A screenshot of a British-American translator website and an online British slang dictionary

Jul 2016

You say Tomato, I say Tomatoe

Written By Paul Maher

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As someone who has lived and worked in tech PR on both sides of the pond, I have first-hand knowledge of story-telling in many lands. The fundamentals are the same but it’s the execution that differs – substantially.
Europeans and Americans have different perceptions about each other and most of those are just myths. Let’s debunk a few:

  • Myth 1. Size Matters.
    There is a common misconception PR is easier in the US because it’s bigger. The equally common error has PR being easier in EMEA because the countries are smaller. Both are far from the truth. In the U.S. greater geographical size means a dispersed population. So while major businesses and media still tend to be based in big cities, reporters are now everywhere. So the perception of one big metropolitan press pool is way off the mark. Europe’s more fragmented markets have some advantages. Smaller countries = shorter distance between urban areas.  Translation: a day trip to Leeds from London is a doddle, travelling NY to Chicago in a day is almost out of the question. We each have our geographical challenges and advantages.
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  • Myth 2.  Europe is insignificant.
    Silicon Valley continues to be the tech epicenter and we Americans are great at thinking we are, well, great. However, there’s a huge misconception that the tech market in EMEA doesn’t have influence back in the US. European tech may not have the scale or size but the importance can’t be discounted and business journalists do understand this when it comes to innovation or real market changers.

    Sure, if a story is just about customers or partners, based in Europe, then yes, we go back to being narcissists and only want to hear about what is happening in our own backyard regardless of us living in the era of globalization. But we have to face facts, if a story resonates well in a local European market it’s more likely to trump Silicon Valley and take precedence.
  • Myth 3. Leaner is Better. Two factors; economic recessions and our reliance on digital, have streamlined editorial teams. This makes freelancers more and more important to influence. A colleague of mine with over 30 years in tech PR had a new app to pitch and left voicemail after email to a publication (uh, Mashable – a major online destination). The reality is of course that we PRs outnumber journalists these days. She eventually found an intern who actually wrote about her client’s story. The moral is ‘don’t forget the ‘small people’’. EMEA has always had smaller staffing levels with less specific focuses than US titles. Whereas US titles once bathed in riches, having a reporter to cover specific niches e.g. super computer processing for companies with 10,000 employees or more based in Ohio. but it’s no longer the case. Fewer staff on both continents mean continued pressure for everyone. PRs need more persistence and better relationships.

Yes, we are different. We speak different languages. Eat different food and have different interests – in our football, we wear helmets and tackle each other…on purpose. So when a transatlantic colleague says a story won’t get covered in a particular country, listen to her.
We each engage differently with the media and each have our own challenges. America is big and dominated by big players but local stories still matter to us, just as they do in European markets. We cultivate our relationships differently too, there’s less opportunity to ‘Go for beers’.
Ultimately though, results are results and how we get there shouldn’t matter. Embrace the differences and don’t tell me how to spell aluminum.

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