Say what?! International PR and the style conundrum
By Jess Gilbert
F rom Spanish and Russian to Chinese and Welsh, we’re an international agency full of B2B tech communicators with offices in seven locations (London, Manchester, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Sydney and Casablanca) around the world. And we’re at the ready to help companies expand into new markets and execute your international PR strategy; people and goods are on the move at a scale never seen before, after all.
However, simply speaking another language is just the start. Each country has a preferred method, channel and style of communication. It’s not just face-to-face communications we have to consider, but email etiquette and media relations differ from country to country. Here’s what we’ve learnt from our years of communicating across international borders.
Beware of the journos
Many of our clients have expanded their presence to new corners of the globe, including Australia. However, as Liv in our Sydney office explains, being a native English speaker does not automatically qualify you to correctly engage with Australian journalists.
There are rules to pitching a story; journalists are very often only interested in stories with an Australian angle and this must be communicated straight away to avoid wasting their time. Liv also remarks on how Australians are less likely to attend client meetings in the evening, preferring to opt for breakfast and lunches.
It’s estimated that 320 billion emails will be sent daily in 2021, so it’s safe to say email isn’t going anywhere. But despite being a global tool of communication, email etiquette differs from country to country and you must be aware of this when executing an international PR strategy.
In France, for example, capitalisation works differently from English. Days of the week or nationalities are written in lower case. This is the same regarding punctuation. In the UK, we would never dream of pitching to the trade and business press or speaking with clients using emojis or exclamation marks. However, as our Casablanca team points out, this is now the norm in Morocco.
“Guys, I’ve got a text”
Sticking with Morocco, our team remarks that regardless of the language (Arabic, French or English), methods of contact, considered informal or unconventional in Europe, are quite the norm. Journalists are less likely to use email and are much more willing to embrace mobile or social media platforms. They prefer the instantaneous nature of a text or social media, compared to most European countries, where email and a telephone call are necessary. But as Kat, our resident German speaker, notes, you should never call a journalist in Germany between noon and 1PM as most will take a full hour for lunch and don’t dine ‘al-desko’ like their UK counterparts.
However, as Cindy, a PR consultant in our French office, informs us from her work in Senegal, a country where internet access is not so readily available, Senegalese journalists are far more likely to send a text as a quick method to get in contact and keep you up-to-date. This is simply a more practical and efficient means of staying in touch – yet may seem bizarre to Europeans who are accustomed to more formal business communication.
Taking your business abroad can be daunting and challenging. Despite English being the most widely spoken language in the world, with 1.5 billion speakers, there are several factors to consider to succeed in new markets. This includes well-executed international PR comms strategy, encompassing grammar, email etiquette and other communication channels.