Earlier this month, my colleague Chris King and I had the pleasure of hosting a PRmoment tech event, centred around international PR and cross-market communications.
Joined by in-house comms professionals from global tech brands, we discussed the various in-house and agency approaches to international communications.
As an agency, we’re big advocates of the hub and spoke model, and have worked with clients over the years to build bespoke networks of best of breed agencies to fit their needs. From that, we’ve honed a perfect blend of watertight processes, team structure, and network mentality that’s needed to drive the optimal content, coordination, communication, and collaboration needed for success.
Yet, we’re aware that other brands adopt different models depending on their size, priorities, and budget. Some prefer to go all in with big branded global networks that cover multiple regions, while others work with independent networks like PROI Worldwide. And then there’s the brands with large internal comms teams who take the ‘hub’ role in-house.
What was clear though, no matter what approach you take, the end goal is the same: delivering standout results.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the event.
Strategic markets: taking a tiered approach
For the bigger, global brands who have a presence in multiple markets, prioritisation is key.
One participant shared that she had 32 agencies on the ground in the EMEA region alone. Whether your hub team is in-house or agency side, managing that many agencies at one time is no small feat.
Tiering the regions based on their significance and relevance to the business and aligning their comms approaches accordingly is a sound approach.
‘Tier one’ markets are typically those that are the most technologically mature, competitive, and have the greatest growth potential. For these markets, a more sophisticated strategy is required, while for the tier two or three regions, a lighter touch is more appropriate.
We followed this approach for one of our clients as its lead EMEA hub agency – responsible for managing a network of nine independent agency partners. Here’s an example of how we took a tiered approach to launching a global research campaign across the network:
Tier one markets: UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands
- Weekly sync calls with hub team and/or internal comms lead
- Platinum package of assets: created press release templates for regional tailoring, data sheets with local stats and analysis and a byline for pitching locally
Tier two markets: Nordics, Italy and Spain
- Bi-weekly sync calls with hub team and/or internal comms lead
- Gold package of assets: created press release templates for regional tailoring, data sheets with local stats
Tier three markets: Israel and UAE
- Monthly sync calls with hub team and/or internal comms lead
- Silver package of assets: created press release templates for regional tailoring
Prioritising regions using this model meant that we were able to streamline communications to our agencies and deliver optimal results for the business.
Don’t forget freelancers!
Another topic of conversation was around the use of freelancers as in-region spokes, as opposed to fully-fledged PR or comms agencies. Freelancers are becoming increasingly popular, especially for brands that want low-level support in their smaller markets.
For example, if a brand is opening an office in a new region and needs one-off PR support for three months to generate coverage and set up media interviews, then appointing a freelancer is a good idea. They’re flexible, have niche skillsets, and are a more cost-effective option.
For the bigger and more mature markets, like the UK, I’d still recommend working with a retained PR agency as they have the scalability to grow with the brand, and a team to manage different roles and responsibilities across the client account.
One team: servant leadership
Another one of our in-house participants talked about the importance of ‘servant leadership’ when working with agencies – be it the hub agency or the on-the-ground spoke teams.
For background, servant leadership is a leadership style and philosophy that prioritises the growth and wellbeing of others by creating a nurturing environment, so teams feel heard, appreciated, and respected.
She lives and breathes this philosophy and always makes time to get to know the agencies that are part of her comms network – on a professional and personal level. In return, her agencies feel motivated to deliver standout results.
The consensus in the room was that the comms leaders and professionals that treat their agencies as an extension of their team are generally more successful.
Local vs global: it’s all about balance
When appointing on-the-ground spoke agencies, it’s important that they build a good rapport with the local marketing teams and country leaders – not just the comms leads. They are the experts in the local market, understand the cultural nuances, and through regular communication can develop strong local storylines and narratives that will cut through.
However, at the same time, local teams and agencies need to recognise that all communication or requests need to be filtered through the comms leads as they hold the purse strings and own the agency scopes of work.
Each activity needs to tie back to the wider business goal and PR objective, so ensuring the comms lead has visibility and provides sign off is key.
A ‘one-size-fits-all’ model doesn’t work
Despite there being several approaches to cross-market communications, brands need to adopt a model that’s fit for purpose and works for their business.
It was interesting to hear first-hand from other comms professionals about their experiences and its’ given us plenty of food for thought on how we can evolve our preferred ‘hub and spoke’ approach, based on the conversation and insights shared.
If you’re a tech brand and are considering scaling your communications across EMEA or internationally, get in touch with the team today.