Worldcom Execs: Outreach In Europe Must Have a Local Touch

Besides a discussion about the virtues of being part of a network, visiting European Worldcom Public Relations Group executives — Worldcom EMEA chair and MD at Munich-based HBI Helga Bailey GmbH, Corinna Voss; Imma Folch, Worldcom EMEA marketing chair and CEO of Barcelona-based LF Channel S.L.; and Patrik Schober, the network’s member recruitment chair and managing partner at Prague-based PRAM Consultingalso spent a lot of time during our one-on-one discussing the EMEA landscape.

According to Voss, “Africa has a lot of potential,” with countries like Angola, which has a wealth of resources, providing a great deal of opportunity like that seen in the Asia-Pacific region.

And while parts of the EMEA region are untraveled territory for many, there are similarities that will help firms that are new to the region carve out a path.

“We rely personal relationships with media,” said Folch. “In countries in Africa, for example, they might have less media, but the way they work with them will be quite similar to the way we work with them.”

(With the situation in the Middle East in a state of flux right now, the Worldcom execs said that there’s no way to generalize about what will happen there, for the PR industry or otherwise.)

In some ways, the recession has changed the landscape in more familiar territory as well. According to Folch, Spain’s unemployment rate has reached 20 percent, and many journalists are unemployed, making the ones still at work at their media outlets very busy. Much like in the U.S., publicists are updating their contact lists and thinking twice before picking up the phone to call a reporter who could be on a tight deadline.

Client budgets have also been reduced over the past few years, Folch added, but there is a “light optimism” about what lies ahead, a sentiment that Schober agrees with.

In Germany, Voss says, they’re experiencing the largest boom in 20 years with low levels of unemployment. Moreover, she adds, the economic crisis that we’ve been reading about is “a bit overdone.”

“The European market is very strong, very huge, and very diversified,” she says. “These crises come and go. Europe has become much more adapted to crisis.”

Returning to the discussion of the media, Folch called that area of the European market “fragmented.” Of course, there’s Facebook and Twitter, but localized networks and media consumption patterns make it critical that publicists know the specifics about where their campaign will be executed before launching.

“You have to get very local,” she says, adding that there should usually be a mix of traditional media with social media, press conferences, and other outreach. “Social media cannot be the core of a campaign yet,” she added.

“Social media is still seen as a cheap approach and it’s definitely not,” Voss says, adding that in many cases, campaigns are two-thirds classic media outreach and one-third social media.

Schober provided some interesting tidbits of information: In Russia, where they have their own social networks, Facebook and YouTube still have large gains to make; and in Hungary, people watch as many as five hours of television per day, and don’t think too much of blogging.

A media survey also conducted by Worldcom also found that one-on-one meetings with members of the press and press conferences are popular with European agencies who are introducing clients visiting from other countries for the first time.

“The mix has to be right,” says Voss. “It has to be done on the local level.”