has become person-to-person (P2P).  Audiences want to take a look inside your company, to learn how the product they are using is being built and developed. They also want to see the people behind it, how they feel about what they do and what makes the company tick.  

Singapore, Oliver Budgen, Managing Director, Bud Communications

Singapore is going through a general election in July which is attracting even greater attention and scrutiny as COVID-19 brings about deep economic uncertainty for the island nation. Within the technology-space the age old topic of digital transformation has become even more nuanced. Whereas twelve months ago, ‘digital transformation is kind of important’ stories may have been interesting, it’s now being prioritized as a survival instinct, rather than purely as a growth driver. From a communications standpoint this has been an area of focus for Bud Communications, helping clients build real thought leadership through education and insights that help make sense of the opportunities and potential threats ahead. 

South Africa, Samantha Hogg, Owner & MD, GinjaNinja PR 

In South Africa digital transformation continues to feature not only as a result of coronavirus, but also because of the general pressure from the market to offer a customer experience that cannot be achieved without being in the cloud and digitally-able. Tied to this is a focus on AI and IoT, all part of the digital transformation journey.  South Africa’s cloud adoption rate is behind international counterparts, but progress is being made and businesses are realizing the vital importance of being mobile and agile in these unprecedented times.

United Kingdom, Debbie Zaman, CEO & Founder, With PR

International trade relations are garnering a lot of column inches, especially as it impacts technology infrastructure like 5G. There is always a huge focus on politics and the machinations of the current government. And of course, as Brits, we obsessively report on the weather. Opportunities are definitely increasing for IoT, cyber, edtech and gaming companies right now as they emerge as post-COVID success stories. Anything with an environmental angle is also highly topical.

United States, Sandra Fathi, Founder & President, Affect

The U.S. is one nation, but our experience of the pandemic varies greatly by geography, industry and economic status. This is also reflected in the media landscape. Although stories about the pandemic, its impact on the economy, employment and the political arena are center stage, journalists still have assigned beats and are focusing on all of the diverse subjects that interest them, albeit, with less real estate in their publications than usual. Many of the tech outlets are seeking stories on businesses, services and tools that are going to help restart and reenergize the business and private sectors. These include stories on supply chain and logistics, healthtech, medtech, infrastructure, cloud, cybersecurity and other topics critical to getting the country ‘back to work’. We are also experiencing a significant political and culture awakening around the Black Lives Matter movement and issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Interesting insights from these agencies!