Answers to the questions our American clients ask about doing PR in Europe

Europe has a very different culture from the USA, particularly when it comes to the media. We often get asked questions about PR in Europe, so we thought it would make sense to put them together in a frequently-asked questions (FAQ) blog post.

Are print magazines still a thing in Europe?

Yes. It’s still the case that some readers prefer print. This is particularly true in Eastern Europe and Germany, but you can still find publications with print circulations around Europe.

The readership of print magazines continues to decline, so just because print is still relevant, don’t think it’s the most important medium. In particular, we’re seeing younger engineers across Europe spurn print for digital, so your campaign should always be digital-first.

Why didn’t journalists attend my breakfast meeting?

Generally speaking, journalists don’t like breakfast meetings in Europe (this is particularly true in the UK). There are many factors that result in their dislike of early mornings: frequently it’s related to the challenges of travel in rush-hour, personal commitments before work or even the journalist living a long way from where you hold the press conference. We’d always recommend trying to avoid breakfast meetings.

I don’t speak the language: does that mean I can’t be interviewed?

Most B2B trade journalists speak English and are prepared to interview people who don’t speak the local language. Sometimes, however, they’ll ask for an email interview, as this allows them to take time to understand your responses.

We’d always recommend avoiding telephone interviews in this case – having the journalist able to see your face, whether that’s virtually or in-person will make it much easier for them to understand what you are saying.

Do journalists really want to talk to local spokespeople?

Yes. Often publications will prefer to talk to a local personality. There are several reasons for this, from wanting to have a “local market” spin on the interview to wanting someone that their readers are more likely to relate to or even meet in their work.

Despite this preference for local spokespeople, there is always an opportunity to have senior executives, particularly CEOs and CTOs, interviews in local publications. However, it’s often worth bringing a local spokesperson along too, as this may help build the relationship and could ensure that there are no misunderstandings due to translation.

How do I get a feature article placed?

In the USA, many trade journalists like to work with a company that is developing a feature article (also called a contributed article). This collaborative process is much less common in Europe, and journalists will typically look for completed articles that they can review and select, rather than an abstract.

Should I change the style of writing for Europe?

The preferred format and style of releases do change over time, both in the USA and in Europe. If we were to generalise, we’d say that European editors prefer more succinct and factual releases than their American counterparts. German editors in particular like lots of data and numbers to validate any claims you make in your releases and articles: sometimes this can seem like focussing on features rather than benefits, but trust us, a more factual style will work better for a German audience.

Publications also vary considerably, so rather than relying on rules of thumb for each country, it’s always better to engage with an editor or knowledgeable agency to find out what tweaks to your style will produce the best results.

Do I need a photo with my press release?

To be honest, most American titles are now keen to find images for online stories, so most of our clients are pretty good at supplying images. But if you are thinking of issuing a release in Europe without a photo, please think again. European journalists are more focused on the visual look of their publications than some of the Americans, so having a good photo really does help get coverage.

Do I need to translate releases?

You don’t need to translate your releases, but you’ll get much better results if you do. Even though many journalists across Europe speak excellent English, it does take them longer to take an English language release and translate it than it does to use one in local language. In fact, one journalist we know said it’s about three times longer to use English language releases.

So given the pressure that journalists are under, and the competition for coverage, you’ll find that local language releases will almost always outperform those in English in continental Europe, and the RoI on translation is usually excellent.

Do British editors really go to the pub on Friday afternoon?

This is a stereotype of British journalists that, particularly in the trade media, is a little dated. Although pub culture still exists, you won’t find many journalists drinking from Friday lunchtime. However, there is still a culture that you don’t organise big events (such as press conferences) on a Friday afternoon.

How many holidays are there in Europe?

It is true that there are a lot more holidays in Europe. Whether it’s the majority of the French workforce taking August off, or the many different public holidays in months like May, it can be difficult to navigate vacations and holidays. Check with an agency that knows the countries you are targeting before planning a press tour: it’s important to make sure you don’t pick a day when no one can attend!

Do I need to pay to translate a feature article?

Yes. Generally, there is an expectation from publications that if a company writes an article and the publication is going to publish it, the company funds the cost of translation.

Do I really need to pay the journalist to translate my article?

Sometimes journalists do supplement their income by charging companies for translation of feature articles. They’ll often say that they want the translation style to be consistent. Generally having a journalist working on the publication doing your translations will result in outstanding quality and a real commitment to publish the article, so we’d always recommend that you agree if a journalist gently suggests they should do the translation.

Don’t the English-language pan-European titles cover the whole of Europe?

The English-language titles do have some reach across Europe (as do some of the titles published in the USA), but that reach is limited. In pretty much every country the local language titles will have a greater penetration of your target audience than titles published in English from outside of the country. So if you want to be successful, you need to engage with local publications.

Do I need to address every country in Europe?

No, of course not. In fact, we strongly recommend that companies focus on a small number of key markets initially as they build their presence in Europe and the European media. Focussing on the countries that matter, and doing a great job there, will be far more effective than doing a superficial job in a larger number of countries. It will also be a lot more manageable and cost-effective.

Why is a journalist so keen to take my photo?

Some journalists will be paid extra if they take a photo that is published. So they will be very keen to take your photo rather than use a stock image. Don’t feel bad – it makes for a better story, so everyone benefits.

I met with the journalist a year ago, why are they not keen to meet again?

It’s possible they didn’t find the interview useful, but it’s more likely that they are frustrated that you met and then didn’t continue engaging with them. It’s really important to be consistent with your PR. A once-a-year press tour annoys journalists as it’s all about you, and not about what they need. In fact, there is a word for executives from American companies that do this: “seagulls”. This is because they fly in, make a lot of noise, and then leave a mess afterwards. If you want to meet with journalists, make sure you are engaging with them on a frequent basis, rather than only when it suits you.

Is everything different in Europe?

No! Of course not. The PR process isn’t completely different, and generally, a good story in the USA will be just as effective in Europe. We’ve written this blog post because it can be easy to assume everything is the same, and so people can get caught out by the few areas that are different.