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International Public Relations: How To Pitch the Media Globally

by M&Co. Staff

The trend toward globalization has increased the importance of international public relations work. For businesses to scale their brand awareness in global markets with marketing communications services, international public relations teams need to create flexible, integrated communications strategies that maximize culturally and linguistically relevant media relations.

Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of underlying strategies employed by international public relations teams—remote work, effective communication, strict time management, and adaptability. Fortunately, advancements in technology have made cross-border communication easier, removing barriers that previously prevented people from engaging across time zones.

Secure Wi-Fi connections, Zoom calls, scheduling features in email servers, and Google translate have all created a more accessible global media landscape for international public relations professionals. Social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn have made it much easier to build and maintain relationships with reporters and stay updated on the beats they cover.

Creating an International Public Relations Strategy

First, when beginning to engage with the media in any new market, the team executing your international public relations strategy must offer diverse perspectives and language abilities. Most journalists today speak English, but if you want to work extensively with the local media then having someone who is fluent in the language who can develop partnerships with key reporters and publications is essential.

Second, setting clear objectives for each market and knowing where and when to focus efforts is critical. It’s inefficient to reach every market every day, so it’s important that you prioritize your efforts in your international public relations strategy based on your business objectives. Therefore, your international public relations team must develop a strategy focused around relevant storylines for each market.

Finally, it’s important for cross-border communicators to be empathetic and adaptive to different communication styles. While globalization and the internet have broken down quite a few cultural barriers, there are still differences in politeness, directness, timeliness, and preferred methods of communication. While engaging with a reporter in another country, professionals should make the communication as bidirectional as possible. Get their feedback to ensure that public relations pitches are consistent with the stories the regional media deems relevant. Below are some tips for international public relations in different regions: 

North American Media Markets

North American media is more transactional than other media markets. If you have a good story and a well-written pitch, most journalists will be open to a conversation, even if you’ve never connected before. While the main hub is New York City, local outlets are of high importance in the region, and can often be a better avenue to access the right audience. When engaging with reporters in North America, keep in mind that pitches should be brief and that email is the primary form of communication.

There is greater freedom in terms of the type of content that reporters can share. This is because there is minimal government involvement, and the media does not face the same censorship that exists in other parts of the world. At the same time, that can make the U.S. media more challenging to engage with, as reporters will not be afraid to be harshly critical of a business or individual. You need to be buttoned up in your story and any potential risks before engaging with a reporter.

When reaching out to Canadian media, specifically, it’s important to recognize regional differences within the country. Time zones and language are two factors to consider, as cities are vastly different from one another and focus on regionally relevant stories. Montreal and Ottawa, for example, have bilingual publications in French and English. La Presse, Le Devoir, and Le Soleil are some of the most popular.

Latin American and Caribbean Media Markets

The Latin American and Caribbean media landscape is historically controlled by political elites and business families. Independent journalism and international media are highly respected across the region, so building relationships with reporters is critically important. This takes time, and the rate of response is lower in comparison to that of North America. PR professionals should be patient and cast a wide net with large stories.

Media hubs are located in the largest cities, including Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, and Lima. It’s important to connect with reporters in each hub and to pay careful attention to national differences. The main language is Spanish, except in Brazil where Portuguese is spoken. However, large audiences are avid consumers of American media products and engage with English-language coverage. The New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, and Business Insider are just some of the many major publications with bureaus in Latin America. The region’s proximity and geopolitical history with the U.S. makes it a key topic for Latin American and Caribbean reporters.

European Media Markets

The U.K. is perceived as the main financial hub in Europe and is also seen as a gateway to the continent when it comes to a number of other sectors. As such, London is a hub for most pan-European trade publications and houses most U.K. media and bureaus. International public relations professionals, therefore, should see London as a good launch point to enter the European markets and forge key relationships. When engaging with reporters there, politeness is a common communication strategy, and reporters use email and the phone to speak with PR professionals.

Similarly, France is very centralized, with its main hub in Paris. Speaking French fluently is a requirement when engaging with the media. Most contact takes place over the phone, and you may have to speak with a reporter several times before they feel comfortable engaging with you on a story. Some important outlets to develop relationships with include Le Monde, Mediapart, and Le Canard Enchaîné.

Oppositely, the Spanish media is much more spread out. Different cities like Barcelona, Madrid, and Bilbao cater to the regional differences within the country. In general, Spanish reporters highly value face-to-face meetings and prioritize relationship-building similarly to reporters in Latin America and the Caribbean. National news is a priority for the Spanish media overall, but they tend to be keen to show an international perspective when possible. Outlets like Bolsamanía, El País and El Economista situate regional Spanish news in the larger context of what’s happening around the globe.

The DACH region is also very siloed, with Germany, Austria, and Switzerland each having their own culture and media. While many reporters in the region are fluent in English, pitching in German will often get you more engagement with the media. Likewise in the Nordics, which has a small media market.

Asia-Pacific Media Markets

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is fast-growing, and many global companies are looking to expand into the region. It’s important for international PR professionals to closely analyze the current geopolitical trends to inform their public relations pitches and correctly tailor them for specific reporters. In many states within the region, the government has a far-reaching role and may enforce some level of censorship.

With such poignant regional differences and political influences, PR professionals can use national publications as a good entry point into the market. Like in Latin America, major outlets operate local bureaus throughout the APAC region. The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and CNBC Asia all share news with local audiences. National and local publications are vastly different, and it’s important to learn from national reporters the best way to develop more local relationships. Professionals, particularly in the western hemisphere, should keep in mind the time difference and use email scheduling tools to better connect with reporters.

To conclude, globalization has made international public relations a lot more efficient and effective. With modern technology, an adaptable team, and cultural empathy, PR professionals can secure media opportunities all around the globe. There’s no need to hire a big agency with stranded assets—you can streamline your global PR program.