Like a German: 4 PR Lessons from a Summer in Berlin

By Matter

I spent the summer after college graduation working alongside branding and marketing wizards in the Silicon Valley of Europe: Berlin. Throughout the summer, I learned to speak, write, and even eat spaghetti with a fork and spoon like a German, but nothing prepared me more for my current role as an Account Coordinator at Matter Communications than learning to do PR like one.

To be clear, there’s no such thing as “German PR,” but the cultural values my German colleagues held dear made them natural PR pros. My colleagues gently instilled in me these values over the course of the summer, and at summer’s end, lovingly referred to me as “the most German American they had ever met.” All bratwurst references aside, living in Germany made me a better PR professional before I ever decided to pursue PR, and here are the 4 PR lessons I carry with me still today:

1. Be Direct

My colleagues didn’t hesitate to say I looked “American” when I flashed a full smile for my company photo. In fact, they didn’t hesitate to point out or ask for most things, and lo and behold, they got a lot done. In terms of PR, directness is key when crafting a pitch. Subject lines should be brief, to the point and accurately describe the content of the pitch. The body of the pitch should only be a couple paragraphs, and contain just enough information to pique the reporter’s interest in the topic. Of course, directness is most important in formulating the call to action. There’s a big difference between “Any interest in this topic?” and “Let me know if you’re interested.” Reporters are busy people, and as my German colleagues would say, how can you get what you want if you don’t ask for it?

2. Be Punctual

Like the train that arrived in front of my apartment every morning at 8:07 to take me and the rest of my neighborhood to work, creating dependable relationships with clients and media requires punctuality. Whether answering an email, dialing into a conference call or arriving for an in-person client meeting, being punctual lets the target audience know you value their time. Moreover, sometimes the quickest response determines who a reporter turns to for a source. Those who are familiar with HARO and ProfNet services are well aware of this phenomenon. For those who aren’t, if the response deadline is tomorrow, always send your response today.

3. Be Resourceful

When globalization said, “the world will run on petroleum,” the Germans said, “what else is out there?” In fact, the summer I was in Berlin, the country was producing more energy from renewable resources than from petroleum. It was all over the news, and my colleagues were proud of what their country had accomplished by being resourceful. There are great benefits as well for resourceful PR professionals, who reach beyond traditional ways of doing business to more innovative tactics that get the media’s attention. Pitching on Twitter is a great example, and Matter’s Precision team of small scope accounts has seen particular success engaging with reporters on the platform. Long-form pitching may be the norm, but a pitch in 140 characters is a resourceful way to make use of a reporter’s limited, valuable time.

4. Be Multilingual

Most of my colleagues in Berlin spoke more than one language. This allowed them to travel fluidly between countries, while ensuring a great experience in each one. PR professionals need to speak multiple “languages” as well, particularly those who work in an agency setting with multiple clients, across multiple industries. Each industry has its own unique terminology; from data storage and retail technology, to specialty foods and consumer products, every industry “speaks” differently. As all language learners know, it’s easier to understand a language at first, than it is to speak or write it. The best way to become fluent in a language is by total immersion, and the same goes for PR professionals. Those who immerse themselves in recent industry news and trends, are those who ensure a great experience and optimal results for their clients.