The power of local media relations

Noemí Jansana

In our everyday language, expressions such as ‘proximity trade’ or ‘kilometre zero’ evoke those direct and personal relationships between companies offering consumer goods and their customers, which foster a sense of belonging and collaboration in the community. Among the distinguishing features of this commercial exchange are those that make use of culture, identity and customs to offer services reflecting local traditions and preferences.

The further purpose is none other than to achieve a greater impact among their audiences, empathising with them at a level unattainable for international corporations, whose products are mass-produced, uniform and depersonalised. The pillar of this proximity lies in the very belonging to the community where the activities take place, which puts the supplier company in tune with regional supply chains, its potential prescribers and the needs of its consumers.

All of the above can be applied, word for word, to communications. How to engage effectively with local audiences in different countries and regions is a challenge that global companies face when landing in a given territory.

The key lies in understanding, adapting to and respecting the cultural, social and media particularities of each place where they wish to establish a presence. This is where the importance of a localised communication strategy comes into play: it is what we call “kilometre zero” communication.

Sail local waters

International companies working with comma and with the other Fincom Alliance  members as  strategic communication partners are well aware of the difficulties of achieving impact and generating engagement with local audiences outside from their original regions. From the language barrier, the lack of knowledge of the current affairs of a particular country and the routines of its media, to the lack of references on the political-social-cultural panorama of each area, the challenges of deploying a media relations and PR strategy run from a remote city headquarters are innumerable.

On the other hand, having a local partner that interacts with the media and has visibility and reputation among journalists, influencers and communicators in a particular region is paramount. Similarly, a network of consultancies or agencies in the main areas of influence of a brand multiplies the reach and power of its messages and communicative acts, by having the ability to link its activity with the idiosyncrasy, current affairs and the journalistic routines of the region’s media. With the addition that, in the event of a reputational crisis, a local partner will work diligently to protect the brand and modulate messages in order to shape public opinion.

The international brands that place importance on this strategy achieve a higher number of press impacts and the quality of these are higher, as they leverage their key messages on the needs of the local newsrooms who will demand reputable spokespeople to raise the profile of their articles. In short, they are capable of achieving a state of perfect symbiosis with journalists, becoming their sources of information, while the newsrooms  elevate these spokespersons to the status of opinion leaders.

Communication consultancy is instrumental in strengthening these relationships, as it has the pulse of current affairs in the region, it knows the structures of publishing and media groups and their social and institutional biases, inclinations and relationships. It regularly interacts with newsrooms, editors, journalists and communicators. acting as a filter and rationing the flow of information in volume and intensity, while at the same time it is the gatekeeper and allows access to those spaces where the brand is interested in appearing.

Keys to consider when dealing with local media

 

To summarise, local media agencies are indispensable allies to global brands, acting as expert guides, providing deep market insights and key community connections. And they are endowed with the following qualities:

  1. Command of local customs and culture. Effective communication goes beyond translating words; it involves understanding the cultural subtleties, values and traditions of each community.
  2. Adaptation to the media context. Media idiosyncrasies vary from place to place. What works in one country may not have the same impact in another. It is essential to adapt communication strategies to local preferences and trends.
  3. Consideration of socio-political factors. Political and social dynamics also influence brand perception. It is crucial to be aware of political and social trends to avoid controversy and maximise positive impact.
  4. Flexibility and adaptability. The ability to adapt discourse and strategies to local interests is essential for success, even when the best course of action is not to communicate. Local agencies can offer this flexibility, while global campaigns may lack the necessary sensitivity.

In fact, at comma we can certify that those international brands we work with who trust our recommendations on the adaptation of their communication to the Spanish public, seek the angle of interest of the country’s audiences and share with us the control over the messages, in order to adapt them to the news pulse, have a higher return on their communication investment.

Moreover, within country-wide strategies, local angles are relevant: having a delegation in Catalonia allows us to promote the interests of our clients in the region, adapting its activity to local sensitivities and enhancing the interaction of their messages with the recipients, which increases the feeling of belonging.

Risks of non-adaptation

On the other hand, ignoring regional peculiarities can result in misinterpreted messages or campaigns that do not resonate with their audiences, leading to the failure of any communication strategy. The absence of a local communications agency can exacerbate these risks. It is therefore crucial for clients to be flexible and open to shaping their discourse according to the context in order to avoid exposure to:

  1. Misunderstandings and inefficiencies. Each region has its own unique culture, language and sensitivities. What works well in one part of the world may be completely inappropriate or ineffective in another.
  2. Absence of press impacts. Lack of local angles in reporting can lead to media irrelevance. Local journalists tend to prioritise stories that are of interest to their local audience.
  3. Lack of dialogue with local journalists. Not being accessible to all journalists on the record may limit the company’s ability to build strong relationships with local media.
  4. Failure to adapt to journalistic routines. Trying to impose on journalists processes and criteria that work in other regions can be a nuisance for journalists, which will strain the relationship with them.

Decalogue of local communication for global companies

The dissertation presented here offers ten points to be taken into account for any company that is entering an area outside its geographical domain;

  1. Extensive local market research before launching a campaign.
  2. Leveraging local agency networks for broad and effective coverage and expertise.
  3. Recognition and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.
  4. Consideration of socio-political factors in communication planning.
  5. Adapting the message and strategies to local preferences and sensitivities.
  6. Transfer of part of the control of the message to the chosen partner for local communication.
  7. Investment in building long-term relationships with the local community.
  8. Deployment of relations with local media and journalists through local consultancies that know the routines and biases.
  9. Flexibility and responsiveness to changes in the local environment.
  10. Constant monitoring and periodic evaluation of the reception of the message and adjustments as necessary.

 

In conclusion, it should be emphasised that localised communication is essential for the success of global companies in a diverse and ever-changing world. By understanding and adapting to the characteristics of each market, brands can establish meaningful and lasting connections with their local audiences and thus boosting their growth and reputation worldwide. Failure to adapt, to be flexible and to give up some of the control of the message in a local communications consultancy leads irremediably to insignificance.

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