Mauricio Bonas is a journalist who has worked for some of the most influential Brazilian newspapers and is the founder and senior partner of the PR agency Allameda.com (@Allameda) based in São Paulo.
Exploring and entering new markets, however much you prepare for it, almost always involves surprises. The excitement and adrenaline of a new market can sometimes cloud logic and judgement. There’s a desire to control the outcome, to manage expenditures and to ensure profits which can create more obstacles than needed and hamper innovation and creativity.
One of the favorite forms of control is the “if it worked here, it will work there” syndrome. It’s a naive simplification that is costing both executives and companies. It is the belief that the skill and ability to create sophisticated public relations strategies for one market will apply to many, achieving the same results.
With over twenty years of working in public relations for foreign firms in Brazil, I have seen this happen with alarming frequency. Although the structures of the press and of public relations services are fairly similar around the world, how they work and relate is not.
For example, in some countries sending small gifts to reporters without real value – like a mug with your corporate logo – sounds like a nice gesture. In others, it can be viewed with contempt or even suspicion. And in some countries the lack of a gift of real value is what breeds contempt.
Here are five tips for effective public relations outreach in Brazil:
You’ve invested a lot of time and energy in selecting a public relations agency in country, now listen to their advice. Whether positive or negative, the advice you are receiving will help advance your business. Second guessing it based on the “it’s not what we do here” syndrome will not help you. Their goal is to get you widespread coverage for your brand. Trust them.
You know that awesome press release product launch that you are using in the US? Well throw it away. At least in Brazil. Releases full of adjectives and quotes from the CEO are viewed with disdain by Brazilian journalists. The text format used in Brazil is more direct and objective, and qualitative information in the text must be verifiable: if you say that your service is “a leader in the Japanese market” have verifiable data to prove it.
Provide numerical and statistical data to help Brazilian journalists understand the position of your company in the market. Local journalists are sensitive to billing information, investment values, growth and other similar data showing the positioning of your company and its potential. This holds true even for releases where you are simply talking about a new venture.
Even if you think your business is important and it is well-known in other markets, do not assume that Brazilian journalists are familiar with it. Unless you work for an established global brand like Apple or Boeing, people tend to value their own internal references and domestic market brand than foreign brands. You will need to approach your public relations efforts, particularly for a new product or venture, by informing and educating first.
Learn to listen. Nowadays it is hard to get the attention of a reporter or editor in Brazil. If you have the opportunity to give a long interview, at a luncheon for example, use more of your time to understand what the journalist would like to have on hand to write an article about your company, products or investments. The exercise of listening in these situations is as important as what you would like to convey to the journalist. Listening and understanding the journalist’s needs can be the difference between coverage or no coverage.
Lastly, try to stay away from gifts and if any media outlet offers editorial advantage in exchange for paid advertising space, consult your public relations agency. As in the US, this is unusual with most media outlets in Brazil.