By: Doug Self
During my time in Canada, a large American-based business publication ran ads to garner subscribers in Alberta, referring to their coverage of the “Alberta Sands” as a reason to fork over $10/month to get behind the paywall. As the energy capital of Canada, Alberta’s economy centers around the oil and gas industry, but absolutely no one used the term “Alberta Sands” in reference to the oil and gas producing regions of the province. Use of the phrase instantly marked them an outsider and ran contrary to their message of providing expert commentary on the industry in the region.
Geographic expansion is an exciting time for any business – new markets bring new opportunities to grow your brand and boost the bottom line. International expansion is its own beast and localization is a given as translation, local customs, and traditional business practices must be considered. Regional expansion within a current border raises with fewer logistical challenges as supply chain management and hiring often require fewer hurdles than setting up shop abroad. But, for a brand to enjoy a successful regional expansion, communications and stakeholder outreach should be given special attention as first impressions are established with their new community and customer base.
Lazy localization sticks out like a sore thumb. It is all too obvious when someone on the other side of the country heads to Google Maps to find the northern and southernmost towns in the state to say that they “have the state covered from X to Y” or name drops a popular park or local festival without context. Don’t fake it, you won’t make it.
This all comes back to a core tenet of public relations – authenticity.
A lack of authenticity results in, at best, a message not landing. Swing and a miss. Worse, a company might find itself in a crisis-level scenario if it unknowingly wades into issues or causes that are local points of friction. What may be benign, even widely accepted stances, endorsements, or associations in other geographies may very well be contentious elsewhere.
Organizations entering the market a brand entering a new market in the middle of – or on one side – of an issue, leaving a poor first impression with at least a portion of their new potential market.
The moral here is to do your homework, don’t try and appear local, be local. Engage with trusted boots on the ground who live and breathe that place, are current with issues affecting the region and have relationships with the community to provide sound counsel on messaging, partnerships, target markets, and more. You wouldn’t start a road trip without navigation, don’t venture to a new place without a guide.