Italo Vignoli from Milan-based PR and marketing agency Quorum PR – part of our global agency network Convoy – offers his top tips for achieving success in the Italian market.
Despite suffering greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic, Italy remains Europe’s fourth largest economy with a well-established PR industry. As such, it boasts many opportunities for international technology companies. Multinationals IBM and Accenture are large employers in Italy, while a new generation of homegrown start-ups – including FinTechs MoneyFarm and Satispay – are also emerging.
In general, engaging in effective PR and media relations requires a similar approach to other European countries. However, there are some local nuances worth considering if you want to maximise the success of your campaign.
Making an impact
Firstly, language is still a barrier. The rate of second-language learning in Italy is relatively low – the country ranks below 20 of its fellow EU member states in English language proficiency. As such, all marketing collateral should be translated into Italian, and press conferences should also be conducted in Italian – although not necessarily by native speakers.
Secondly, Italians place a lot of trust in established companies, and have traditionally been more hesitant to adopt new brands than their European neighbours – though recent studies have found that this is changing. This brand loyalty can make it more difficult for new entrants to establish themselves in the Italian market, especially if their PR strategy is not appropriate.
Thirdly, establishing close personal relationships with journalists in Italy is crucial, more so than in many other European countries. Indeed, this human element often has a larger impact than other areas of sales and marketing investment. Companies with strong ties to the media are difficult to displace, independent from the quality of their products. The pandemic has further complicated matters for tech companies looking to enter Italy, as face-to-face events and press conferences – which were popular with local journalists and great for networking – have been cancelled in favour of webinars, online events and social media projects.
Lastly, Italy has some interesting social media peculiarities. For example, 31% of Italians trust advertising on social media, against a European average of just 15%. Facebook is the most popular platform, followed closely by LinkedIn. Twitter is less popular, largely because the limited character count does not suit the verbose and expressive tendencies of Italians.
Understanding the locals
So, what about the local stereotypes? There are many of these surrounding Italian working practices, but, needless to say, there is little truth in them. Italian journalists are just as “professional” as their European counterparts, although they are often lower paid and under resourced in terms of editorial staff.
In general, Italian publishers have been slow to take advantage of digital content and advertising opportunities. There are exceptions, but the readership of traditional media has been decreasing steadily, with editorial staff consequently reduced – triggering a downward spiral.
As a result – particularly in trade publications – there is little distinction between editorial content and advertising, as both areas tend to be handled by the same person. Also, the amount of space available for news stories has shrunk significantly in many publications and continues to do so as more are acquired by the same small group of publishers. It’s crucial to consider these factors when planning your campaign.
If there’s one piece of advice you should take onboard before starting your b2b tech PR campaign in Italy, it’s that building trust over time is vital to achieving results. This can only happen if you find the right combination of partners and establish a carefully researched communications strategy.
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