Top tips for international PR – the third way

Traditionally, when considering how best to design and deliver impactful multi-territory PR campaigns, there have been two predominant models:

Both are popular and widely used, however, both also have a mixture of advantages and disadvantages:

With the large multinational approach, clients benefit from the ability to access the primary point of contact (lead agency), fully integrated planning, budgeting, implementation and ‘like-for-like’ reporting/evaluation methodologies.  However, this has to be balanced against the inevitable differences in the quality of the PR team in different regions across the world and a lack of flexibility to change.

The local best-of-breed model is effectively the opposite of this. Clients benefit from having the flexibility to make changes, thereby ensuring that they have the best possible solution in place in each individual country. They may suffer, however, from a lack of consistency in terms of strategies and approaches and more labour-intensive and unwieldy administrative processes.

The good news is that at Whiteoaks we have developed a ‘third way’ of managing international PR campaigns for our clients which, we believe, cherry picks the best elements within each of the traditional models and combines them into one solution, while at the same time eliminating the disadvantages inherent in each original method.

This new model, which we call International Performance Management (IPM), sees Whiteoaks adopt a lead-agency role where clients receive all the benefits they would expect from a large multinational in terms of global reach and resources; fully integrated and centralised planning; budgeting; implementation; reporting and quality control processes; a single point of contact; and a consistent service experience.  However, it also has the flexibility to leverage ‘best-of breed’ agencies in countries and/or use our local WIN Group partners where required, or where it is the most appropriate solution in a particular territory. The local agencies’ exposure to risk/accountability drives performance and clients also have the option to change non-performing agencies should they wish.

IPM provides a range of compelling benefits. It is about creating a system that allows the client to track and manage the performance of PR agencies across all territories; measure and increase return on PR investment (RoPR); achieve transparency and clarity; and gain an understanding of how each agency is performing with the help of reports which measure against key criteria.  Clients also receive feedback and recommendations based on levels of agency performance and the opportunity to select (and replace where necessary) the right agencies in the right country.

This all sounds good in theory, but how does it work in practice for a client using the IPM approach?

From the outset of the relationship, Whiteoaks works with the internal client team to set a benchmark for agency performance across the board and to familiarise itself with any existing areas of concern or poor performance.  This is then communicated to the agencies so that all parties have a clear understanding of the expectation levels.

Each individual agency’s performance is then tracked on an ongoing basis against pre-agreed targets (both activity levels and results), reported to the client’s regional team on a quarterly basis and supported by replacement strategies for under-performing countries where applicable.

Underperforming agencies are replaced with partners from the Whiteoaks International Network or, if appropriate, alternate third party agencies (these would typically be recruited via a traditional search and select process led by Whiteoaks).  In doing so, the client retains its best-performing local agencies and adopts new ones to fulfil any shortfalls across the region.

So when implementing international PR campaigns, we urge clients to  move away from using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and/or thinking of it primarily as a management/coordination function.  Instead, we provide a model that leverages all the best elements of the two traditional approaches (while eradicating the negatives) and focuses on driving higher performance levels which, ultimately, provides better return on investment for clients investing in PR across multiple territories.

James Kelliher, CEO