May 2023

US versus UK PR – do you know the five crucial differences?

Written by Paul Maher

US versus UK PR – do you know the five crucial differences?

Despite the naysayers, we Europeans adore US culture. From Springsteen to Swift, Levi’s to BAPE, Ford to Tesla, Rock n’ Roll to ridesharing, Disney or Netflix, we know great ideas when they cross the pond.

European entrepreneurs also spot the business opportunities in the amazing tech platforms which US innovators, many of them founded by European emigres, create and then build entire categories upon. Indeed entrepreneurs everywhere are constantly assessing innovations from around the world and adapting them to local markets, PR and integrating them into our digital lives.  

America is also the undisputed home of modern marketing, from branding and advertising in the last century to social media, digital commerce and influencers in this one. In our Public Relations profession the largest and most-storied public relations groups, Edelman, Interpublic and Omnicom, with combined revenues over $15bn and valuations many times this, are all headquartered in the USA.

Back to PR’s birthplace

Given America is the cradle for amazing brands, so many legendary tech firms and also the original birthplace of PR, one might think Tech PR’s best-practices are to be found there. It seems not. Over the last few years, as our business has matured and scaled, Positive’s leadership has been asked multiple times to help out when US PR agency teams have, for a wide variety of reasons, failed to deliver for clients we share.

Often these are light-hearted observations and we find them very mildly flattering. Increasingly though it has become impossible to ignore what are clear intentions to find alternatives to the traditional US PR approach. We wondered why and what we should do, so we are today announcing our intention to actively service the US needs of our clients.. More on that soon. 

We take our clients’ needs very seriously and those we have been lucky enough to serve for an extended period of time. A growing number, understand the benefit of the Positive approach. We have now codified what that is and will share it here over time. So, without being presumptuous, decades of watching our US counterparts provided us with some learnings which we think will differentiate Positive for US buyers. 

Modestly and genuinely in the hope that starting the conversation will help raise the bar for all PR professionals everywhere we want to share our learnings.

1. US PRs love meetings

Nothing wrong with meetings per se, but they need to be forward-leaning. Productive meetings are for ideation, feeding back on learnings and future plans only. Reporting should all be done on other digital platforms.  And they should seldom, if ever, be scheduled for more than 30 minutes.

2. Strategy over actions

Strategy is obviously critically important. It should be set, checked-in and reset after it has had time to bed in. Sometimes though, it is just time to act. Over-strategizing slows down, or replaces execution. Pro Tip – creating press lists is not ‘press strategy’.

3. Payment ≠ results

Some US Tech agencies we’ve worked with are, in US parlance, as ‘scrappy’ as Positive. Most are more comfortable with long explanations of why the press has shown no interest in a particular announcement. By contrast, when it comes to negotiating fees, innovation shown is off the charts, even including pre-payments in ‘escrow’ for work not even started yet. Payment and results need to be more linked.

4. Hidden costs

The hidden cost of doing business is not 100 percent the agencies’ fault. The first time non-US PRs experience the arcane and overpriced US newswire services they are both shocked and unamused. A simple service delivering press information should be priced in cents and yet costs low hundreds of dollars With this as a baseline, it is easy to rack up massive bills stateside.

5. News immunity

It is not rocket science that PRs need to stay right on top of the news agenda. This though seems to be news for too many US Tech PRs. Our UK-based teams are too often updating US teams, hours behind the UK, on what is happening in the wider news agenda. Our teams are always across the macro and industry news cycles. That way our clients can make the news.

Of course, these five points do not apply by any means to all US tech PRs, it is more a collection of observations about the average agency. For our part, we are on a mission to bring our innovations and what we have learnt back ‘to the ole country of PR’. 

We know, in the land of the free, our best-practices will be perfected, re-engineered and sent back to us even better. Looking forward very much to working on the next iteration of this fine profession which, like so much of what is good about modern life, was born in the USA. We don’t want to make PR great again, just give back and adapt it to different times.

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