As an Englishman plying his trade in the United States (a vastly less glamorous version of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard), I’ve come to recognize George Bernard Shaw’s wisdom daily, if not hourly: “We are two nations divided by a common language.”
Every day my colleagues in Boston are both amused and bemused by what would be commonly used idioms back home in Blighty. (Cue hysteria and a riot of “Mary Poppins” chimneysweep-esque mimicry.) Fortunately, with our sophisticated and highly evolved self-depreciating sense of humor, we Brits have developed thick skins, not to mention stiff upper lips.
As the Northern Irish poet Louis MacNeice wrote, the world is incorrigibly plural. In PR, that extends beyond simple language barriers. Running a global campaign is fraught with complexity, cost and cultural confusion. Increasingly, most of our clients (from plucky startups to major global corporations) operate across borders and often in many corners of the world.
Here are some key lessons that we at Shift Communications have gleaned from working with our clients on global campaigns:
Be methodical about spending.
Do not try to calculate spending projections based purely on your U.S. spending. The population of the U.S. is roughly equivalent to that of the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain combined. But you cannot expect a U.S. sized spend to cover all of these territories together.
Agency retainer levels tend to be lower in these markets, but the complexity of a pan-European campaign can wreak havoc on your budget. Identify key global markets, and investigate thoroughly how much a topnotch PR partner in these markets is going to set you back.
Pick your agency teams on exacting, standardized criteria, not just the same logo.
Even if your agency team in the U.S. is an ambrosial joy to work with, it doesn’t mean their office in Manila or the one partner they recommend will do a great job for you.
If you’re working with a behemoth, investigate outside options as well as their office for your new regions. If you’re working with independent agencies, evaluate numerous options.
A good agency partner at home will recommend several options and will be frank about their strengths and weaknesses, as gleaned from other joint campaigns. Ask about current information on agencies as well. People always want to recommend based on a positive experience. A lot can change in two or three years in agency land, so ask for the latest info, or dig deeper.
Collaborate to accumulate coverage.
So, you’ve built out your capabilities in different markets. What’s next? Set up a global call and watch the good times roll? No, no, no. You have to set up tools for sharing information as well as the navel-gazing calls.
Establish clear rules for sharing information. Create a Google Docs folder or similar and have teams upload all new content into various folders. If you want to see voluminous output, add a competitive element by ensuring that all document titles lead with the country of origin first.
That’s not to be dismissive of global calls. They are essential, but often a slow descent into lethargy ensues. Hold everybody to account for why they are sharing information, and challenge the listeners to offer thoughts on what they will do with that information.
Retain a laser focus on keeping energy levels up and running a super tight agenda. A scorecard on successful cross-regional collaboration can help everybody stay on task.
Find a gatekeeper.
When your own time is precious, it can be highly difficult to wrangle all of the reporting and content coming in from multiple regions. Assign your most trusted agency partner or regional representative to standardize reporting and track against program goals. Invest in this process so it doesn’t distract from your core in market PR program activities.
Reporting must be unified, but it also must reflect challenges specific to each country, such as the number of reporters and outlets and prevalence of a pay-for-play culture.
For example, it might be easier to set up in-person briefings or get reporters to attend an event in the U.K. than in the U.S. given the concentration of journalists in and around London. Set your targets accordingly while pushing your teams to go the extra mile.
Though the prospect of orchestrating or reorganizing a global campaign might seem like a waking nightmare, it can be tackled through a thoughtful and collaborative approach that reduces the strain on the marketing or global communications lead.