By Mira Tahraoui
When it comes to communications or public relations, each country has its own specific characteristics. Not only at the level of language, but also, and above all, at the level of the preferences and workings. In order to be able to communicate with your targets effectively, you must first of all have a good knowledge and understanding of the social environment of those you are addressing. This is why large-scale global campaigns, which are often translated en masse, often do not have the same impact and level of consistency across different international markets.
As part of a team scattered all over the world, I am often called upon to explain the peculiarities of the French market to our clients. It's not just about a few more public holidays, or about the month of August, when the whole of France comes to a standstill. In this blog post, I will highlight a few key points to consider when establishing a PR and press relations strategy in France.
1. Embargoed releases? Yes, but sparingly
It’s true that, when it comes to major press releases, some journalists always prefer to receive the content in advance, to prepare their articles before the official announcement date. In France, although journalists appreciate receiving embargoed announcements, they generally prefer that these be limited to the most newsworthy ones. At the very least, it would have to be something like a new cutting-edge technology, a successful partnership, or a strategic expansion. The news under embargo must then be offered as an exclusive announcement a few days before the official date, and this will increase the likelihood of press coverage afterwards. If you take care to offer them interviews, and if you only give the scoop to a small number of publications, French journalists will appreciate the trust and attention given to their work. But when it comes to smaller announcements, such as the appointment of new executives or the umpteenth product update, there's no need to annoy your contacts with embargoed interview offers: just send them the press release on the day of the announcement.
2. Event strategy in France: focus on social interactions
Culturally, the French have the reputation of being very sociable and ‘touchy feely.’ Among some of our European neighbours, it would be unthinkable to hug or kiss each other, even less so in a professional context. Nevertheless, here are a few examples specific to France which demonstrate that the social aspect can be a resource to be exploited in communications:
a. Press trips: French journalists appreciate these trips, to meet face-to-face with vendors and suppliers at their head offices or even factories around the world, or with channel partners, for example. This is an excellent way to build strong relationships with influencers and put a face to these international contacts. These trips are a great way to make an impression during the launch of a new version of a product or service, to maintain good relations, or to answer live questions and get feedback from the field.
b. Press conferences and launch events: French journalists are fond of them and these formats, which are less formal than emails or telephone interviews, are appealing because they offer a change from the daily routine. These events are also a tool to keep your audience aware of, and to highlight, products and services face to face. The time given to questions/answers following the presentation is of the utmost importance for the press! You should never skip the Q&A section.
c. Product demonstrations : French journalists and bloggers greatly appreciate attending demonstrations of the technology in question. These live demos allow them to gain a better understanding and in-depth technical knowledge of products and innovations. As a result, the quality of the press write ups increases because the product has been shown in action.
3. Are we heading towards the digital transformation of press and public relations in France?
Not yet, because in France, public relations is still very traditional: emails and telephone interviews, for the most part. Nevertheless, journalists are increasingly present on social networks, particularly on Twitter and linkedIn, whether as their publications or as themselves. This new-found proximity allows you to get hold of them more easily, and allows them to get to the heart of the matter more quickly. Instant communication is good, but human relationships and face-to-face meetings are still critical. Old-fashioned networking is still preferable, and often it’s quicker and more efficient to call a journalist directly on the phone.
It is absolutely essential to create innovative PR strategies that are specific to the target country. Communications varies according to each country's culture, and one-size-fits-all approaches often reduced the impact of messages and announcements.
With the above I hope I have been able to give you an overview of what to consider, and offered a few recommendations, for establishing a successful public relations strategy in France. Each market is different, and it is essential to adapt your strategy to the local culture in order to ensure your messages stay relevant across all your target audiences.