In our PR series today Swedish PR expert Jan Ståhlberg, shares some insights on current local PR and communications trends in the land of elks and IKEA.*
1. What is the latest trend (change) in PR you have identified in your region?
Jan Ståhlberg: The PR landscape is in the midst of a strong process of change with many new media, which many companies and organizations have not yet learnt to master. The single most powerful trend is of course the use of social media, e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. However, social media is not a stand-alone PR tool, but often far more efficient when used in combination with traditional PR services. Many companies and organizations are still looking for guidelines on how to use and behave on the social media arena.
Apart from this, four strong PR trends are visible:
- The usability of press releases has dropped dramatically, if they aren’t combined with pitching or follow-up.
- Media is more and more person-oriented. The use of charismatic spokespeople and/or celebrities (influencers) enhances the chances of getting the messages through.
- The Swedish editorial offices have become “anorectic”. Fewer journalists (or temporary stand-ins) have to cover more, and sometime also take on the role as photographers and graphic designers. The journalists tend to spend more time looking for facts on the Internet, and rewriting, than seeking information via other sources. They are also more open for/depending on input from companies – or PR agencies.
- The boundaries between PR agencies, ad agencies and digital agencies are not as rigid any more.
2. How does your agency handle/embrace this?
Jan Ståhlberg: We recommend our clients to embrace a clear strategy for social media and also allocate resources for both proactive and reactive use of the new tools. Social media presence should also be combined with traditional PR. A web-based newsroom – preferably with news, backgrounders, pictures, videos, event calendars, contact details, blogs and with the possibility to subscribe for updates, RSS feeds and links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. – is definitely recommended.
To succeed in the media buzz, it is important to focus on one single issue at a time and, wherever possible, seek for a personalized angle. We put a lot of emphasis on story pitching for individual journalists, rather that mass distribution. We also focus on cultivating industry spokespeople at our clients, and “domain claim”, i.e. positioning our clients as true market leaders and knowledge sources.
The fact that the journalists’ resources are very limited represents both a challenge and a possibility. The key to success is to, at all times, present pitches and backgrounders of the highest quality. It is also important to note that errors have a long life on the web and therefore keep track of all online coverage, and if necessary have inaccurate information corrected quickly.
3. Can you give a recent example from a project?
Jan Ståhlberg: Once a year our client ISS issues the “Big Property Award” to Swedish students who have written the year’s most groundbreaking thesis on property management. We invented the award in close co-operation with a client, and have been acting as a driving force in the ongoing development of the ceremony. At the award event, which is attended by some 1,000+ participants, the client’s CEO is on stage handing over the diplomas and prizes. Social media and traditional media relations are combined, where we mix exclusive interviews and wide-spread news pitching with Facebook and YouTube feeds.
See also www.storapropertypriset.se (Sorry, in Swedish only).
One shouldn’t invite Nordic journalists to expensive dinner meetings and why even well known brands like IKEA should avoid spelling their name in capitals with a trademark sign IKEA® in their media communication activities.
4. 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.
5. 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”.
6. 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 focus 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 communications industry 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.
*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.*
GlobalCom is an award-winning worldwide alliance of Public Relations specialists and agencies that offers international PR services to organisations looking to launch their products and services simultaneously in multiple countries.