3 Tips for Pitching Internationally

May 1, 2019


Many of us have clients or work with organizations that either have international teams in different markets or have some type of global reach. Sometimes even locally focused organizations can uncover an international media pitching opportunity.

Is pitching to media in other international markets the same as pitching to media in the United States? Yes and no.

Having a newsworthy story, knowing the outlet and the journalists, and crafting a personalized pitch that speaks to that outlet’s audience are some of the essentials for pitching on a global scale. But, even though the basic process stays the same, you need to make sure there is cultural sensitivity in the initial pitch as well as throughout your campaign.

1. Research the local media.

You’ll want to research media in that country to understand how they write stories and what the people of that country value as newsworthy content.

If you work in an agency, then you likely have access to a media-monitoring tool like Cision. Many of these platforms source international contacts, but there is a hefty fee. And some PR pros don’t have access to such tools, so then what?

Build a targeted list of reporters and review their past coverage, but do manual research. Social media may be helpful in some markets but, in others, it’s better to use forums and other native sources to identify reporters to connect with.

If you’re pitching in a country where English isn’t the first language, then you’ll need a native speaker to assist with the research. Depending on the topic, you may need to analyze the tone of coverage in a broader sense, such as the overall messaging about U.S. corporations in your industry or the government perception of a given policy. That’s when your multicultural and polyglot team members are an invaluable asset to your strategy.

2. Pitch in the language they publish in.

If your organization is interested in earning coverage from outlets publishing in Spanish, then identify someone on your team who not only took Spanish in college, but also knows how to navigate the nuances of working with and informing the public in that particular culture. Writing for Argentinian media, where Castilian is the common language, is certainly not the same as writing for Mexican media. In China, ensure that you aren’t pitching in Mandarin to a Cantonese outlet. Although they are both Chinese dialects, it’s important to note that they have distinct differences.

Another option is to use a translator. If you do, then you will still want to have someone give your pitch a “culture check.” Does the story speak to the needs, desires and challenges of the audience in that culture? Is it truly from their point of view or is it written from a U.S.-centric worldview? Is there anything else we can add to the story to make it more relatable to this audience?

3. Infuse the story with cultural insights.

Once you’ve done the research, you will have a greater understanding of that culture’s people, their customs and their values, which equips your team with the much-needed cultural sensitivity they need to infuse into the pitch.

Try to leverage expressions from that particular culture and embed them through your story — this shows the reporter that you understand the culture and the outlet’s readers even though you aren’t native to the market.

In Chinese tradition, order matters — whatever is mentioned first is often perceived as being the most important. Remember the inverted pyramid style of writing and drop some of the “colorful language” used in American English.

Another way to gather cultural insights is to partner with a local client or an organization that can share relevant details and follow up on-site. These are often underutilized relationships.

Hopefully, your organization has been recruiting diverse talent and building a team that reflects the rich diversity of the U.S. talent pool. This will enable you to tackle cultural challenges and avoid big faux pas that can make or break your pitch, and consequently, your campaign. If you aren’t there yet, then it may be a good time to start looking for bicultural talent because the need is there, and it will only keep growing.

Andrea Gils

Andrea Gils, a native of Uruguay, is the marketing and communications manager at the University of Kentucky International Center. She was on the PRSA New Pros National Committee in 2016, currently serves on the PRSA National Diversity & Inclusion National Committee and is a Champion for PRSSA. Connect with her on LinkedIn: andreagils.



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