This article is the fourth in a series adapted from Alaimo’s book “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication.”
As part of the research for “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication,” my new book on how to practice public relations in countries and cultures around the world, I conducted interviews with senior communicators in 31 nations about best local practices. In my first blog for the Institute for Public Relations, I explained factors that practitioners should consider before adapting their campaigns for a new market, in my second blog I offered tips for practicing public relations in Latin America, and in my third blog I offered tips for practicing public relations in the Middle East and North Africa. In this post, I will focus on Europe.
Here are five tips for practicing public relations in Europe – one for each of the region’s cultural groups:
Expect skepticism and tough questions in the United Kingdom. In “Anglo Europe,” which includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland, communicating can be challenging because of the skepticism of U.K. audiences. If you set up a media interview in the U.K., be prepared for tough questions; top reporters will truly grill the executives they interview! (The United States, Canada, and Australia also fall under the Anglo cluster).
Remember Italy’s bell towers. “Latin Europe” includes Italy, France, and Spain. Gianni Catalfamo, former head of Ketchum in Italy, says that it is helpful to remember the local adage that “Italy is the country of a thousand bell towers.” In other words, Italy is oriented around local communities, where most decision-making occurs, rather than its capital and national government. Targeting the many local newspapers in the country’s provinces is therefore one of the best ways to reach the Italian people.
Respect privacy in Germany. “Germanic Europe” includes Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. A critical factor to be aware of in Germany is the country’s strict privacy laws. This means that organizations need to get permission from a reporter before adding him or her to a distribution list for press releases and should always include an option to unsubscribe in emails.
Be extra transparent in Sweden. “Nordic Europe” includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. One of the most significant characteristics of Sweden is the country’s history of and expectations for openness with the public. Transparency is expected in communication practice – and often taken to levels that practitioners in other countries would find extreme. For example, @Sweden – a Twitter handle developed by the advertising agency Volontaire on behalf of the Swedish Institute (a government agency that promotes Swedish culture) and the Swedish tourism agency – turns over control of the country’s Twitter handle to a different Swedish person every week to post whatever they like, uncensored.
Beware of “black PR” in Russia. The Eastern European cultural cluster includes the Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Serbia. Communicators are notorious for their sometimes unethical practices in Russia, which has led to the notion of “black PR” – a term used to describe practices such as manipulation and deceit, typically in the context of political campaigns, in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Of course, many people do not consider so-called “black PR” to be public relations, at all.
Kara Alaimo, Ph.D., is a global PR consultant, assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University, and a former communicator at the U.N. and in the Obama administration. Follow her on Twitter: @karaalaimo.