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Top ten tips for global communicators

The tech PR sector continues to see healthy growth. The industry grew by 5% last year and there is no sign of it stopping. Unsurprising given tech firms don’t just need to promote their products and services and their corporate achievements, but they also need to demonstrate their broader purpose and, in some cases, defend their business models with policymakers and pressure groups. Moreover, stories travel the world, and impact on brand reputation at ever higher speeds. So, it is important to know how to roll out and run a successful global communications programme that delivers impact in your relevant regions. 

But where should you start? What kind of agency model will deliver the best results? We have asked our Brands2Life Global partners to share their thoughts and below is a starter for ten when considering your global communications programme.

  1. Choose an agency model that reflects the way your organisation works – are you ‘command & control’ or federated? Or somewhere in between?

Your own organisational structure and culture will inform the kind of global programme you'll need to build.

Some companies still want a “one size fits all” approach to their communications – particularly product-orientated brands, where campaigns and messaging need to be more centralised. For such companies, a strong central – global and/or EMEA - agency – ‘command-and-control - that produces messages, programmes and content all the countries use might be the best approach. 

Others, particularly B2B brands where regulations or usage characteristics differ significantly between countries, will be looking to their agencies’ in-region expertise, creativity and problem-solving. For these companies, allowing more autonomy for each agency will enable them to get the best results. Here the central agency will produce core messaging and, possibly, resources such as toolkits but the tailored message and appropriate mediums and content will be left to the country agencies.

“One of the strongest, and least recognised, value-adds that an agency can provide is counsel of aligning the organisation’s goals, brand and culture with the right agency model and approach to serve the geographic markets it wishes to trade in. Even in a world where global consumer brands proliferate this can be an Achilles Heel for many businesses.” Lydia Howard, Practice Director, Brands2Life

  1. Invest in getting people to know each other – they work better, enjoy it more and prioritise the account because they are learning 

While all agency summits are well-received, it is a significant additional cost to bear. However, there are smaller wins you can achieve simply by using video conferencing for calls and meetings to see people’s faces and reactions, or by adding on agency visits to the executive schedule when in the region. We encourage our partners to work from our offices and vice versa which also facilitates sharing of best practices and sparks new creative ideas. 

“While Asia now plays an increasing role in our trade and cultural life, our connection to Europe remains strong. The Brands2Life Global Network ensures that link is maintained and the strength and experience of all the partners, especially when we meet each year at the Global Summit, helps to build our knowledge of the global communication process.”  Tony Blackie, CEO of Blackie McDonald Communication Group 

  1. Have one core narrative that everyone inputs into and buys into 

To succeed in a fragmented global marketplace you need a really strong, compelling, differentiating narrative supported by creative, engaging content that resonates globally and locally. Find ways to source and play back feedback from each region, involve agencies in your creative planning processes where possible and challenge them to challenge you and your ideas to create better stories

  1. Agree policies and processes as much as possible upfront 

Running a global communications programme can be an admin-intensive and complex affair. Ensure that everyone knows the processes, policies and desired outcomes from the outset. This means sharing the PR calendar, agreeing on focus stories and levels of risk considered appropriate, establishing clear KPIs and more. Use the time on calls with your agencies to focus on ensuring that you all have a clear understanding of the goals and how you can best work together to achieve them – as well as sharing feedback to continually tweak and optimise the programme. This will be critical to its success. 

"At Highwire, many of our clients have expanded their operations across the globe. Having a coordinated, centrally-managed integrated communications programme with local execution is the key to success." Kim Paone, Senior Vice President, Highwire PR

  1. Agree the right outcomes and allow the countries to select the right tactics to deliver them

Understanding the complexities of a multi-region communications programme is half the battle, especially the fact that all media landscapes are bespoke to each country. Across Benelux and Switzerland, for example, there is an increasing reliance on advertorial content, for example; PR newswires serve little purpose in the UK; while a more integrated approach that goes beyond earned and paid-for, but taps into influencers, is critical in Russia. Empower your agencies to deliver the outcomes via their preferred – and known – tactics. 

  1. Pay for proper on-the-ground local expertise from local people in local agencies 

Everyone knows that it is important to gain access to local expertise if you want to deliver a message effectively in a local market. Budget allocation is often the area where things go wrong. A budget spread too thinly can result in poor – or no – results everywhere. In our experience, agencies tend to pitch realistic budgets so it is important to give them the level of support they need. Otherwise the agency teams end up doing lots of accounts badly just to hit their financial targets. Better to do a smaller number of countries well than a larger number badly.

“Having the ability to change to suit our clients’ requirements is key. Something we hear from clients a lot is the desire to have a global network that can scale up and scale down as needed in different countries as their growth objectives in different regions evolve. This is where we can bring our storytelling and commitment to results to bear.” Rene Musech, MD, Brands2Life US

  1. Build in time and money for quality translation 

Don’t leave it to the last minute! This should be built in from the start, even when considering your preferred agency model, but especially when setting out processes and policies. And, importantly, use translators who have experience in your market and know the right language to use.

  1. Allow the agencies to participate quarterly in strategy and planning – people push campaigns harder if they have a hand in them 

Content ideally needs to be created with input from regional teams at the start of the process, rather than exclusively trying to make something fit once it’s been finalised. Taking a 'top down messaging and a bottom-up grassroots content creation approach' can work well.

  1. Spend more with a smaller number of agencies – a little goes a long way in terms of helping the account team to have the hours to do a job they are proud of 

It’s an easy misconception to think that you will have greater campaign results if you launch in more regions. However, the outcome and impact in these regions will be dependent on the investment you can make into it being a success. Don’t spread yourself – or your campaign – too thinly. Working with fewer agencies to do the job properly will not only help assure the success of your planned activities but will give you the space to explore other recommended activities from the local agencies that will really shift the needle.

“In South Africa, the world of PR has changed dramatically and corporate reputation has never been this important, with the explosion of social media enabling companies to talk directly to customers. We have the opportunity to take an experimental and more creative multichannel approach to communications, but do need our clients to trust us as their partner and to invest accordingly.”  Ronelle Bester, Owner, Red Ribbon Communications

  1. Steer clear of ‘amazing’ global agency deals – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is

Many companies go through cycles of 'global network' then 'best-in-class' and back again. A global network agreement can ensure that the core messages are delivered in a uniform way but, with HQ typically agreeing a very tight budget, it can make life very difficult for local agencies on skeleton fees. A best-in-class network, well-funded, works well these days as, firstly, modern technologies enable the core strategy, narrative and content to be shared and discussed easily and, secondly, the local agencies can use their expertise to develop and deliver programmes that are tailored to their market. The best-in-class networks are also more likely to have the agility to flex as business and market requirements change.

Now, you would expect us to say that; we have all worked in and with global agencies and have experienced the other side. However, we truly believe in the power of a network where everyone chooses to work together – not just one united under the same name.