Breaking Through the Clutter
Buffing a Spa's
David vs. Goliath
Goliath vs. Davids
Coming to America
After the Launch
Why Is This Site Different From All Other
Leveraging Non-Profit Surveys
Serving Professional Service Firm: Bridgestar & the Nonprofit Sector
Coming to America
A number of media companies – like Pearson, News Corp., and technology
publisher IDG – own outlets across a number of countries. As businesses,
the different media outlets may operate along similar lines. But journalists
operate differently from country to country.
American media are geared to cover American companies, which are based
on American laws and culture. Take the time to get acquainted with the
cultural and business values of Americans. It will better equip you to
understand American journalists. And be sure you take the long view –
showcase your long-term commitment to the American market – or the reporters
will dismiss you as irrelevant.
A UK reporter may respond to news by saying, “excellent” or “brilliant,”
but that does not mean the reporter is really interested. Communications
professionals who are conducting programs in countries must know the rules
of the road before embarking inside another country's media – to spare
themselves of explaining to the client afterwards that the reporter did
not really mean “brilliant” in the traditional sense of the word.
Over the years, we’ve helped support dozens of international companies
and organizations in the US, the world’s largest market. Our clients and
- Canada: Vortex Aquatics, Lumenpulse, Longview Solutions, Research in Motion (RIM), Aptilon, 724
- Germany: Panoratio
- India: Reveleus, Mantas
- Israel: Nexense, Weizmann Institute of Science, Technion
- The Netherlands: UNIT4, Royal Phillips
- Sweden: Adra Match
- Russia: Luxoft
- The U.S. market is larger, more segmented and specialized. The most
important thing to remember is that you must be relevant, which means
you must establish local credibility. You must have a story that reflects
your commitment to the U.S. market and U.S. business trends, and is
backed up by relevant proof points and local anecdotes. And the most
important element is local customer references. The market – especially
the media – insists on U.S. customer references.
In fact, the top three most important factors for technology media
to write a story are:
- Local customers.
- Local customers.
- Local customers.
The media won't be interested in products or services until they
are available in the U.S. Even for technology widely used by shoppers
in U.K. supermarkets, U.S. reporters were interested "only when
the technology is available in this country." When the product
was finally available – in one supermarket in Cleveland – we were
able to secure placements in USA Today, The New York Times
and The New York Times Magazine (which called it one of
the retail industry's significant advances), ABC "World News
Tonight" and NBC "Dateline."
The U.S. media's interest in local customers is not unusual, of course.
The media in most countries want local customers. After South Africa's
first democratic elections in 1994, there was a huge thirst for international
(mostly U.K. and U.S.) expertise. But that soon palled, and businesspeople
and the media began asking what the relevance of global solutions
was to their particular circumstances. These days, South Africans
are keen to hear about applications that are relevant to them, and
about local case studies and success stories. The challenge for companies
entering a new country is signing that first set of customers so it
can have strong local references.
In terms of establishing a U.S. presence, international companies
need to have more than a sales office – this holds true for sales
offices of U.S. companies, too. For example, a San Jose-based reporter
might be interested in a U.S. company's local R&D facility but
not in a sales office.
Additionally, the U.S. media's lack of interest can extend to publicly
held companies that are not listed in U.S. markets sometimes
it can be easier to secure interest in a private company. For instance,
we found it was a lot easier to generate publicity for a publicly
held Canadian company once the company listed on NASDAQ; afterwards,
because a lot of business publications cover investment (or in this
economy, divestment) opportunities, we were able to generate significantly
more coverage for our client.
One way to make headway in this large market is to focus on business
issues rather than products. The reporter wants to know that your
company is committed to the U.S. market. You can do this by tailoring
your message to reflect the business environment of the U.S., and
what your company has to offer. A CEO or a C-level executive is best
suited to deliver this issues-focused approach. By taking an unconventional
stand, your executive will stand out from the crowd and establish
some thought-leadership on the topic.
- When targeting the U.S., remember that talking to I.D.C. or the Gartner
Group in Europe or Asia does not mean you are covering the U.S. market
analysts. You need to build the U.S. market analysts into your communications
program. Your approach to them should be one of long-term commitment.
Ideally, a local manager should have responsibility for building a long-term
relationship by using their reports, assessing their views and ensuring
regular contact. Also, be aware that in the U.S., industry analysts
"drive" categories; don't try to invent a new one. And make sure the
company knows what terminology an analyst firm is using to define the
category since different firms use different nomenclature. If possible,
try to map the product within a set of U.S. vendors, rather than compare
its to the company's home market. This will ensure that it is positioned
accurately in their current thinking.
- All English is not created equal; use the lexicon in the U.S. industry.
Executives who give compelling interviews in their native countries
should still think about being media trained in the U.S. One Canadian
executive used what may be a common expression in Canada – "Don't
sell the bear skin before you skin the bear" – but surprised the
U.S. reporter interviewing him; there was a pause from the reporter
before asking the next question. (We also advise U.S. executives to
avoid regional colloquialisms.) Another reason for media training: the
issue of competitive claims. For example, German law does not allow
executives to make specific competitive claims. However, in the U.S.,
executives tend to be somewhat aggressive with their competition. Your
global executives need to know what the U.S. reporters expect.
Media training is particularly important if executives have a strong
accent and are planning on conducting broadcast interviews. Without
having met them, we once set up broadcast interviews for a Belgian-born
CEO and the Croatian-born president at two former clients; their accents
were very heavy, which made it difficult for viewers to fully understand
them – and made for less effective, less compelling interviews. Phone
interviews are also difficult for U.S. journalists when the spokespeople
have heavy accents.
- The U.S. technology industry is marketing-driven. U.S. companies tend
to spend more on marketing than international companies. The accepted
U.S. ratio for spending on R&D vs. marketing is 30% vs. 70%. German
companies, however, are said to spend 70% on R&D vs. 30% on marketing.
This means that U.S. reporters have a higher tolerance for "marketing
lingo" than their journalistic colleagues in Germany, France and the
This doesn't mean that a company coming into the U.S. market needs
to build the biggest trade show booth or even spend the most on advertising
pages, it does however mean that CEO's expectations of what is possible
should be grounded in what others are spending for the same or better
results. For example, your CEO might not think a U.S. specific page
on your home page is necessary, but it is critical to establishing
your long-term commitment to the U.S. market – even if your company
is focusing on the Latino market, the fastest-growing demographic
in the U.S. (Mainstream U.S. companies like Proctor & Gamble and
Fleet Bank have recently launched Spanish-language initiatives involving
network commercials and a new website, but the approach is very much
U.S.-centric.) Also, remember that U.S. reporters are heavily dependent
on websites for their research, so they will turn to your site often.
- For companies offering technology products, proving the validity of
the technology is crucial to acceptance and earning market share. No
matter how clearly a company backs up its claims, technology buyers
require independent, expert verification for most software and hardware;
that validation comes in the form of reviews and awards from the highly
acclaimed labs of the IT trade press.
- U.S. technology companies usually have a larger direct sales force
and long-term associations with large systems integrators. This means
that they are "top of mind" for short lists. It is a given
in some instances that they will be considered just by the fact that
they are a known commodity.
- In the economic downturn, people buy from people they know (e.g.
“You never get fired for buying IBM.”). What this means is they are
already "marbled" into the industry. They have "buddies"
from prior positions. They have favors to call in. It takes time to
build the "home field" relationships, but it should be a priority
for international companies. Look into the local industry associations,
chambers of commerce and user groups. These are all outlets for creating
local business relationships that will reinforce your long-term commitment
to the U.S. market. Also, local state government often have a vested
interest in wooing international business to their state, so look into
the incentives they may offer.
- When working on collateral materials and websites for the U.S. market,
be sure to explore the local laws. The U.S. has copyright and data protection
laws, as well as laws that address environmental issues and competitive
claims. Also, when designing collateral materials, websites, etc., keep
in mind that design elements and color choice are in part cultural.
Design elements that are right for Japan or Brazil, for example, may
need to be adjusted to ensure they address the targets in the U.S. market
and reflect your global brand.
- There are several types of media to be targeted:
- National newspapers: which means USA Today, The Wall Street
Journal, and The New York Times. USA Today is geared
for the road warrior executive, and is available is most business
hotels throughout the country. The Journal has the advantage
over the Times of more space devoted to business; on the
East Coast, the Times may be more important but the opposite
is true on the West Coast.
Two other dailies have a national reach and a national focus:
Financial Times and Investor's Business Daily. Of
course, the former actually has a global reach and focus, and
is a strong competitor to the Journal for global executives,
but the more U.S. focused executives read the Journal.
IBD has a small but loyal readership. There are national
weekly newspapers, like The Star and the National Enquirer,
but those are tabloids sold in supermarkets and cover the
latest celebrity news and gossip.
In comparison, there are 11 national titles in the U.K., and they
each have an unusually high readership levels but readership
levels are on the decline. Unlike most U.S. newspapers (with some
notable tabloid exceptions, like the New York Post), U.K.
newspapers have what The Economist calls a "a culture
of irreverence," while German papers are perceived to be "tame
In dealing with the U.S. national newspapers, an international
executive would do well to have worked with the British media, which
are notoriously skeptical and aggressive and will jump on any perceived
weakness. The U.S. national media pride themselves on uncovering
the truth, and will go for the kill if they think they have a scoop.
- Local newspapers: which means papers that generally cover a city,
like the New York Daily News. There are some papers that
cover a larger region, like the Boston Globe, which views
its area of influence as all of New England, from Connecticut to
Maine. These papers are primarily interested in local businesses,
locally available products and services and local customer references.
- Consumer/general interest publications: which can have weekly
or monthly deadlines. Many of these are service-oriented publications,
which means they look for self-help news – and, of course, celebrity
- Trade publications: even very small industries are generally served
by two publications – the established magazine and the upstart that
figured it could do the job better.
- If the company is small or midsize, reporters will want to talk with
C-level executives – CEO, CFO, COO, etc., and don’t like talking to
VPs of Marketing or Communications. U.S. reporters prefer executives
with operational and P&L responsibilities.
- U.S. reporters don’t like leaving their offices for press conferences
unless the news is significant. If they do attend, they like to schedule
time afterwards for one-on-one interviews to get quotes different from
what other reporters have. This is different from reporters in the France,
who like to go to events, or in China. Also, when conducting telephone
press conferences, remember that, unlike China that has only one time
zone for the entire country, the U.S. has several time zones; holding
a telephone press conference in New York City at 9 a.m. before the markets
open will mean that most West Coast-based reporters, for whom it is
6 a.m., will not participate.
- What's do U.S. reporters consider to be news?
- Deals worth more than $200 million. However media will be interested
if it’s a hot company or industry sector (i.e., Amazon could make
an investment of $50 million)
- Developments in key sectors. For example, telecom equipment is
closely watched by business reporters – and are likely to have a
specific beat reporter – than SaaSs or SOAs.
- Depends on who’s affected. Consumer-relevant news – about DSL
in the homes – will get more than attention in business press than
news about B2B or back-office bank technology.
- Financial results.
- Turnaround stories (from layoffs to record profits).
- New or unusual corporate strategies.
- Revolutionary product or service.
- Significant merger/acquisition.
- Major partnership particularly in conjunction with significant
- Significant Customer wins – particularly in conjunction with
significant revenue figure.
- Reporters at top-tier U.S. business publications do not accept gifts
or free travel from companies they cover. While it may be common practice
to fly reporters from Canada or Europe to fly to the U.S. for important
meetings, reporters at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,
Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, and many others will not accept
the offer for even an inexpensive lunch, much less an extensive trip
to visit, say, a lab or a user conference.
- Top-tier U.S. media tend to be somewhat serious in their approach
and stingy with their time. The Italian approach of combining family
with business doesn't work, and neither does an approach that works
well in France, which is having an event with no news value just for
fun and relationship-building.
- In fact, Business Week editor-in-chief Stephen Shepard
recently told reporters and editors to stop going to lunches or
dinners with executives outside the office. Instead, they are supposed
to reserve the in-house dining facility.