In the first part of the interview Swedish PR expert Jan Ståhlberg reported on current trends such as Social Media and personalised press releases. Today he explains why it wouldn’t be recommendable to invite Swedish editors for dinner meetings and why one tends to find a completely different staff in editorial offices in summer than in the rest of the year.
*The series is based on phone or face-to-face interviews and written input, therefore please excuse language mistakes which might reflect foreign language influences.*
1. Are there any PR practices in which you think your region differs from PR in other part of the world?
Jan Ståhlberg: As the Nordic countries are relatively small, the total number of media titles is low. As for vertical media, there are but a few titles per industry. On the other hand, local and regional dailies have a good reach, in an international comparison. Most of the journalists are generalists, and experts are becoming fewer.
Although most, if not all, Nordic journalists are fluent in English, it is practically meaningless to issue a press release in English, while at the same time it is perfectly fine to conduct interviews or press meetings in English.
Nordic journalists are sensitive to impingement. Bribes are an absolute “no go”. Thus gifts or expensive dinners is not a recommendable PR tool. Press trips where companies pay for tickets and hotels are often turned down, at least by the larger titles. Placement of bylined articles is not very effective either, as most journalists prefer to write the articles themselves.
The people in Nordic countries care a lot about family life, and that goes for the journalists as well. Thus you can forget about arranging dinners or social events in evening time. (Lunches are still OK.)
And as the winter is long, dark and cold, the summer time is precious. Which means that there is less staffing during the summer months of June-August. Although it can be difficult to get in contact with the ordinary staff, there are lots of fill-ins that can be attracted to publish odd news in the vacation period.
2. Can you describe common mistakes foreign companies make?
Jan Ståhlberg: Companies often consider the Nordic region as one entity and try to manage media relations from only one of the countries (normally Sweden). But the Nordic region includes five countries – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland – with five different languages and five different media cultures. Thus it is important to be present PR-wise in each country.
From an international point of view, it is important to know that PR is rather expensive in the Nordics. The overall cost level is higher here than in most other countries.
International companies often overestimate the Nordic media’s interest of making interviews with corporate executives. These offers are nine out of ten times turned down, unless the executive really has something newsworthy to tell – and if so it also has to have a clear local angle. (The only exception from this rule would be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet…)
International companies usually like to have their company name written in capital letters and noting its registered trademarks etc in press releases (e.g. IKEA®). However this is highly unliked, and laughed at, by Nordic journalists. Even if it hurts, just write “Ikea”.
3. What do clients from other markets need to keep in mind when they plan to do PR in your region?
Jan Ståhlberg: All business is local – don’t try to make PR in Norway from Sweden, or vice versa. Nordic journalists also focuse on the hard fact news and have almost no time for background information. Therefore the press conferences should be held short; about 45 minutes including Q & A. Media should then be offered their own time after the press meeting for specific questions and interviews, broadcasting media first.
And try to establish a comprehensive and updated company news room on the Internet – in the respective local languages. Nordic journalists spend much of their time at their desks, searching the web.
Learn how PR works in Vietnam next Tuesday and read what companies looking to conquer this emerging market should be watching in their communication initiatives.
Jan Ståhlberg is owner, Chairman of The Board, Senior Communication Advisor, Media Strategist and PR consultant at InformationsCompagniet. Jan is trained in communications and educational science at Stockholm University, and has worked within communication since the mid 1970s.
InformationsCompagniet are specialists in helping companies and organizations create long-term communication strategies and to implement those through a variety of activities and services including professional PR, communication and event support. Our aim is to strengthen our clients’ brands and contribute to the development, growth and improved performance. Our customers include both Swedish and international companies and organizations. Through our international partners in GlobalCom PR Network, we effectively work with public relations and communication partners outside of Sweden. Our Credo – Experience Quality Result.