Zakia Demaghelatrous

Moving into new markets

a view from

Zakia Demaghelatrous

Head of Global Marketing Communications, Honeywell Process Solutions

Honeywell International was founded in 1886 in the United States. It has grown steadily over the years and is now a Fortune 100 diversified technology and manufacturing leader turning over $36 billion. Honeywell's Process Solutions (HPS) division operates in 100 countries and employs more than 11,000 people. Around the world HPS is seen as a pioneer in automation control. In simple terms, we help industrial companies operate more safely, reliably and efficiently, and in a more sustainable way.

PR has never come naturally to a firm that is run by engineers for engineers, and that has entrenched traditions stretching back well over a century. I always explain the challenge of being in marketing communications in an engineering firm by saying that if we were KFC we wouldn't sell chicken that is finger lickin' good, we would sell strips of chicken that are rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried.

Similarly, while we were comfortable and conditioned to implementing PR programmes in established markets such as the US, UK and Germany, emerging markets presented a departure from the norm. These markets are very different culturally and require sensitivity and understanding. For example, before we began operating in Russia, the Ukraine and the CIS countries, we invested significant time in learning about the cultural nuances of each market before initiating any work. Each was very different from one another. This took time -- and it was literally a world away from our US heartland. But in the end, we got it right.

Taking the time to understand the local market and adapting our working model and delivery accordingly has paid dividends. One outcome is that we have increased our coverage by an average of 35.4% every year since 2006 in the EMEA region alone.

Building relationships

Perhaps the greatest hurdle we had to clear in the emerging markets was a media landscape that was radically different to the one we were used to. For example, in Russia, the Ukraine and the CIS countries, there are fewer technical publications than there are in North American and Western European countries, but more business titles. All of a sudden we needed to translate our fairly complex, technical messages for editors who did not have engineering backgrounds.

Taking the time to adapt our working model has paid dividends

To address this challenge we initiated a series of thought leadership-driven media round tables in each market, organised by our agency Weber Shandwick. Bringing together Honeywell experts with local business reporters, these forums were less about bits and bytes and more about customer scenarios and benefits, corporate values and business successes.

The next stage was to build lasting relationships with the reporters. This has been a work-in-progress over the past eight years, and I am pleased to say we now have very strong rapport with key influencers in every country, most of who understand what we do and the importance we play in the local economy.

Part of this is being able to consistently provide local market context and cite local customers. After all, a Ukrainian journalist will care much more about a customer in Kiev than one in Dallas or Abu Dhabi. Another successful tactic has been inviting media to participate in our regional customer and partner events. These take place annually and present an opportunity for journalists to spend time with our experts, meet our customers and see our technology innovations close up. Plus, we get to know them on a personal level.

Teams with local knowledge

One of the first things we did when we expanded our communications programme was to build strong local teams, both in terms of Honeywell internal staff and agency partners. This has helped ensure all our communications are tailored to local audiences. For example, when we built our Russian website I assumed it would be relevant for the Ukraine and other CIS countries. However, my local team helped me understand the differences between the markets and the languages, and we ended up developing a website for each country.

My advice to anyone looking to launch a PR programme in an emerging market is firstly to get a good local partner, such as a PR firm, who can guide and advise you, and secondly, be patient. I liken it to making a soup: you need to spend time building it up, adding different flavours and stirring them in, and eventually you get the result you want.

Colin Byrne

A new generation of local media

a view from

Colin Byrne

CEO, Weber Shandwick EMEA

Just as brands are now global so is the PR/communications business, with social media being the glue that binds that world together. But just as brands have spent recent decades learning to "think global, act local", communications professionals have to follow the same mantra, not their assumptions.

I follow a very informative, if gothically named, blog called From a US perspective it charts trends in digital advertising and innovations in on and offline journalism, but also the decline and fall of once highly valued local and regional media. The American media model, and its cousin the advertising industry model, is changing and in many ways in decline.

Just recently the influential CMO of one of the world's leading house of brands revealed that 35% of their marketing communications budget in the US was now spent on digital and social media compared to 25% in Europe and just 4% in India.

While these variances partly reflect internet and social media platform usage, they also reflect cultural variances in media consumption and the strength of the 'traditional' media. In Kenya for example where I was recently, social media adoption is second only to South Africa on that continent, but they also have a thriving, professional and independent print and broadcast media sector.

So as global communicators we have to do more than act on hunches formed behind a desk in London or New York. We need local roots, local insights and multi-cultural sensitivity.

Facebook will get you next to nowhere in these markets

As Zakia Demaghelatrous says in her article, we need to constantly focus on local relationships, local context and win local trust, not just rely on the global power of the brand.

Social media, the global communications glue I cite above, also requires local knowledge and understanding. It has its global power brands like Facebook and Twitter, but understanding those platforms is just the tip of the social media iceberg.  In a recent global survey, three of the markets displaying the highest use of social networks were Russia (77.1% of active internet users), Brazil (74.3%) and China (68.9%) - compared to US and UK penetration rates of 64.5% and 62.9% respectively.

So Facebook will get you next to nowhere in these markets.  Communicators must be well-versed in Vkontakte, Orkut and Renren.  Twitter, the current darling of the Western social media has 140 million active users.  Weibo, China's Twitter-equivalent, is used by 300 million Chinese.

Alongside creativity and innovation, the two things today's corporate or brand communications leader needs most are insights and local cultural sensitivity and roots.  At Weber Shandwick our strategic planners are at the frontline of our business for clients, and we are proud last year to have celebrated fifty years in the PR business in markets such as Spain and the Netherlands, as well as deepening our roots in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

PR Week Global bulletinSign up

PRWeek Global Thinktank sponsors