Tip Sheet: Going International? Consider an Agency Network

In today’s global economy, more and more small- to mid-size companies are entering international markets. For those organizations that want to invest in and grow their brands globally through strategic marketing and public relations, going with a multinational PR agency is no longer the only option. Today, there are international networks of independent PR agencies that provide an alternative to organizations seeking the personalized attention of a smaller PR shop, as well as the international expertise of a multinational PR firm.

These agencies are connected through one entity, exchange information and have standardized practices, but exist in geographies across the globe. While they are part of an organization spanning many countries, employing hundreds of professionals and with millions of dollars in revenue, each agency within that larger group is an independent PR firm that offers the local know-how and expertise to meet and exceed client expectations.

What are some of the factors that draw companies to international PR networks instead of multinationals? International networks can offer several benefits that a large, multinational PR agency may be less likely to provide. Entities such as ECCO International Network, for example, are owned and managed by independent entrepreneurs. Those professionals not only have gone through the ranks of large agencies, but also have an in-depth understanding about what it means to take risks and start a business in a new market, as well as how to build it to a profitable entity.

Another factor is that independent, local agencies tend to be hungrier, as their survival depends more on your business.

Another benefit is a fee structure with low central overhead costs, meaning the PR spend is focused on people who deliver results directly for clients. Also, client teams tend to be smaller, without armies of expensive practitioners, accountants or lawyers which, in uncertain economic times may make the agency network more attractive.

The independent agencies within the network—in addition to that global perspective—have strong local expertise within target markets, ensuring that global messages and strategies are adapted into the regional language to get the best results for each geography.

Finally, the information and know-how exchange is multi-layered and very rich, as independent agencies are more nimble and fast-moving and can implement best practices or cutting-edge techniques quicker without going through tiers of approval.

For PR/marketing agencies or corporate entities considering working with an international communications network, I offer the following tips:

1.Targeted local expertise: Make sure that the agency network has strong representation in the markets in which you would like to launch your product/brand, as well as expertise within your industry.

2. Future growth: Think about the future and growth of your business or client’s business. Be sure that the network can service your needs in other countries/areas of interest if you grow fast.

3. Accreditation: Network members should be members of their country’s recognized public relations or marketing association or equivalent national body. Make sure, for example, that the network of agencies has standards to which it adheres, and ask about what these standards are and what metrics are in place to ensure agencies meet them.

4. Social media: The organization and its members should have strong social media experience/background. Social media is changing the way we communicate, search for information, make purchase decisions and form opinions about companies and brands. Any international network worth consideration should be on the cutting edge of social media and be involved in program execution on behalf of its clients in that space.

5. Diversity: Look for a wide range of represented industries such as pharma/healthcare, consumer products, technology, business to business and others. The broader the scope of expertise, the more likely the network is to be able to achieve goals for any and all of your clients or business units.

6. Relationships are paramount: When conducting a network review, ensure you have a good rapport with your network of choice, and that the partnership can be strong beyond the bottom line. Relationships, regardless of the industry, are so critical in achieving success. PRN


Huma Gruaz is the founder, president and CEO of PR agency Alpaytac, Inc. She can be reached at huma@alpaytac.com.