In Italy, as well as in many other EU countries, digital PR is in its infancy. The practice still tends to overlap with other digital marketing strategies such as paid link-building, sponsored posts/guest blogging and even with social media-driven strategies like influencer marketing.
Though the country has one of the lowest digitalisation indexes in Europe, digital transformation has been increasing dramatically in the last few years. Italy, therefore, represents untapped potential for brands seeking to reach one of the largest and fastest-growing digital audiences in Europe.
To understand both the opportunities and challenges, we analyse the country’s digital landscape and cultural context. We will delve into tips and tricks, as well as things to avoid in order to drive a successful digital PR strategy there.
Media consumption in Italy is still largely dominated by television, however, news is now consumed largely online. When it comes to online media, one type of outlet dominates.
These are more often the online versions of historical print media like: Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta and la Repubblica, which have their regional and often local domains, but also include press agencies and titles like: ANSA, Adnkronos and Il Fatto Quotidiano. Many of these also post a version of their weekly digest online, namely Il Venerdi, D from la Repubblica and IOdonna (Corriere).
These are often specialised spreads for lifestyle and sports. Nationals and their affiliates cover a wide range of topics and employ the vast majority of professional and freelance journalists. Contacts from these outlets should never be missing from your media list.
Tabloids exist in Italy (does the word ‘Paparazzi’ sound familiar?) however, there are far fewer titles than in the UK. The preferred means of distribution for popular titles is still in print form and their coverage is dominated by celebrity interviews, exclusive photos or videos and reviews of TV shows. They seldom cover data-driven pieces or creative campaigns, therefore tabloid titles should only be considered for relevant, celebrity-driven exclusives.
Although not as widespread as in the United Kingdom, in recent years digital PR activity has ramped up and nowadays journalists in Italy receive hundreds of press releases per day in their inboxes. In an interview for Cision’s Media Coffee series, the Deputy Editor in Chief of Adnkronos, Fabio Insegna, commented that “Press releases are a very important tool, however they can be abused (...) we receive over 100 press releases per day.”
This is a reminder to always follow best practice and check for relevancy before contacting a journalist. This brings us to our tips and tricks.
It can be hard to source contacts in Italy. Even online contact libraries tend to be out-of-date, with a few exceptions, or are skewed towards English-speaking countries. More often than not contacts have to be sourced manually.
By far the best approach in Italy is social media and LinkedIn in particular.
Overall, when dealing with journalists in Italy, a more direct approach is preferable. You will have far more chances to get a reply than via email. This is also due to the fact that Italians, in general, favour a more personable approach and like to know exactly who they are communicating with. This ties to Italy’s culture of collaboration and networking.
It is very helpful to build a rapport with journalists. Italian journalists are usually extremely nice and genuinely curious, so be prepared for follow-up questions and further chats, often talks will be taken over the phone/video calls.
It is always best to maintain good relationships with journalists even after a campaign has been published, and though this is considered good practice for every country, it is especially important in Italy where this is seen as a sign of mutual respect and a willingness to collaborate. Don’t be afraid to check in every now and then. Don’t be afraid to make some good friends along the way!
Almost the entirety of digital media is in Italian, therefore, in order to reach out to journalists a native level of Italian is absolutely required. It can be pretty difficult to navigate the different degrees of formality and Italy’s feedback can be quite subtle. It’s always best practice to use the formal register for a first approach, even though this usually changes once you gain more familiarity.
If it seems like the pitch might take longer than expected in Italy, you’d be correct. Don’t venture into the Italian market without a plan and a clear strategy that’s based on a deep knowledge of the culture.
Here are some more important things to consider for a successful pitch.
Timelines from pitch to publication can be extended by weeks and in many cases months. This is common with many other EU countries, such as Germany and France. Hero campaigns shouldn’t run for less than 5 months as Italian journalists tend to adhere quite strictly to their content calendars, so they will need time and convincing before fitting your pitch into their schedule.
Reactive and bespoke angles as well as including calls to action and harder deadlines in your communications is the best way to go. As best practice, before pitching you should always ask yourself: “Why would they want to cover this story?”
In Italy, there is an extra twist: “Why would they want to cover this story NOW?”
Italians can be a charming contradiction. We are focussed on local and regionally relevant topics while at the same time interested in all matters of global trends, especially in politics, technology and media. This is Italy’s great dichotomy of living between ‘campanilismo’ and ‘esterofilia’ (parochialism and xenophilia).
In practical terms, this means that any campaign that has either a strong regional angle and/or provides a unique glimpse into the world ‘outside’ or insights into any global trends will get journalists’ attention.
We Italians love talking politics. You could say, it’s our ‘weather’. With the proliferation of more niche online platforms like Politicamentecorretto, SocialUp and ilPost which specialise in discussing political topics - from equal rights to social media trends, ethics in tech and more - these topics shouldn’t be ignored.
Therefore, if your campaign has a genuine and organic political angle, don’t be afraid to put it forward.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid specifically when venturing into the Italian market.
The overuse of sensational language is a no-no in Italy, especially in your subject lines. These don’t read naturally to Italians who’ll most likely find them spammy or ‘cringe’.
Italians love a personal approach and if a sensational headline is not going to fly, the best way to get their attention is to address the journalist directly. This would be best practice everywhere, but especially in Italy.
Try including their first name in the subject line and use natural, genuine language to address them.
And remember to let them know exactly why you are contacting them in the very first line. Don’t be afraid to be direct.
Not leaving enough time between one approach and the next can be perceived as aggressive and invasive, especially if using the same means of communication.
This doesn’t mean that chases are out of the question - quite the contrary! A journalist will most likely respond to your follow-up rather than your first approach, as long as you leave at least a four-day grace period for non-reactive pieces or provide a sensible justification for your chasing. That could mean either reaching them via different contact or if you have concerns that your previous message hadn’t been delivered.
Italy is a growing digital market with great potential. Regardless of this market’s appeal and growing audience, Digital PR in particular can prove to be quite a daunting task - even for Marketing veterans. However, if you follow our tips and are committed to understanding this country’s unique context and idiosyncrasies, you will find both success and long-lasting collaborations.