Now that all PR campaigns use digital media, PROs should think about international audiences when they create the online elements of campaigns. Ruby Quince, head of digital at PR consultancy Grayling, says that this is important because of how brands come up in online searches. He adds: "Campaigns need to be mindful of the new implications of online media – the fact that people will talk back to the brands and that the message is out there long-term.".
The question is how to successfully communicate with an international audience. Quince says that the tools to identify and segment audiences are better than ever before, allowing PROs to focus on specific communities within any country or communities using specific languages across multiple regions. He explains: "The ability to laser-guide our campaigns means that we’re massively more efficient communicators and can tailor a message like never before. Recently I’ve worked on a campaign where our target audience was limited to just a few hundred people scattered across the world.
"Perhaps that’s an extreme example, but it illustrates the degree to which we can target, and also the value of local language. Nearly all markets are more receptive to media in their native tongue, and to not take advantage of that would be missing a trick. There are references to “English as the language of the internet”, and many international communities adopt English for simplicity, but in my experience, and for many types of client, the mother tongue rules the roost. German audiences want to consume their media in German, so if you can offer that, why not? You’ll get the best results."
However, content can still be universal in appeal, and specific types of content that are created for online audiences, such as applications, games, data visualisations and video, can often work across all campaign countries, but they tend to be more effective when they are part of a wider local foundation, combining other media and utilising the local experience.
Nevertheless, it is still difficult to maintain a constant brand message throughout all cultures. Quince says: "I’m struggling to think of brands with universal, consistent appeal across the vast range of cultures and global communities that a ‘global’ message could reach. Perhaps Coke does, but even a brand like Nike will adapt its message at a local level to have the most resonance with the audience. At the heart of the message is a universal truth – for example, 'Just Do It' for Nike – but the deployment of that message is best adjusted to suit that given market. With digital, there is the added advantage of communities that will sometimes make the modifications themselves, and remix the content to suit their peer groups. As long as PROs keep a simple, clear universal truth at the heart of their mesages, they will succeed in delivering a single campaign with multiple deployments."
Often, with digital work, brands are looking to build communities and connect people around a common message, so even if the message is the same in all territories, people want to connect on their local networks and particularly with people in their own country. Quince says that he subscribes to the “think global, act local” philosophy, with the addition, "that to act efficiently locally, you need to be able to think local too!"
"Perhaps the notion of an 'overseas audience'” itself raises problems – more and more we’re talking less in terms of geographical and demographic boundaries, and towards interest-based (or intent-based) niches and communities. If my client sells golf clubs, an avid 22 year old golfer in Munich will likely have more in common with a 58 year old golfer in Budapest than with his next door neighbour, and a unifying ‘product truth’ should be more effective."
Describing one campaign that he thinks has worked particulary well internationally, Quince gives the example of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) “15 and counting” campaign that Grayling worked on: "A charity petition that engaged the target youth audience in over 30 countries and gathered 150,000 signatures in support of sexual rights for young people. We used multiple web platforms to suit the target audience – mobile in Africa, India and parts of Asia. We worked with innovative communities of creative young people who created their own campaign content (we did a large promo on dopetracks.com and have over 30 songs created that delivered the campaign messaging and collectively got over 50,000 plays), which resonated with the global international audiences and were listened to around the world. Each local market made the campaign their own because we made sure that they had the tools with which to adapt the content to their market."
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