Scaling your PR Strategy Across Borders
Last week, PRLab’s “Scaling your PR Strategy Across Borders” Meetup gathered the best PR professionals in Amsterdam. The meetup took place on the 25th of September at Codaisseur Code Academy, a home for startups and tech companies. It was the first meet up in a couple of months and there was a serious buzz in the air. Guests were cracking open refreshments and laughing with familiar faces as the latecomers rolled in.
The topic for the night was “Scaling your PR Strategy Across Borders” and we brought in 3 speakers who successfully took their companies global. Everyone wants to go international, but not everyone knows how, so naturally the room was packed.
The guests of honor included Ynzo Van Zanten, Chief Evangelist at Tony’s Chocolonely, Maud Behaghel, Chief Operating Officer at United Wardrobe, and Bianca Zwart, the Head of Communications and PR at bunq. They talked banking, fashion and chocolate… what more could you need?
As the crowd settled in, Matias Rodsevich, PRLab‘s founder, took the stage to introduce speakers sharing their tips on scaling PR. The environment was cozy and conversational as Van Zaten and Behaghel sat down for a chat.
What followed next was 2 hours of inspiring speakers sharing their successes and pitfalls with campaigns. Here, you can find the recap of what the representatives had to say about leveraging PR to scale and expand their businesses across borders.
Tony’s Chocolonely and the greatest PR stunt in cocoa history
Tony’s Chocolonely started with the intention of bringing some good into the world and has now become one of the best selling (and best tasting) chocolatiers in the Netherlands. The chocolate company raises awareness and helps to eliminate child labor and slavery in the chocolate farming industry. During the meetup, Van Zaten explained how they don’t actually have a PR team. They are just extremely skilled at making people indulge in their do-good cocoa.
Their colorful packaging is hard to miss and so is their impact. They work with 5,021 farmers directly, who operate out of Ghana and the Ivory Coat, and pay them a decent living. They call this pay “Tony’s Premium” which not only enables them to support their families but even to invest in agricultural training courses. Since Amsterdam is the biggest chocolate importer in Europe, they decided it would be a perfect place to launch their company. After much success, Tony’s decided to go global. The delicious chocolate is now being devoured in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, the US and others.
During the meetup, Van Zaten talks about how they made their mark for the first time in the UK. Tony’s Chocolonely spontaneously popped up in SOHO, offering Londoners and tourists alike a “free chocolate experience.” With only a small space for the public to enter, Tony’s created a cue that wrapped around the sidewalk. The crowd was eager for some sweets, but upon entering, they were schooled on how “no chocolate is free chocolate.” After the immersive and shocking experience, they were able to enjoy all the flavors of Tony’s Chocolonely has to offer. Including everything from Caramel Sea Salt to Dark Milk Chocolate Pretzel Toffee. Needless to say, sales in the UK have skyrocketed and Tony’s continues to give back to impoverished cocoa farmers one bar at a time.
United Wardrobe making second-hand clothing trendy
Sitting at Van Zanten’s left was Maud Behaghel. Behaghel was the Marketing Manager of Uber during its launch in France, so one can imagine how much of an adventure that must’ve been. The country and the taxi industry didn’t take kindly to the innovative form of transportation. Parliament even went as far as to pass a law in 2015 regulating the competition Uber and new car sharing apps had with the taxi industry. During that time a skilled PR team was crucial and Behaghel was a part of that. Now that the company is well on its way to becoming the most successful scaleup in the transportation industry, Behaghel has tackled a new fleet.
That fleet is United Wardrobe. A startup with the mission of making second-hand clothing the norm to create a more sustainable world. Their main PR strategy? Influencers. We all know influencers have that cool factor. We see them every time we open our social media, posing there, looking a little too perfect. And whether or not we like to admit it, they influence us, consciously or subconsciously. United wardrobe’s strategy is to hire influencers that match their brand image and stick to the ones that generate the most revenue.
The completely e-commerce fashion company takes advantage of the Instagram app’s “shop” which allows you to click on the product in the photo and redirects you to the website so you can “buy now.” It’s a genius strategy, to focus on young people’s indulgences (instagram and shopping) for the greater good of the planet.
Instead of people impulsively buying the next new shiny thing, they can scroll through thousands of sustainable options on United Wardrobe. They offer used and new clothing with brands from Zara to Saint Laurent. Quality clothing doesn’t need to be fresh off the rack, United Wardrobe knows that, and is leading the sustainable clothing revolution.
How bunq broke banking norms
Finally came Bianca Zwart, the Head of Communications and PR at bunq. She leads bunq’s PR and Marketing, whose philosophy is “rock-solid communication”. Throughout her presentation, she used bunq as an example of how she helped them scale across borders with the magic of PR.
Bunq is the coolest bank to hit the finance industry in ages. The founders realized that there was no bank for the younger generations. It is a purely online bank with no limits, where you can easily manage your own money. The best part? What’s yours stays yours. No foreign investments and no lending. Launching an untraditional bank was not easy, nor was it simple. Zwart leads us through how she helped launch bunq in The Netherlands and internationally.
Step one, “keepin’ it real.” To spell it out for us Zwart threw up the Urban Dictionary definition: “When staying true to your “roots” or your priorities or principles as a person and applying to a certain type of an event or situation.” She pointed out that sometimes in PR people can be tempted to opt for the less than honest solution. But no matter what comes your way, staying true to the company’s purpose is essential.
While still “keepin’ it real”, you gotta “keep it relevant”. “Keepin’ it relevant” is the key ingredient to scaling PR and a successful launch in a new country. You must tweak your brand to match the audience, because what works in one country probably won’t work in another. In France “freedom” was the winning virtue, while Germany practicality and privacy was the appeal. Bunq was able to modify its brand image in each country, while still staying true to what they stand for as a bank. Bianca was so witty, so honest, everyone must have opened a bunq account that evening.
Knowing one’s audience is vital. Who are they? What makes them tick? What country do they live in? These are all questions companies must ask themselves when scaling PR across borders. Every startup encounters different obstacles, and coming to these meetups will put you one step ahead of the game. If you missed our past meetups no worries, we like to document them. You can read up on others’ secrets to success here. As people cracked open some beers and devoured their warm pizza, there were already talks about when the next meetup would be. We now have an answer. On the 27th of November we will be covering The Art of Storytelling in PR at Epicenter Amsterdam. See you there!
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