Dealing With International Media: Time Zones, Language, Culture and Other Factors

international

The next time you think you are having a tough day in PR dealing with media in the U.S., count yourself on the lucky side. You could be dealing with media around the world.

Time zones, language, culture and other factors make dealing with international media much more complex and difficult than strictly doing U.S. media outreach.

I define international media as being print, wire services, web and broadcast outlets in France, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, South America, Canada, the U.K., Dubai, the Middle East, Turkey, Moscow, other parts of Russia and the former Soviet states, eastern and central Europe, and Asia. Also, there are international media with U.S. news bureaus. (More on that last point later.)

Time Zones

When you are dealing with U.S. media, you can have a time zone difference of from one to three hours (bar Hawaii). When you deal with international media, that difference can increase to five or more hours; this may not seem like much, but trust me, it is. When you get into the office, it can already be the end of the day overseas with the five hours or more difference.

Language

For many Americans and many PR people, we only speak English. When you are dealing with international media, they may speak English but their first language is their native tongue. This can be a problem when doing research, since their websites are also in their language; some have an English sub-page and others you can figure out with Google translate—but that is not perfect.

Culture

The culture is different—both of the culture of a foreign country and the culture of that country's media. Even if the U.K., where we speak the same language, the media can be different. Take the British tabloids, for instance—they make the U.S. tabloids look tame. Also, a minor point: U.K. English has different spellings and meanings in certain phrases and words than U.S. English, so you will need two versions of a press release.

How to Deal With These Obstacles

Perhaps the easiest way to address these hurdles is to pitch and develop PR relationships with international media covering the U.S. through news bureaus they have here, just as U.S. media have bureaus overseas. But this may not get you all the coverage you want or need, as the U.S. bureaus may not cover all the beats you are looking for.

A better way to deal with international media is to have on-the-ground local PR agencies in a range of key countries so they can deal directly with the media there. Also, it makes sense to have on-the-ground in-house PR people if your company or client has a large international presence. Both of these options should be able to address the three main obstacles here: time zones, language and culture.

PR Tips for Dealing with International Media

  • The media is the media, no matter the country: the same ground rules apply.
  • Keep in mind the differences in dealing with international media and U.S. media.
  • Have a plan in place to address time zones, language and culture. Use international clipping services to help track coverage. Make sure your media database has overseas media listed.
  • Hire a local on-the-ground PR agency and a local in-house PR person; have them report to you in the U.S. (if that if where headquarters is).
  • Have a crisis PR plan in place to deal with international media.As we all know, the world keeps changing. To deal with international media, you need to keep up and have specific PR plans in place.

Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at ajbcomms@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms