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How you survive in the German PR jungle Written by Tilo Bonow on 28. July 2016

After launching a great and innovative startup overseas, the next milestone for many companies from America is to expand to foreign markets such as Europe. With Germany being the economic powerhouse of the European Union, it’s capital Berlin presents an attractive environment for expansion – the economic mood is positive and the startup scene is booming. Even though American and German market mechanisms are similar, the media landscape is quite different. Strategies that work in the US might fail in Germany. Here are 10 points that you should consider in order to make it with German media:
1. The differences start with the traditional press release: Contrary to American journalists, Germans aren’t used to press releases in an advertising style of speech. Filling your texts with exclamation marks and singing songs of praise have rather the opposite effect on German journalists — they ruin the credibility of the message. Take the help of local PR specialists in order to translate not just the language but also the message.
2. Silence is silver, speech is gold. In Germany, press releases are used frequently to spread relevant information about the company. Press releases should thus not be limited to major corporate announcements.
3. The media landscape in Germany is very decentralized. Editorial staff is not only placed in major media cities such as Berlin, Munich or Hamburg. Cities like Cologne, Frankfurt and Duesseldorf also have important media corporations and journalists. If you plan a press trip and would like to meet journalists in person, do take into account that such a trip might take more planning than in countries with more centralized media such as France or England. Tip: to meet many editors in one place visit industry related fairs instead of organizing costly press conferences. While very few editors take a long trip to a press conference by a single company, the presence of media representatives at exhibitions is probably better, and offers many opportunities to get in touch with journalists.
4. Beware: German is not the same as German PR! Although German is the official language in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the PR for these three countries should not be lumped together. Small differences, such as job titles (editors in Switzerland are called Redaktor, instead of Redakteure), but also significant differences in dealing with journalists (in Austria, PR specialists maintain more personal relationships with editors) make a nuanced approach to German-speaking countries essential. This expertise should be taken into account when choosing an agency.
5. German editors are generally reluctant to take up new issues and usually have a more open attitude to foreign companies. American corporates are often one step ahead in the battle for editorial space. This is particularly evident when there are both American and German versions of a business model on the market. Editors will first report on the US version, even if the German model is not an exact copycat equivalent of this model.
6. Just like German journalists are different, so are German bloggers. German bloggers greatly value their editorial independence and authenticity and are very critical towards too overt PR. However, there are subtle differences: while lifestyle and fashion blogs are more open, sometimes even grateful for PR from large companies, it is difficult to win bloggers in the technology sector.
7. Building productive relationships with German journalists does take its time. Being polite, especially using surnames, is a must when starting communications with journalists. Being too pushy can often lead to opposite results!
8. Data protection should be treated with particular caution in German PR. German audiences are much more sensitized to privacy-related issues than US audiences. A good briefing before interviews as to what should be communicated is essential to avoid a PR disaster.
9. While in the US it’s common practice to place articles directly in the form of guest or author contributions, this is not usual for Germans. German authors want to keep their autonomy and must be persuaded to independently include reports about a particular subject through a constant flow of relevant information. But sometimes there are exceptions, especially in the B2B sector.
10. Last but not least: In case of publishing an interview journalists often ask for approval and in the most cases decide in favor of the companies. Good for you, because this way, the only content published is what should and may be communicated on behalf of the company. Sounds complicated? It’s not! If you have a good product, then positive coverage is only a matter of time and, of course, skillful PR work in Germany. Germany is a great hub for further expansion to the pan european continent. The DACH region is the biggest language area but you have to get in mind that every language area in Europe has it’s own cultural differences. Due to that all rules and tips we have suggested in the article are not adoptable to other areas.
[divider]About the author[/divider]
Tilo Bonow is the founder & CEO of PIABO PR, a premier business performance amplifier. He established PIABO to provide tech entrepreneurs with the dynamics to bring their ideas to the market.