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Renate van der Wal

Published on

August 17, 2016


International PR, London PR agency life, PR

You can spend every holiday in a city, but the only way to really get to know it is to live there.

I recently relocated from the Netherlands to the UK, swapping life in the LEWIS Amsterdam and Eindhoven offices for the London HQ. As a true Dutchie, I am a keen cyclist, and was excited to work on the UK campaign for a top e-bike brand. Having worked on the same account back in the Netherlands, this campaign helped me to recognise some of the differences between PR in the Netherlands and the UK.

I have identified three points in particular that a company looking to expand its PR campaign to the UK might find useful:

1. Normal Isn’t Universal.

It may sound obvious, but never forget that what is normal in your country of origin, may be unusual somewhere else.

For example, it seems to me that cycling is seen very differently in the UK and the Netherlands! Despite the fact that it is booming in the UK and cyclists make up 25% of peak morning traffic, cycling is still generally a less favoured form of transport, and widely viewed as form of exercise rather than a way to get around. Back home, many people casually cycled to and from the workplace. In London, I am one of the few that commutes on two wheels at a moderate pace, and without donning a Lycra outfit.

If I had assumed what is normal in Amsterdam was also normal in London, our campaign may have missed the mark. Being aware of these cultural differences when preparing your messaging documents, drafting content and creating other PR materials will help you to stay on track.

2. Media Relations Matter

In the UK, specialised journalists cover every topic and issue. Need someone that writes about competitive cycling? Or someone whose sole focus is sports gear? You will find that journalist!

On the one hand it’s great, because you can always find a specialist who knows what you’re talking about and understands your client. This helps you to deliver the right messaging to the reader, allowing you to engage your target audience.

On the other hand, it also requires continuous relationship building and a very in-depth media and product knowledge from PR teams.

Of course this is key in all countries, but it seems to be of particular importance in a city with so many PR agencies and brands fighting to be heard. Chatting to journalists and bloggers, creating media lists to familiarise yourself with publications and getting to know your journos are all good steps to take.

3. The Media and The Message

UK media is heavily influenced by US media and vice versa. Because of a shared language and other market similarities, many publications have outlets on both sides of the pond. This is a key factor when issuing press releases and setting embargoes. Dutch PRs will recognise this system as being similar to the synchronisation in timings between the Netherlands and Belgium, but on a much larger scale.

It is also worth bearing in mind the time differences within the US too, with three hours between PST and EST. On top of this, PR teams should be consistent with their use of British or American English.

These are just three of many things to take into account when you start doing PR in a different market.

Is it difficult for a foreigner to work in the PR industry in the UK? Yes and no. Of course it takes time to familiarise yourself with the UK media landscape. While I may miss some subtleties only a local to London will pick up on, I also bring a fresh perspective, and an in-depth knowledge of other regions of LEWIS’ global network.

If you are open to investing time in media relations, and learning about some of the key differences, a title as large as The Guardian will soon be as familiar to you as De Volkskrant.

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