It's the WORLD Wide Web!
by Marcia Yudkin
Almost always, online publicity means global exposure, whether
your business is based in Peoria, Illinois, Perth, Australia, or
Paris, France. When your marketing or publicity copy will appear
on the Internet, you need to take conscious steps to ensure that
your news makes sense to readers from far corners of the world.
In news releases or your online media center, here's how to clue
in distant media people and avoid international gaffes.
First, ground your material geographically. People outside your
region won't necessarily know what state -- and country -- "Hampshire
County" is in unless you say so.
Likewise, you may think that the expression "Bay Area"
unambiguously refers to the San Francisco Bay Area in California,
but Tampa Bay, Florida also uses that expression. Perhaps the most
geographically useless word you could use in a headline
would be "local." Name the city and state instead.
Second, avoid gratuitous and unexplained references to political
figures and national culture. During the tenure of President Bill
Clinton, many Americans referred to his wife
as simply "Hillary," with no last name. This was bound
to confuse people in other parts of the world. Similarly, those
outside the U.S. wouldn't know the expression, "Would it
play in Peoria?" Professional journalists always provide unobtrusive
background, full names for everyone mentioned and brief explanations
of laws referred to, and you should follow suit.
Third, take great care with relative terms, such as "overseas"
or "foreign." To Europeans, the U.S. is overseas. To Asians,
the dollar is foreign currency. Similarly, remember that acronyms
everyone in your country knows, such as "VAT" or "EPA,"
may need to be spelled out for the benefit of those living elsewhere.
Fourth, watch out for tricky measurement terms. I once mistakenly
corrected the word "tonnes" in the publicity materials
of a client from Canada, thinking that the writer meant an English
ton of 2,000 pounds. In fact, a "tonne" is a metric ton,
equivalent to 2,205 pounds in the English system. Cumbersome as
this may look, it would be helpful to indicate this as "75
tonnes (metric tons)." Consider adding English or metric conversions
for some of the lesser known measurement terms, such as hectares
to acres or vice versa.
Beware also of "billion," which in the U.S. means a thousand
million, while in Great Britain it can mean a million million.
Fifth, add your country code to the beginning of telephone or
fax numbers on a news release or at your Web site. A reporter on
deadline from around the world shouldn't have to figure out whether
or not (1) or some other country code has to be added to your Saskatchewan
All of this can be accomplished without making your copy clunky.
Use common sense in deciding how many definitions or glosses to
add. Just as you'd inject explanations for dinner guests from afar
when the conversation turned to local sports or politics, add inconspicuous
verbal asides to clarify your references in material that will be
to readers around the world.
About the Author
Marcia Yudkin is the author of the classic guide to comprehensive
PR, "6 Steps to Free Publicity," now for sale in an updated
edition at Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere. She also spills
the secrets on advanced tactics for today's publicity seekers in
"Powerful, Painless Online Publicity," available from