Busting transatlantic media myths

Busting transatlantic media myths

When brands set out to expand their international footprint they often start by engaging the press on the other side of the Atlantic. This works both ways between the UK and US. But there are often a few myths to overcome first.

Here are three of the top myths on both sides of the pond as experienced by myself, in London, (Kat Jackson, Associate Director at Franklin Rae PR) and my colleague Alan Winnikoff, Owner, Sayles & Winnikoff Communications, based in New York and LA.

UK Mythe 1 - Paid content, particularly paid blogger campaigns, are more cost effective and more easily manageable because you are dealing with a smaller overall universe in terms of potential audience

KJ: “This will depend on the campaign and the objectives behind it. There is still a strong preference for earned, non-commercial media coverage which can’t be overstated in British press. Many see right through paid for placements - just look at the recent assumed backlash against Yorkshire Tea, from the suggestion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was advertising his preferred brew. A US brand may gain in terms of measured results from blogger work, but that should be balanced against the fact their audience will see it as a de facto advert.”

Kat Jackson

US Myth 1 - US press is driven by the newswires

AW: “Paid newswires still have some value mainly because of SEO. But we consider the newswires to be somewhat of an anachronism, a relic from an earlier time when reporters actually read press releases that were faxed into newsrooms. Reporters have never wanted ‘canned’ content. But these days even more so, you need to give them information that has true news value, is customized to their beat and interests and, ideally, hasn’t been released yet. Sending out press releases over the wire does none of those things.”

UK Myth 2 - UK reporters are more accessible than US media. They are more likely to respond to your emails and pick up your phone calls

KJ: “This will depend on the relationship and what you’re offering but in general it’s never been harder to get journalists on the phone, or out of the office. We’ve seen the number of trade and even regional and national media shrink, and that has put pressure on their journalist teams, while content demands have never been higher. Unless you’ve crafted a press release to specifically stand out in an inbox which can easily get 800 to thousands of emails per day, news can struggle. Clients need to be counselled that pitches have to be specific to be relevant. There’s no shortcut to doing the homework on a contact’s interests and typical beat when it comes to cut-through.”

US Myth 2 - The landscape for b2b trade press in the States is just as broad as in the UK

AW: “I actually think it’s broader – but my experience is that the UK trade press is somewhat more open to pitches and more willing to look at your story. US trade press can be hard to crack unless it’s a high profile story, and often an exclusive.”

UK Myth 3
- If you get traction in the UK press, that opens you up to interest from media across Europe. Even post-Brexit, there is an assumption that European press pays attention to what’s going on in the UK media.

KJ: “By and large there’s a strong current of integrity and great training which keeps some of our titles shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world. This strong journalistic tradition may mean we have to work harder as PRs to get their attention but when a major piece hits, it's so much more meaningful as a result. If a story or an angle has true pan-European interest, landing a good hit in the British press likely will help the argument for extending it further. But just as when selling into the US – if the client doesn’t have a genuine reason to be speaking to the media in France, Germany or otherwise, they will struggle to be relevant.”

Alan Winnikoff

US Myth 3 - If we’re on the ground in the US, we’ll be automatically relevant

AW: “Being on the ground in the US is only the first step in a very long journey. I’ve seen UK companies open an office in New York or LA and expect that that is a story in itself. It’s not. Unless you have something of news value to talk about, it’s unlikely people are going to pay attention to you.”

Working across the Atlantic is rarely as straightforward as replicating a successful home-turf media strategy. Just as we’re united by a common language, we have common strategies when engaging with a media audience which is time-pressured, and with their own agendas. There’s more that unites us, but there remains no substitute for knowing your media, and for accessing on-the-ground advice if you can’t get what you need from that media research.