Digital PR in the French Market - Earning International Coverage and Links

With the emergence of the world wide web, traditional PR had to adapt to the changing consumer habits towards accessing news and was able to do so through the digitalisation of its activities. Thanks to its creative campaigns, digital PR is now one of the most powerful tools for earning links and boosting SEO. France shares certain aspects with global and European PR but also shows specific characteristics.

Because of its infrastructure, rich culture and media, standard UK strategies may not produce the same results in this market. The media landscape in France is quite diverse with over 100 public news outlets and a wide variety of TV news channels. The bulk of the news can often be read on regional dailies, that are classed as mid-market tabloids.

In this blog post, we will talk about the digital PR stories that work in France and I will give you tips on the dos and don’ts of the French market. From newsjacking opportunities to outreach practices, there is a lot you can do to grab a French journalist’s attention. So how do you run a successful digital PR campaign in France which earns coverage and SEO-amplifying links?

Digital Marketing in France - Which Kinds of PR Stories Work?

1. Newsjacking: In a fast-moving media world, quickly responding to topical news with a related campaign to generate media coverage is a successful tactic. Luckily, French journalists are always on the lookout for insights to add context and new angles to their stories.

Fuel shortage crisis newsjacking article

2. Data-led studies: Nowadays, there is so much information circulating on the internet that one can never be sure if something is true or totally made up. In France, journalists like to use statistics to give credibility to their stories and will consistently fact-check before posting anything. By creating data-driven campaigns, tailored to the target demographic, the journalist will be more attracted to your story as it contains information backed-up by a trusted source. A good practice is also to add quotes from a relevant person in the sector.

Use of statistics in headlines

3. Regional pieces: Similarly, to the UK, there is a big North vs South divide in France. Whilst French people don’t judge each other by their accents, they like to criticise other regions for their food and drinks, or words used to describe certain actions and objects.

The “Pain au Chocolat vs Chocolatine” is a perfect example of a regional campaign as it attempts to settle a never-ending debate. Visual assets such as maps showing the divide between regions are a good way to earn coverage. Moreover “Florida Man” like stories on the topic have also earned their fair share of coverage in the past.

“Pain au Chocolat” vs “Chocolatine” infographic

The good news is that France has such a wide range of food and drinks that there are many opportunities for a good campaign to earn coverage nationally. If you ever run out of ideas, other regional differences will also work in this market.

“Florida Man” style news article

4. Embargoed studies: When it comes to studies covering an upcoming event, journalists like to receive press releases in advance so they can add any other information and publish as per their editorial strategy. You should aim to send your PR a few days before the official date to increase the likelihood of press coverage.

By sending you PR with an embargo date, you also give the journalist a sense of exclusivity in a way that they are trusted with confidential information ahead of its release. This shows that you trust them and appreciate the effort they put into their work. This also applies to interviews. Whilst embargoed stories can help yield more coverage, they should be used sparingly. 

Digital PR Pitching: Best Practice in France

1. Localise: Research needs to be relevant to French readers. Whether you are targeting the French market as a whole, specific sectors or regions, you must ensure your PR is relevant to the target audience. A good way to do so is to ideate based on the current political and societal climate in France and base your research on topics that will be of interest to French readers. Simply put, if your story has no relevance to a French audience, it’s not worth pitching.

2. Produce data-driven authentic campaigns: As previously mentioned, facts and figures are often at the top of the agenda for journalists. Because the French infrastructure that promotes free education and universal healthcare, money and taxes are often catapulted at the centre of the stage. Therefore, data-driven campaigns with reliable sources are more likely to earn coverage than a translated campaign or opinion piece.

3. Timing is key: As for many markets, the summer school holidays period is never a good time for PR, and it does apply to France too. Thus, from Mid-July to the end of August, there isn’t much activity, especially in August. The same is applicable to the winter festive period (Christmas).

4. Be Formal: The French language itself promotes formal speaking/writing, thus you should tailor your PR to the journalist you are contacting. Make sure to use “Vous” rather than “Tu” and address the journalists by their surname rather than first names. If contacting someone in their 20’s or 30’s, you can get away with using their first name.  

Digital PR Mistakes to Avoid in France

After looking at some of the things that do work in the French market, here are some tips on what you may want to avoid:

1. Assuming PR will work everywhere in France: Residents of the Alps are not likely to be interested in the best beaches in the countries, just like southern readers won’t find interest in knowing why Belgium residents like to drive to Lille to shop in supermarkets. Your campaign should be targeted to either a demographic, a region or talk about a topic relevant on a national scale. 

2. Set unrealistic goals: When approaching a new market, you will have to build new relationships with journalists and constantly review your strategy to optimise it to the market. Thus, it would be unwise to set unrealistic KPIs in a new market until you can demonstrate proven success.

3. Use English in your PR: Despite the rise in English words being used in the French language, especially by the younger generations, a very small percentage of the population understands English. For example, all new films are dubbed prior to their release and there are laws that oblige words and taglines/catchphrases in TV ads to be translated into French. Thus, make sure your infographics and landing pages are translated before outreaching to French outlets.

4. Talk about salary: This one is a bit of a hit or miss. Money, especially relating to salaries is a taboo topic in France. Workers don’t like to share their earnings as they don’t want to be seen as being in a higher social class than their parents were. The only exception would be athletes as they earn much more than the average French citizen and often come from different countries.

In conclusion, Digital PR in France isn’t quite the same as in the UK but offers some good opportunities to earn coverage and boost SEO. Our key takeaway is to be detailed in your campaigns and don’t be afraid to go down the regional angle route. If you would like to know more about our digital PR services, why not visit our website? Our mixed model approach has proven successful on an international scale and we would love to tell you all about it!