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The Magic Formula: Global PR Lessons from TransferWise (Wise) and Bolt

Powered by the rapid rise of social media giants and an additional boost from the pandemic, our media consumption has become more globalised than ever before. Wise men have said that global media attention will automatically attract local attention. The doors to global PR are spread wide open but you need to have the right tools to navigate this huge media space.

Marek Unt has worked with the best of them. First as the Head of PR for Estonia’s very own fintech superstar TransferWise (Wise) and then as Director of Communications for UBERs worst nightmare – Bolt. As the current CMO of Grünfin, he has now set his goals on building a sustainable investing platform for people who care about their impact.

PR used to be local for three reasons. Firstly, it takes time to understand a new media landscape. Secondly, there’s a language barrier, which is quickly diminishing due to dominance of English as lingua franca. And finally, media relations have always been about proximity and human relations (coffee dates, networking events, etc). Globalisation has shifted the picture in all three areas.

“Globalisation has hit all types of media, including traditional, which works differently these days. Yes, a huge chunk of your media consumption will be of local but there will be a lot of global media outlets that you frequently read or watch. Additionally, there will be news that are syndicated across countries: global stories that reach everyone regardless of language or location. Social media is another layer on top of that. If we are talking about proximity, social media has brought us closer together and specifically when I’m talking about media relations, you will know that journalists and Twitter go hand in hand,” says Marek.

The magic three

Marek bases his magic mix on three components: tools, message and engagement. He starts by introducing TweetDeck, a simple but nevertheless effective tool for filtering through Twitter content.

TweetDeck - a handy tool for Twitter

The two left columns are feeds that are related to Marek specifically. The middle one shows news that he’s trying to keep an eye on and allows him to insert himself into a conversation or share some news about the local ecosystem to his contacts (journalists). More interestingly, the watchlist column which includes tech influencers. And then the rightmost column is specifically tech journalists in his sector. Those are some of the more influential reporters, journalists and editors. Marek recommends TweetDeck as one of those tools that will help create proximity.

His second pillar to conquering global PR comes down to the message. He brings TransferWise as an example.

TrasferWise founders Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann

You see Estonia’s richest people in an outrageous setting. Why? Because TransferWise is all about transparency.

TransferWise's integrated campaign included a live happening in London

Here, balloons are being released in front of the Parliament building in London. Why? Transparency in regards to international payments.

Now coming to Bolt, Marek reminds us about the amazing founding story: “Bolt founder Markus Villig was extremely young (19) when he founded Bolt. This is again is one of those elements that you can use to create curiosity around the message that you really want to tell. It’s not so much about flaunting a young founder, but about promoting the product to the audience and also talking about some of the benefits, which in case of Bolt is a bigger driver-focus, better pay compared to Uber.”

Markus Villig was only 19 when he founded Bolt

It’s a personal story with strong David vs Goliath elements, which is obviously very attractive to the media and helps to peak the interest for a company that would otherwise have trouble getting themselves heard.

So how do you do that in practice?

1) Messaging document: Does your client or company have a clear messaging document? Is everyone using it? Is it consistent?

2) Founding story: Is there a narrative that you are trying to tell? Does it have enough conflict? Controversy?

3) Spokespeople: Are they aware of the story and how to convey it?

The third pillar is engagement and Marek has a superb example to share.

“This is a genuine conversation between one of the journalists from Techcrunch and TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus. There is a real relationship between those two, how they are remembering the first days of the company, how Steve was the one to break that story for Techcrunch and essentially be a part of the TransferWise success story. That emotional attachment that Steve has for TransferWise plays quite a large role in his interest for the company going forward,” explains Marek.

This is a tricky lesson to integrate because not all CEOs are social media savvy. But the truth is: journalists couldn’t care less about PR teams. They will ask for an intro and kindly tell you to get out of the way. It’s up to the PR team to accommodate their needs and make sure management is on board.

Marek emphasises the importance of understanding your audience. Do you know which journalists are covering your industry? Are you following them on Twitter? What are they engaged with? What topics seem to be current for them? “Sometimes you can spot an opportunity when a reporter asks for contributions over Twitter. This has actually happened to me when Steve O’Hear reached out on Twitter for PR people to send him hot topics. Make sure that you are engaged outside of your pitches,” he adds.

To sum up Marek’s winning formula:

1) Use the right tools to keep yourself up to date and benefit from globalisation.

2) Make sure the messaging is consistent. Every briefing you have prepared for a spokesperson has to be used.

3) Your spokespeople are the ones carrying your message on the frontline. Support them technically. Finally, your CEOs are your superpower. Get them on social media!


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