What can international firms expect from UK media?

Written by Anna Hennessy

As a communications agency that works with technology companies that sell to the public sector, we have seen quite a few trends emerging over the years – often driven by public sector funding of specific policies. Currently, due to the demand to transform the UK public sector, the market is open to SMEs, international firms and new fresh suppliers to bring innovation and new ideas [breaking the hold of incumbent suppliers]. It’s the place to be for pioneering tech firms.

In the 19th century gold rush […I’m slightly pushing the analogy here] people set their glittering sights on the likes of the US, Australia and New Zealand. Today, with the UK Government’s focus on transformation, there has been a reversal in fortunes and tech firms from the same countries are swarming to the UK because there is a clear opportunity.

There is money to be had from the public sector and the UK is now home to many tech companies with heritage further afield as a result.

Due to the opportunity and shared language (but no means the temperature!), it’s no surprise that companies from Australia and New Zealand have landed upon our shores. Take a client of ours, TechnologyOne for example. It is Australia’s largest enterprise software company with over 30-years’ experience with government departments, higher education institutions and statutory authorities. It was a clever move. It’s team has the experience and knowledge that was transferable to this market and, today, the firm and its UK customers are reaping the benefits of its expertise to transform business outcomes in the cloud. Light years ahead of the old ways.

We also previously worked with Simpl – an IT consultancy with a heritage in New Zealand. The healthcare system in New Zealand is very similar to the UK and, with support for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the UK office of Simpl was successful in winning in number of UK health and care contracts.

On another level, we have major US clients that have recognised there are significant opportunities in the UK to bring their expertise to transform businesses. One of our clients, Masergy Communications, is a Dallas-based company that is competing, and winning, against the World’s biggest network and telecoms providers thanks to its innovative software-defined networking, advanced managed security, and Unified Communications technologies.

Similarly, DDN Storage, is changing the World around us by supporting some of the most critical scientific research in the UK; rare diseases, cancer, rocket propulsion engines, Oil & Gas exploration, manufacturing and processing are all benefitting from its best-of-breed high-performance storage solutions.

But, when it comes to the communication element of their business strategy, PR needs to be considered carefully, because in a nutshell, UK PR is a hugely different beast! There are nuances – and campaigns must be tailored for the UK market. So, what should companies consider when tailoring their PR campaigns for UK media?

Announcements – a scattergun approach of product or corporate announcements might work overseas due to the thirst for content and the endless amounts of media publications, but the UK is a different fish. There is limited appeal in announcements outside of the more niche press – your latest product update isn’t likely going to make it into Computer Weekly, for example, but building up a small core of interested journalists and bloggers is always worthwhile. But, you aren’t going to see much, if any press coverage on a corporate news announcement alone.

Award wins – press releases for award wins or speaking slots won’t be written about and they’re best saved for client websites only. We advise clients this and tell them it’ll probably do more harm than good to send these types of releases to journalists. More often than not, in the UK awards are produced by a particular publishing house or sponsored by a media publication, which really prevents interest in the awards by other media.

Issues – you need to understand the issues. What are the journalists writing about and how can you align your story with their agenda? They crave stories that relate to challenges and concerns of their readership.

Thought leadership – who doesn’t like reading a thought provoking take on a current issue and strong opinion surrounding this? These are a great source of content. Again, it can’t be self-serving. Become the expert, show your prowess but don’t be a preacher on your products or services, it won’t bode well. In the past few years, the press coverage we have secured for clients, from opinion articles has doubled from an average of 50-60 per year to over 100 articles. Right now, the media loves opinion articles.

Customer stories – customer stories are king in the UK. It’s demonstrable proof of a product or company’s benefits and successes, and journalists love to write about them. But, it can’t be a basic press release saying we’ve signed XYZ deal (they have little impact) or a five-page case study singing the praises of your company, but a real, tailored and issues based story with a peppering of how you have helped achieve the end goal. That truly will resonate with the journalist and the audience. Advocacy is key. In 2017, we have secured 150 press articles for our clients using customer references – a 44% increase on 2016. One single customer story, using the University of Bristol, achieved 27 media articles.

Face to face meets – are tough nowadays. A huge number of media publications are now 1 or 2 person operations and editors rarely get to go out for lunch unless they have promise of a specific story they can write. The number of media interviews we have secured has fallen by half over the past 3-years. Modern journalists like their desks!

Consistent global messaging – tailored locally works well. What may well be a hot topic in the US may not translate to being one in the UK, and vice versa. For that reason, it’s important that you partner with an agency that understands the market vendors are in and can provide advice and consultancy to take the global, corporate stories and messaging and make sure they work for a UK audience.

Finally, do you share your heritage? Do it! Be proud. Tell your story. You’re here for a reason and that’s because of your experience.  But, perhaps don’t mention you’re here for the gold rush….

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