PR, in its most general sense, is communicating key messages to your audiences in a significant and objective way. But what if your messages go beyond your intended audiences?

Bonus… right? Well, not necessarily.

Welcome to the world of subsidiary PR, the marketing communications

undertaken by a company’s subsidiary office in another country. This situation is quite prevalent in Canada, particularly within the IT sector where many of the players are headquartered elsewhere. However, the idea of conducting – or even understanding – localized communications still seems to be lost on some clients.

Imagine a product release from a company based in Southern California for the new Widget XL5. Though this is just a slight improvement on the XL4, this announcement is accompanied by a full media relations campaign and involves a unique sales strategy. The U.S. media picks up the story and includes coverage in their publications.

Enter the savvy Canadian journalist. She sees the story, knows that Widget Corp. has an office in Ottawa and puts in a call to the contact she knows there. She wants to write a feature on this technology. What a great opportunity!

Then comes the admission: the spokesperson has to say that, ‘This product won’t be distributed in Canada for another six months and we don’t know the pricing or how it will be sold yet.’ Or worse, ‘This product won’t be available in Canada at all and we don’t know if the upgrade program will apply to Canada.’ And finally there is the, ‘I didn’t know we had announced the XL5!’ None of these do very much for building customer confidence.

At the very least, if the subsidiary knows that the announcement is being made but is not immediately pertinent to their market, they can develop a specific plan to ensure that they are communicating positive information to the media and their customers.

What you really want is to provide the media with information applicable to the audience they report to. Using a Canadian subsidiary for example, this includes:

  • Product/service availability, pricing.
  • Appropriate language (spelling and grammar) rules – I actually know of one executive at a major Canadian University who has thrown out news releases simply because they aren’t ‘Canadian’.
  • Canadian spokespeople, and if not, then spokespeople who can comment on the Canadian Market.
  • Canadian case studies or examples if available.
  • Third party or analyst who can comment specifically on the Canadian market and how the announcement relates.

So what should you do?

If you oversee the communications needs of your subsidiaries then these are things you should set up, and if you are a subsidiary, then these are the things you should be asking head office to do:

  • Build a long-range schedule to communicate what announcements are anticipated.
  • Factor in timing before the release date for the regions to determine pertinence of the information, any region-specific information (e.g. timing, availability, pricing, etc.) and get translations if required.
  • Disseminate pertinent PR information (including drafts of releases, material for media kits, etc.).
  • Be cognizant of country holidays or important dates.
  • Hold a regular conference call involving all the key communications folks from all of the regions to go over what’s coming up, what has changed, what needs to be dealt with right away, etc.

There is another important factor to the two-way communication between the PR practitioner and head office. You get to let head office know about your successes – be they media hits or unique communications ideas. I’ve seen some fantastic PR initiatives for a subsidiary so well received by head office they adopted it company-wide. Talk about getting recognition for yourself and your company!

By ensuring that your company’s subsidiaries are in-line with your overall communications plan you are maintaining consistency of messages. Ultimately this will help to build positive corporate and brand recognition.

prjack@look.ca

Jack Wojcicki is a freelance PR practitioner and is PR Counsel for HWB Marketing Communications Inc.

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