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Communicating across borders: 10 top tips

Posted: 13th November 2018

Stewart Argo from international communications agency Weber Shandwick shares his top 10 tips for making your business stand out from the crowd when trading overseas.

  1. Know what you’re getting into

Promoting your company overseas can be a major undertaking, although clearly this depends on the scale of your ambitions and resources. It may be better to concentrate first on more direct routes to market, guided by the support available from the chamber, SDI and others.

  1. Research and prepare

A detailed understanding of your target market and why you are pursuing it is essential, as is a clear idea of what it is you’re offering and why anyone in your target market would care. Ideally, this is a story you’ll be able tell in multiple ways: facts and figures, case studies and testimonials, and images/video.

  1. Choose your markets carefully

It can be tempting to do a little of everything in all markets, but it’s usually better to invest in a focussed programme in one or two stronger prospects, especially if you are venturing into this area for the first time.

  1. Be prepared to take a leap of faith

You aren’t going to have any certainty that a programme of marketing or PR will deliver exactly what you want. But at some point, after the research and the planning, there’s no substitute for getting out there.

  1. Be prepared to learn

Whether it’s a trade show, media interviews or sponsorship, you’ll learn as you go about what works – or doesn’t. No single measure will tell you if you’re succeeding, but it’s really worth the effort to an evaluation framework in place that will guide your future efforts.

  1. Give it time

This is especially important in some countries, where it’s essential to establish credibility and commitment before you can get down to deal-making. Even where that’s not the case, you’re unlikely to win big from out outset. If it was that easy, someone else would have done it already!

  1. Value good project management

The larger programmes of marketing and PR can require a significant degree of project management, co-ordinating activities, assets and people across time zones and in different currencies. Of course, you need compelling messages and engaging images, but if they’re not used properly you’ll have wasted your investment.

  1. Understand the comms culture

For example, in some countries, you’d be expected to put on a taxi for a journalist to come to your office for a 1:1 interview; elsewhere, the norm might be for journalists to make their own way to a roundtable lunch.

  1. Don’t be afraid of national icons

Some of us might be weary of ‘tartan tat’, shortbread and castles, but a cliché at home can be a great conversation starter or gift abroad.

  1. Get out there!

There’s really nothing like being on the ground. Practice the language, visit the sites and immerse yourself in the culture – all of which can help to build the relationships you need to open doors and get your business known.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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