Going global – working with international press

4th February 2015

By Rebecca Nesbit

The global media landscape is a confusing place: American press releases are like features, West African journalists require stipends, and most countries don’t use embargoes. At January’s working with international press event we heard from four speakers about how to secure coverage around the world.

Stempra member and freelancer,  Indi Ghangrekar, has put together a really useful list of take home messages from the event, so I just have a few extra thoughts to share here.

Every year at the Stempra Press Officer Training Day, it is clear that many press officers find it hard to build relationships with busy journalists, especially if they’re based outside London. This is even harder when you’re based in a different country to the journalist, but the speakers reminded us that we aren’t starting from scratch – we may already have contacts who can help.

If your study has co-authors in different countries, their university press office can provide invaluable contacts, and any UK journalists you know with are likely to have colleagues focusing on different parts of the world. Having relationships with international correspondents at global news agencies such as PA and Reuters can go a long way.

It’s also possible to identify journalists you don’t have any shared contacts with. Journalists round the world can be found on Twitter, and Google translate will let you know who covers what (while providing light entertainment with miss-translations).

Strategic thinking
Ask yourself the same questions you would for UK media relations. You may have been given a brief of ‘secure international coverage’, but it’s important to be more focused than this. What are you trying to achieve and who are you trying to reach?

You also need to be strategic about timing, both time of day and timing in relation to the news agenda. If you want to have your press releases in people’s inboxes before morning editorial meetings, world clock is your friend. It’s also important to research local events. If the country you’re trying to reach has a general election coming up, your story will undoubtedly go unnoticed.

Your scientists are likely to be even less familiar with international media than you are, so internal communications are important. Make sure any researchers involved in media work understand the process, and that their expectations are managed.

Careful thought needs to be given to spokespeople, and they need to be armed with local facts (Do you run clinical trials in that country? Do you have local employees?). In some instances overseas trips can be an opportunity for your executives to act as spokespeople.

If you are sending out a translated version of a press release it is important to have a spokesperson who will speak that language.

No press officer can be an expert in every country, but time, energy, and trial and error will mean there’s no limit to where your story can be picked up (with, it’s true, the possible exception of North Korea).

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