October 21, 2016
Belgium is well known for its chocolate, fries and the best beers in the world, but we are also good at many other, less well-known things!
PR in Belgium is unique and you really need to have a good knowledge of the media landscape to get a grip on it. In this article, I’ll unpack the seven most important things to keep in mind when doing PR in Belgium.
The most important thing you always have to keep in mind is that Belgium is a bilingual country. Being able to anticipate in both Dutch and French is essential in every aspect of our job. When writing a press release, pitching news or posting social content, you have to tailor your message not only to the audience, but to the language. Working in two languages is not only more time-consuming, the media landscape and culture also differs between both Flanders and Wallonia – what makes us a more complex market than any other EMEA country.
As in nearly every market, we face some challenging changes in today’s media landscape. Less journalists have to cover more stories and topics so they have less time and less specialised insights. Even though we are lagging behind the digital revolution a bit (as we do on more aspects – something typically Belgian we guess), bloggers and vloggers are becoming more and more important influencers too. ‘Everybody is a journalist’ is becoming a concrete trend in Belgium, as elsewhere in the world.
Capturing the journalists’ attention from the very first moment is key. Belgian journalists do not respond well to overly informal approaches. Always make sure to observe formalities during introductions and when sending pitches, but try to personalise your message and build a true and honest relationship. Think of it as a partnership as it works in both ways. Working with a scoop can also help to capture a journalist’s interest, but be careful to keep track on who gets a scoop when. It’s important to build partnerships with multiple journalists, and never bet all your money on one horse!
Keep content relevant and try to find a local angle to increase your chances of success. As we are a small country, our journalists like to see facts and figures they can put in perspective with bigger countries or a wider context.
Marketing budgets can be fairly tight in the Belgian market. It is important to plan strategically between marketing, PR and digital teams and you have to be creative to maximise your spend. Working around top topicals is a good option. Belgian lifestyle journalists love to write on top topicals or seasonal events such as Christmas, New Year, back to school and the summer holidays. These are easy moments to hitchhike on an existing story or theme, but only when you have good and strong content because the competition is fierce.
Newsjacking or leveraging trending news to elevate your message is another good idea. It’s all about choosing the right news story, getting the timing right and don’t force it. You have to monitor 24/7, be critical and try to jump in at the right time. Belgian journalists like to have some background information and to make content more engaging.
Quality over quantity is key. Don’t spam journalists with too many press releases or invites. Pick your battles and be critical.