Navigating the German press, from a Berlin-based PR guru

Navigating the German Press
Navigating the German Press

Germany’s energetic capital Berlin is quickly becoming the European hub for online and mobile startups. Close ties to the Eastern and Western European markets, affordable and well-organized infrastructure, and an ever-growing network of international online professionals: this is only a fraction of the many benefits that make this city a great entry point into the European tech market.

As a Berlin-based PR professional, working with a native German startup with its own, original business idea is ideal but rare. These companies are slow to be covered by the German press. It’s another story, however, when a startup from another part of the world (especially English-speaking) with a similar business model comes to town.

“German business and tech editors have the tendency to show more interest in international companies than local ones.”

For someone in PR aiming to acquire quality coverage for German businesses, this can be a frustrating, constant challenge. From the perspective of a US-based startup with the mission to establish itself in Germany, however, there could be no better starting point for a media campaign than Berlin. Here are the lessons I’ve learned that I can share with international founders who come to Berlin:

Lesson #1: Hire a German.

Provided that a member of your managing team shows up in Germany on a regular basis, you’ll get enough coverage. However, for a sustainable PR campaign, you’ll need at least one German-speaking point of contact for press inquiries and continuous marketing. If you consider this market to be essential to your expansion strategy and want to get ahead, you should – not only for media purposes – hire a local team.

Lesson #2: Pretend you know where Central Europe is heading.

Even though tech innovation in Germany is flourishing, it is still widely accepted that the US market is a few years ahead. Sharing your insights as to what trends are awaiting the central European online and mobile users, or which experiences you can transfer from overseas to your local team will definitely be of interest to the business media.

Lesson #3: Be critical. Be German.

The German characteristic to be rather self-reflective, if not critical, towards our own cultural, political, or economic status in the world. This can come in handy for you as well. You will always find open ears by discussing your motivation to expand your business to the German-speaking markets, what struggles or advantages your company is facing in doing so, or how your team is personally connected to Germany.

Lesson #4: Speak in English. Think in German.

The English language usually isn’t a big obstacle for insightful discussions with both fellow
entrepreneurs and business journalists in Germany. Even more so than in other countries, you should consider that German reporters are quite skeptical towards marketing talk and buzzword superlatives, and rather prefer conversations based on facts and experience. Keep this in mind.

Lesson #5: Don’t forget about the radio.

Depending on your product, especially if you are targeting end consumers, you should not forget about the lively and diverse consumer press. For both the print and online sphere, there exists a wide range of general interest as well as specialized publications, not to mention TV and radio stations. Your company news might put you on the radar of those journalists too, provided that, for them, you deliver the respective press releases and pitches in German. Bottom line- be open. Don’t limit your thinking on what is press and where it exists.

A final word to founders in need: Don’t forget about the map of cup sizes

Editors in charge of the lifestyle or service departments, among others, will be more than happy to receive inspiration or content for their articles from all sorts of material you can provide. Present press releases and media pitches about topics that are not strictly-speaking “news”. Imagine stories like “The 10 greatest bargains you probably missed” (if you are a couponing or group-buying service), “How to introduce your child to the digital world” (if you develop online or mobile services for children), “The map of cup sizes” (if you sell lingerie online), and many more.

Have fun. Be open. Be German.

For more on Berlin, check out this article from Hojoki founder Martin Böhringer.