Posts Tagged ‘International PR’

How American PR Is Different from PR Overseas

February 19, 2013

Foreign companies that want to build visibility in the U.S.  are usually surprised to find that there are cross-cultural differences in the role of public relations between their countries and the U.S. In many parts of the world, including most of Asia and some of Europe, the tactics used by most public relations departments have traditionally been limited to media relations and event planning, with social media also becoming more popular recently. The goal is to win over potential customers (both consumers and business customers) and to try to safeguard the company’s public image.Morpheus on PR

In the United States, Canada, the U.K. and a few other countries, there are additional aspects of PR. In these markets, PR is not relegated to building visibility and helping market products, it also includes strategies to build and enhance a company’s reputation. PR professionals look for ways to develop and strengthen relationships that will help the entire company in its interactions with various audiences, including investors, the local community, government officials and employees, among others. In other countries, PR is more top-down, with management deciding what they want to communicate and the PR department executing those decisions. But in the U.S. there is more two-way dialogue with the public, and the PR or corporate communications department is expected to monitor the public dialogue, and also to recommend messaging and develop materials to help support the company in those conversations.

In countries where the PR staff is mostly limited to helping to market products, PR professionals have a significantly lower status than they do in countries where PR professionals have a broader role that includes strategy for and management of corporate reputation. As one would expect, in the countries where PR has a lower status, PR professionals have less contact with top executives and aren’t usually seen as strategic advisors to corporate management. In the U.S., by contrast, the top PR job is often an executive position that reports directly to the CEO. In some cases, the professionals who hold those positions make very high salaries. (In large companies, the salaries are frequently in the range of $300,000. One recent news article reported that the head of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company was being paid a million dollars a year. Those executives, and the employees and PR firms they hire to help them, manage issues important to the company, trouble-shoot in times of crisis and help with the overall positioning of their companies. They are responsible for fostering good relationships with all of their companies’ audiences, from employees to interest groups to customers and potential customers to government at the local, state and national levels. Some are also responsible for investor relations.

Often when I receive a call from a potential client from overseas, I can see the difference in attitude towards PR right away. I ask what the company is looking for from a PR agency, and the answer I get is usually a prepared list of PR tactics that the executives in the company have already decided will fill their needs. After talking to us and as they begin to work with us, the company’s staff begins to see that we can help in ways they hadn’t anticipated, and they stop telling us what tactics they want us to deploy, asking us, instead, for our counsel on helping them meet their goals.

Cross-cultural PR is a two-way educational process, since the client learns more about the U.S. business culture and sees how communications works here, while, at the same time, we have a chance to learn more about the client’s own culture.

Lucy Siegel

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Ask Not What the Media Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for the Media

February 13, 2013

Unfortunately, most emerging companies have approached public relations as little more than an extension of their sales promotion efforts, narrowly focusing their messaging on attributes of their products or services with the expectation that reporters will spread the word to the masses. At best, this approach usually yields a limited number of media placements originating around a product launch. At worst, reporters will view the announcements as editorialized sales pitches and discard them. Then comes the inevitable question from the corporate brass: “What value are we getting from that PR budget?”


This scenario often could be averted if the question were turned around: “What value can the media get from our company?” Marketing professionals should appreciate this question—they are accustomed to defining value for potential customers, but reporters are not potential customers. Their needs are completely different.

To effectively engage reporters, it is important to understand how they evaluate information. Their raison d’être is to uncover what’s “newsworthy” to their specific audiences and to report this information in an easy-to-understand format. Thus, for a company’s message to resonate with a reporter it must be perceived to have a certain quality of newsworthiness.

Newsworthiness is a very abstract concept. It differs from company to company. A management change at a large conglomerate, for example, would be considered more newsworthy than a similar change at a startup. It also differs from reporter to reporter. Trade reporters, for instance, view newsworthiness through a narrow lens focused on a specific industry, while reporters with general business and consumer media often (not always) view newsworthiness through a broader lens focused on major social, economic or technological trends.

We’re at a time when major brands seem to wield more and more media influence, and reporters are becoming more and more immune to unsolicited story pitches. So how can a startup company demonstrate newsworthiness in such a tough climate?

The key is to start developing a PR plan early. It’s not uncommon for startups to focus their early-stage efforts on building out core business functions, such as sales channels, product development, logistics and other back office functions, putting off PR until the product launch approaches. This is understandable—resources are always an issue, and expenditures and staff time have to be prioritized. We also understand the competitive reasons for some companies to operate in “stealth mode” until they’re ready to launch sales. However, postponing PR planning until a month or two before going to market can seriously limit the company’s opportunities to drive greater visibility and lead to pitfalls that could have been avoided with proper planning.

As you begin crafting your PR plan, a key component is to identify story angles that will interest the media. This involves brainstorming with your management team and PR advisors to collect pertinent information about your company and its founders that is often scattered across many minds, and identifying the facets that could be used to create compelling story angles. Significant product news creates potential angles, as well as any anticipated milestones (e.g., acquisition of new management, new external partnerships, new funding, etc.). These events may offer good opportunities for exposure in some media outlets, with the highest potential usually being in trade and business media.

But there is no reason to limit the company’s story angles to these business events. PR planning is a creative process that requires you and your PR advisors to look beyond the obvious characteristics of your business to discover other aspects that could distinguish you from the flock. A great example of a company that has succeeded at this is Ben & Jerry’s. The company has been able to command media interest at will. Its products, however, are rarely what grab the headlines. Rather, much of the media coverage has focused on the company’s eccentricities: its unconventional founding (it was originally conceived as a bagel shop), its offbeat management practices (e.g. its erstwhile salary ratio policy) and its reputation as a champion of social issues.

Admittedly, the comparison between the media strategy of an emerging IT or biotech company with that of Ben & Jerry’s is tenuous, but there are opportunities for most companies to seize the limelight in unconventional ways if they try. Before they became iconic brands, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Groupon and Flickr were successful at this, getting attention for quirks in their corporate cultures,  business models, operational development or founders’ stories.

The bottom line is, in order for your company to derive value from its media strategy, it has to first prove its value (i.e. newsworthiness) to the media. The art of PR is storytelling: mining the various facets of your business to uncover what sets it apart—its newsworthiness—and packaging that information into compelling story angles to engage the media.

Jacob Seal

Memories of an Internationalist: Ray Josephs – Author, PR Executive and Promoter Extraordinaire

October 19, 2012

This week I stumbled across a book published during World War II by an old friend, Ray Josephs, a journalist, author and international public relations executive who died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 93.  Ray was one of the best self-promoters I have ever met. It was instructive to watch him  in action, even in his 80s and 90s.

Ray started his career as a newspaper journalist in the 1930s.  He always wanted to travel, and managed to wangle an assignment from his Philadelphia newspaper to cover a story in South America in the pre-WW II years. He fell in love with Argentina and with a German

Ray Josephs in mid-career

Jewish émigré he met there, and ended up marrying her and staying in Buenos Aires for several years. Buenos Aires was the beginning of Ray’s international communications career, a journey he enjoyed until just before he passed away.

The book I found was “Argentine Diary: The Inside Story of the Coming of Fascism.” He told me about his time in Argentina but I had forgotten the details, which I discovered in an article with Ray’s byline published in the British newspaper, The Independent in 1994.  About his years in Buenos Aires, Ray wrote, “It was not only love that worked out. While in the city, I helped set up the first Latin American news bureau for Time magazine, sent stories to the Chicago Sun-Times and other dailies, and the show business weekly Variety. Through the entertainment world, I got an early lead on Evita Duarte, who later married military strongman Juan Peron, and my reporting on life in their dictatorship became my first bestseller, ‘Argentina Diary’ …”

French edition of “How to Gain an Hour Every Day”

Ray eventually moved from journalism into public relations, a new profession at the time.  He founded International Public Relations, and did work for companies and brands from all over the world, some of them quite well-known, ranging from General Motors to the Concorde.  But while his PR firm kept him busy, he never stopped writing. Among his books are “Latin America: Continent in Crisis,” “Streamlining Your Executive Workload,” and, the book he was best known for, “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day.”  This time management book, published in 1955, sold very briskly in in the U.S. and then was published in Japan as well.

Now I’ll move the clock up to around 1990 or ‘91.  Ray was almost 80. He had a soft spot in his heart for Japan, which he had first visited in the ‘50s after the war when the country was absorbed in the tough task of rebuilding and reinventing itself.  He had helped set up a PR firm in Tokyo that his firm worked closely with, and his clients included a lot of big Japanese companies. But he hadn’t been back to Japan for many years. Ray knew I had worked for a Japanese PR firm in Tokyo in the late ’80s, and called to ask if I could introduce him to some of my Japanese PR agency contacts. He wanted to take his wife Hanny to Japan and had arranged to write a trade magazine article on the Tokyo PR scene. I put him in touch with several of my colleagues in Tokyo, some of whom entertained Ray and Hanny royally while he interviewed them for his article.  When he returned, he told me an amazing story.

Vietnamese edition of “How to Gain an Hour Every Day”

A young man he met at one of the Tokyo PR firms said to him, “You’re very famous! I read your book about saving time– it is so popular here.” Ray answered, “My book was published long before you were born. Did you find it in the library?” The young man answered, “No, I bought it in the book store just last week.” Ray decided to pay a visit to his old publisher to find out how his book could still be in the bookstore, since he had not received any royalties for many years.

The publishing company (one of Japan’s largest) told him they had reprinted his book many times over the years, but unfortunately they had lost track of him and didn’t know where to send the royalties. Ray came home with a very large check and a great idea.

Ray figured if the Japanese were willing to buy his old book, which had not been updated since he wrote it, he could surely convince publishers elsewhere, both in the U.S. and around the world, to print new updated editions. He was successful in getting an American publisher to issue a new edition of his book, incorporating quotes from well-known modern day American business titans about their own time-saving tips.  Then he set off on a grand world tour to find overseas publishers.  He used his extensive network to get introductions to people who could help him in each country.  Ray’s country visits included interviews with well-known local business people so he could incorporate tips from them into locally-tailored editions of the book. He also met with potential local publishers and arranged media interviews for himself with the biggest local media outlets.  In essence, he was wearing three hats: journalist, business executive and what we would now call “talent.” He was doing his own PR and setting the stage for an incredible publishing coup.

He asked me for overseas contacts in the countries he was visiting who might be able to introduce him to publishers. I put him in touch with people in several countries who wined and dined him and Hanny while Ray fished for contacts with publishers and journalists.

When Ray came back from Europe, he showed me a very impressive binder full of media coverage he’d gotten for himself. The media in Europe were quite taken with this dapper little old man (he was very short and always smartly dressed), who, in his 80s, had revitalized his career as an author.

If you Google Ray Josephs, you’ll find “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day” for sale in a multitude of languages.  This man’s promotional skills were so well-honed that his second edition books are still selling all over the world, long after he ran out of hours himself. Ray  mentored many people during his long career, and through them, his legacy, like his books, lives on.

Lucy Siegel

The Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communications

August 31, 2012

Many of our clients are companies headquartered outside the United States. As a result, cross-cultural communications is a very important component of Bridge Global Strategies’ client services. In the following post, Bhaskar Sarma does a great job of explaining the impact of culture in communications and providing examples. His guest post, which first appeared on Gini Dietrich’s blog, “Spinsucks,” appears here with his permission and  permission from Gini Dietrich.  

By Bhaskar Sarma

In 1969 and 1970, a large part of Iraq was hit by a severe drought and famine causing a shortage of wheat.

With seed reserves running low, the Iraqi government imported nearly one hundred thousand tons of high yielding Mexipak wheat from Mexico and the United States.

The wheat, however, was laced with a fungicide called methylmercury, which was to prevent spoilage during shipping.

Methylmercury is a nasty chemical and can damage the central nervous system of humans and animals. It causes symptoms such as paralysis, brain damage, and blindness. In higher doses, it can be fatal.

Anatomy of a Disaster

All the bags in that shipment were stamped with clear instructions on how to handle the lethal contents. To underline the dangers, the suppliers even emblazoned a skull and crossbones on each bag.

That should have be enough, right?  It wasn’t.

  • The warnings were in Spanish and English – pure gobbledygook to an average Iraqi villager.
  • The skull and crossbones meant the same thing to them as a QR code means to human eyes.
  • The wheat arrived too late in the planting season to be of any use, but was distributed to the farmers anyway.

With their previous stock of wheat planted, thousands of villagers who had no clue about the toxicity of the foreign wheat, used it as food and feed.

And within a month, disaster struck.

I won’t get into the gory details but the Iraqi incident was one of history’s largest cases of mass mercury poisoning.

And to think all this could have been averted if they had added a line in Arabic.

Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communication

Here’s another, less darker take on the cross-cultural communication.

A soda marketer was glumly sitting at the bar. His friend approaches and asks, “Why so serious?”

He replies, “I created this left to right comic strip for a campaign. It showed a famished man crawling across the desert who finds a bottle of soda, chugs it down, and walks away with a cheerful smile. Sales tanked after it ran in the Middle East.”


“Everyone read it from right to left!”

Avoid Cross-Cultural Miscommunication

While the Internet ensures your products and services can be sold all over the world, it does not make your customers and prospects react to your message in lockstep.

If you are selling to multiple countries or cultures consider the following:

  • Have localized versions of your website (if you have the resources). Don’t just have a literal, word-by-word translation of the copy from English to, say, German.
  • If you can’t afford multiple versions of collateral, avoid slang and clichés. It gets lost in translation.
  • Pay particular attention to your marketing channels. For instance, streaming video won’t be a hit in large parts of Asia and Africa where Internet speeds suck.
  • Subject lines in emails that might be marked as spam in the West could get a higher response rate in Asia. Experiment and test.


Cross-cultural miscommunication can have far reaching consequences. It was one of the reasons Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. It was also a major reason why the Israeli Army was beaten back by the Hezbollah  in 2006.

Do you have any “lost in translation” war stories? What would be your prescription to avoid such situations?

Bhaskar Sarma is a B2B tech copywriter and content marketer. He blogs at Pixels and Clicks and helps his clients create content that establishes them as a trusted solution provider. You can follow him on Twitter at bhas.

New Technologies Changing Public Relations in South Africa

April 13, 2012

As South Africa makes economic and technological advances, both traditional and social media are playing a larger role in people’s everyday lives. Changes in media have influenced the way individuals are informed and interact with each other, both in business and in their personal lives.

To get some insight into the changes taking place in South African media and public relations practices, I interviewed Marie Yossava, founder and owner of Grapevine Communications in Johannesburg. She was able to give us an overview of the communications landscape in South Africa and some of the changes in communications the country and people have experienced.  The firm is the newest member of PR Boutiques International, an international network of boutique PR firms of which Bridge Global Strategies is a founding member.

Bridge Global Strategies: How has the media landscape changed in South Africa since you started the company?

Marie Yossava: Vastly! The media consisted exclusively of print and broadcast outlets when I first ventured into the industry. It has subsequently evolved to include global social networks, which open up communication channels to the world within seconds. It’s significant that individuals in South Africa can now own their own media outlets online – not just big media companies. The immediacy is revolutionary. South Africa, compared to developed economies, already had a much smaller base of media to start with, but those traditional media – in particular, print titles – have seen a decline with the explosion of Web 2.0 media.

Bridge: What is your strategy for reaching the different age groups in different parts of the country (urban versus rural areas, and young versus older age groups)?

 MY: It is very important to understand the media with which different segments of the market communicate in South Africa. We still have many older people in our country who are illiterate. To reach an older audience in rural areas, broadcast (TV and radio) remains a powerful and effective means of communicating key messages.  That said, the cellular market in South Africa has more than 100 percent saturation, and even the elderly have mobile handsets.  While the mobile functionality may be limited and won’t always include a web browser, Twitter, and other applications, people can send and receive calls and text messages.  SMS and mobile website (“mobisite”) campaigns are also effective communications tools in reaching certain segments of the market.

In our country’s urban areas, the youth are all connected to the internet and social media platforms via their mobile phones, which makes it easy to use communications campaigns to alert them to new products and transmit important information. Mobile platforms are ideal for capturing the attention of younger audiences and for pulling them through to other platforms, e.g. a new edu-tainment TV series, or interesting articles.

Bridge: Please tell us how social media and smartphones have infiltrated into the marketing mix and PR in the country.

MY: At the outset of the digital era, companies, brands and agencies were slow to adopt social media, but as more and more of the population consumes daily information via smartphones, organizations are more readily agreeing to let PR agencies include the use of social media in their PR strategies and to make it an essential tool for messaging.

Today, social media can be regarded as an additional and important vehicle PR agencies can use to communicate key client messaging, urgent press statements and announcements at a speed that cannot be matched by any other medium, not even radio. From the outset, however, social media needs to be aligned to the client’s communication strategy and goals, and not seen in isolation or as an afterthought. It is also important to understand that it requires regular content updates to gain a following, and decisive, quick responses to build credibility.

To cite an example, local commuters were recently stuck in an underground train when it broke down. With a simple tweet, the communications representative of the rail company could have informed passengers as to what had caused the delay and how long they could expect to wait. Even if only a few of the passengers were Twitter subscribers, the information would have soon spread through the train via word of mouth.

Bridge: What has your experience been being a woman in the PR business in South Africa? How is it different or similar from other countries?

MY: When I arrived in South Africa more than 20 years ago, things seemed very different from what I had experienced previously, working in London. However I have had the good fortune to experience the very exciting progress of the new economy that has occurred since the turning point of our new democracy in 1994, which has fast-tracked women and advanced their progress. So much so that South Africa is now fourth on the list of countries with the highest representation of women in parliament in the world.

Secondly, I operate in what remains a female-dominated business sector in our country, so there are no barriers to dealing with clients, and we are well accepted and regarded in the profession.  I also believe it is the responsibility of leaders in our industry to continually raise the bar for our profession if we are to be accepted at a senior board/management level and be part of organisations’ overall business strategies.

Bridge: My final question: how has apartheid affected communications and PR? How has the landscape changed to adjust to the political changes?

MY: I am not able to provide an informed comment as Grapevine was established post the apartheid era, so our business has always operated in an open and free market.  We also operate in a democracy with freedom of speech so our media channels are open and transparent.

Market opportunities for all races are equal in our industry and this is reflected by the number of black practitioners.  Public Relations Institute of South Africa’s (PRISA) current vice president is Mr. Aaron Ngema, and our immediate past president was Mr. Victor Sibeko.

Alexandra Huebner

Get Lucy Siegel’s book at Amazon!  “Public Relations Around the Globe: A Window on International Business Culture”

New International PR e-Book Just Published

January 24, 2012

I’m pleased to announce the publication of “Public Relations Around the Globe: A Window on International Business Culture,” an e-book for Kindle.  The Kindle file also works for the Mobipocket reader (which can be downloaded free and can be used on many mobile devices as well as on PCs).

“Public Relations Around the Globe” is a collection of essays and articles about PR around the world edited by me. Each chapter was originally developed as a Bridge Global Strategies article or blog post by our staff  and me or as a bylined contribution by an international public relations executive.  The book is divided into geographical sections and topics, including Europe and the Middle East,  the Asia/Pacific region, the BRIC countries and a section with observations, insights and advice about international public relations. There are chapters on communications in Australia, Japan, China, Brazil, Spain, Germany, England, India and the United Arab Emirates.

The book is available as a download from Amazon for $2.99.  I have some copies available at no charge for people who would like to review the book. If you’re interested in having a review copy, please email me.

I hope those of you who read the book find it useful. I would welcome your input on it.

My next book will be aimed at start-up companies, with tips for maximizing communications dollars and building a reputation. If there are topics you’d like to see in the book, please let me know!

Lucy Siegel


Podcast: PR & Marketing for Start-ups & U.S.-based Foreign Companies

November 4, 2011

I was interviewed yesterday by Bruce Hurwitz  for his Blog-Talk Radio show, “Bruce Hurwitz Presents,”  as part of a series of interviews with women entrepreneurs. The show is available on-demand as a podcast and the topic is “PR & Marketing for Start-ups & U.S.- Based Foreign Companies.”

Have a listen! Click “play’ below, and then click the arrow on the radio dashboard that appears.  (There is a 10-second delay after clicking the arrow on the radio dashboard.)

Lucy Siegel


How to Get Started with a PR Firm: Four Tips for a Fruitful Relationship

September 19, 2011

Frequently new clients don’t really know how to work with us when they first hire us.  There are a few common problems, and start-ups (our specialty), whether domestic or from overseas, are more likely to experience them.

A steakhouse appetite on a fast-food budget

The best marketing directors we’ve worked with are excellent at prioritizing what’s essential now versus what can wait until they can afford it. Most marketing directors at start-ups worked for companies with bigger budgets and more back-up internally in previous jobs. They’re very needy when it comes to PR and marketing communications.  They want a lot of help, but can’t afford a big budget.    Prioritizing is essential in that environment.

A winning formula in one country may not work in others

The first common mistake business people from other countries make is assuming that the market here can’t be that much different from their own.  Companies from outside the U.S. often start a relationship with a PR company here by asking for the same services they received at home: “Here’s what we want from you. We need you to [choose one:] “set up a press conference,” [or] “arrange Wall Street Journal and New York Times interviews and get our CEO on the ‘Today’ show.”

They don’t know how the U.S. media works and how different it is from their own country.  We have to explain that press conferences are rarely held in the U.S.  to make a corporate announcement – unless it’s Steve Jobs announcing the launch of the iPad or BP trying to manage the communications after an oil spill. They aren’t aware of how social media is being used in public relations and marketing communications in the U.S., since social media is mostly just social (so far) in a lot of countries. The size and diversity of the United States is just an intellectual concept to them and not something they’ve experienced, so they think PR will cost about the same here as it does at home.

We’re consultants. Ask us what to do, don’t tell us what to do.

The second mistake is telling us what to do instead of asking us what we think should be done.  In many other countries, public relations doesn’t garner as much respect as  it does here.  Some of you are snickering, reading this, because the PR industry has its own image problems in theU.S., and we often feel we don’t get enough respect. Nevertheless, we have it good compared to PR people in many parts of the world.   It’s not uncommon for the most senior PR person in the company to  report directly to the CEO and sit on the senior management committee.  That’s respect.

We can’t help if we don’t know what’s really going on

When companies get started with a PR firm, it’s really important for them to brief the firm thoroughly and answer questions honestly and openly.  The PR industry’s code of ethics requires that confidential client information be kept confidential.  A company that is nervous about this can require its PR firm to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

If a company is secretive with its PR firm, the PR firm can’t help position the company favorably among competitors. If there’s a big problem the PR firm doesn’t know about and it comes out, the PR team is in a very awkward and difficult position of receiving media calls about an issue they didn’t know exists. Delays in responding and hesitation about how to answer difficult questions cause the client to look bad to the media.

When a company hires a PR firm, there’s a learning curve on both sides. We have to learn about a client’s company, products and/or services and goals, and the client needs to find out the best way of working with us.  A good client/agency relationship and a satisfying outcome (for both the client and the agency) are much more likely if we can get started the right way.

Lucy Siegel

10 Tasty Tidbits about Marketing and PR from My Inbox (or “You Are What You Tweet”)

August 4, 2011

I receive several hundred emails each day, many related to PR, marketing and corporate communications. That’s the bad news, because it’s a major time sink, I simply can’t read them all and my inbox is never empty because I’m a hoarder of emails with news and information I would like to read later (yet probably won’t get to).   The good news is that I get immensely helpful news about marketing and PR without having to search for it.

Comparative Analysis via Twitter Behavior

Here are 10 examples of recent in-coming news that I found helpful, educational or eye-opening (or all three):

1. You Are What You Tweet: this is an infographic I created as a test of a not-yet-launched online service called that will create infographics from information you provide. (Each time you click on the first link above, you’ll see a comparison of my use of Twitter with a celebrity’s – a different one each time. You will see the software’s not-necessarily true conclusion that my Tweets are totally uninteresting compared to Jimmy Fallon’s, Brittany Spears’s and Conan O’Brian’s! Hmmph.) I was intrigued with this and Googled “Infographics tools,” only to find that there are several chart- and graph-makers, cool tools, but sounds like it will be really super.  By the way, infographics is a new buzzword in the communications industry that I see as a fancy word for “charts.” Below items #2 and #3 refer to infographics, also.

2. The CMO’s Guide to the Social Landscape: this is an infographic from about nine major social media channels, distinguishing what’s good and what’s bad about each of them from a marketing viewpoint. It also shows how each site dovetails with customer communication, brand exposure, traffic to a company’s website and search engine optimization (SEO).

3. What CMOs Want in an Agency:  this chart shows the results of research done by The Horn Group and Kelton Research, called “The CEO Challenge.” I found it interesting that two-thirds of CMOs surveyed said they prefer working with smaller agencies. Also noteworthy is the bar chart showing that “ability to execute” is twice as important to a CMO as cost.

4. Concise explanation about Google’s new Google+ social media network from eWeek’s Cloud Computing Digest (newsletter). Bloomberg wrote this week that, although Google+ is still in beta, it has over 25 million subscribers already, a number it reached faster than any other social network.

5. Doug Simon announced that D.S. Simon, his video production company, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In a video clip on his vlog, he said,“It’s not what you’ve done in the past, it’s what you do moving forward [that counts], and that’s why you have to be continuously getting better.” Not a bad piece of advice.  He’s following his own advice by opening a new office in Washington, D.C.

6. Clifford Mintz, founder of BioCrowd, a social media site developed specifically for bioscience professionals, wrote a blog post for BlogNotions, a life sciences blog, advocating the increased use of social media at scientific and medical conferences.  He believes that conference organizers in this field try to control the flow of information from the meetings too tightly, and social media can be used to loosen that control and get more information out to both the public and conference attendees more quickly and efficiently.

7. A story from a member of the marketing group I belong to, MENG, on how closely brand positioning and pricing are connected to each other. The writer gave a concrete example of how low pricing negatively affected the branding of an upscale hotel.

8. An op-ed piece in Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog by Guy Gilpin, the founder of Mother Tongue Writers, noting that many major global brands with a presence on Facebook don’t think beyond English.  This includes Coca Cola, which has a Facebook page but posts in English only.

9. An announcement from LinkedIn that its search tool, Company Buzz, has been turned into a new service called LinkedIn Signal. (Since I’d never heard of Company Buzz, I guess I won’t miss it.) You can use this app to search people’s LinkedIn updates and find out what’s being said about you, your competitors, trends, etc.

10. A quote in from St. Louis PR pro Aaron Perlut about Congress’s PR failures. He called Congress the “world’s biggest and worst PR machine” and wrote, “[Members of Congress] continue to make the same PR mistake after mistake in scuffle after scuffle, disenfranchising the very swing voters they wish to ultimately sway.”

Lucy Siegel

The Hidden Costs of In-House PR

September 24, 2010

I have seen several articles recently in the media about companies dispensing with their public relations firms and taking their public relations work in-house.  As a totally interested, completely biased owner of a public relations firm, I want to point out the negative consequences of this decision, which can be especially harmful for young companies and for foreign companies in the U.S. market.

The reasons are many and varied.  Let’s start with costs and human resources considerations. There has been a rise in the number of public relations agencies and in the size of the PR agency industry over the years just as budget cuts have forced corporate layoffs, exactly because it’s easier for companies to buy the services they need for limited contract periods rather than have employees on the payroll. They cut down on benefit, human resources and management expenses as well as office space costs. Meanwhile, PR agency compensation is less generous than most corporate PR/corporate communications comp.

Then there’s the issue of the level and quality of service PR companies provide versus what a company can do for itself with internal staff.  I speak now not for my whole industry, but for smaller PR agencies, which are known for their more experienced staff.  A company that replaces its PR agency with one or two internal PR staff is limited to the knowledge and experience level of those people. An agency brings a variety of people at different levels onto a client team, and there’s almost always more experience and expertise available to the company from the agency than what a company can afford to spend on internal staff.

Put it this way: a company that paid us $10,000 a month would receive, on average, about 60 hours a month of our time. You’re thinking, “Yes, but for $120,000 a year, I could get a pretty experienced person and I’d have 160 hours of his/her time.”  But $120,000 is not the actual cost of hiring a person whose salary is $120,000 – it covers the cost of someone who makes only about $55,000-60,000, due to expenses for hiring, benefits, payroll taxes, office space, office equipment, and extra work for a manager, and whoever does HR and cuts paychecks.  That pays for someone with only a few years of experience.

In addition, a full-time person doesn’t actually yield 160 hours a month.  After you subtract vacations, sick days, and unproductive time, you end up with about 120 hours a month.

“Yes, but that’s twice as many as you would give me for the money,” some of my readers are thinking.  However, I maintain that my experienced staff and I will provide a better outcome in half the time of someone with a few years of experience.

The reasons go beyond the experience level of my team. The internal staff person has problems and limitations that an external communications company doesn’t face. More on that in my next blog post!

Lucy Siegel

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