Reputation management vexes Czech exporters

25.09.2011
Getting financing is only part of the battle

While Europe is heading towards a second wave of economic crisis, only a handful of Czech companies are ready to manage their communication on emerging markets.

Despite the fact that Czech companies are aware that they need to extend their export horizon and start selling outside of the European Union (EU), only 18 percent have a proactive marketing strategy for the Asian markets. Moreover, 30 percent of the companies have no idea which export branches are attractive and have a chance to succeed outside of the EU, according to market research published by HSBC Czech Republic.

The British bank focuses on Czech exporters as a natural target for its global financing activities. In the Czech Republic, it opened its first branch in May 1997. HSBC also organizes the competition Grant for Export (http://www.grantproexport.cz), where successful business cases are rewarded for their ingenuity with cash and financial, legal and business development know-how advisory. The study, which the bank made public on September 20, 2011, surveyed 300 Czech companies about their export strategies. The study was conducted by GfK Czech, a market research agency.

Asian dreams

The revival of European economies in 2010 was positively perceived by 56 percent of Czech companies. The most optimistic companies are in the field of machinery, logistics and transportation, automotive industry and steel molding.

Czech companies provide EU markets with products that are competitive with the Chinese and other Asian goods thanks to their higher quality and similar price, the report noted. On the other hand, Asia remains a key market for the Czech products.

Despite a fall in demand caused by the Japanese natural catastrophe at the beginning of this year, Asia remains a hot spot on the interest map. China remains the driver of the Asian economy, with 8.9% growth expected for 2011 and 8.6% growth for 2012. It is no wonder that it jumped on the third place in the preference top of Czech exporters (28%), after Russia (40%) and CSI countries (35%). China is followed by Latin America, Asia overall and India, all with 21% of preference.

What to do with this communication?

It is remarkable that Czech companies have started to perceive the need to step out of their EU comfort zone and look for opportunities on emerging markets. Yet, this reality is bringing a tremendous challenge for companies’ communication managers. Currently, the majority of Czech exporters don’t put any value on reputation management systems. They invest little money, if any, in their communication.

Very often the websites of Czech exporters are outdated, lack basic information and have a Czech version only. The same person is in charge of sales, business development, marketing and public relations. It is no wonder that companies have no presence on social media and even their local traditional media coverage is poor. Czech companies might create great technological products, but if they can’t communicate it, it may become fatal to many exporters who want to make a living on the tough competitive global market.

How can Czech exporters manage their reputation globally?

The first step an exporter should do is to review its business goals. If I want is to increase my sales in Asia, I need to understand who my new public is and what its needs are. I need to observe this new audience, the places where it meets (local vs. global communication platforms), the topics it discusses, and the challenges it faces. I need to join the digital conversation with my new public. Afterwards, I need to draft the right communication strategy and mechanisms to deal with my new audience. The right place to start would be my website, which must include:

  • A dynamic, conversational and up-to-date English version
  • A company presentation, plus videos and images from its activities
  • A corporate blog and forums open to the foreign audience
  • Links to social media where foreign clients can follow my company’s whereabouts
  • An active online newsroom – a company media kit including basic data on the company, pictures of the company process lines, products and management in downloadable quality, media coverage in English, and links to the latest company news.     

Social media can give many headaches to numerous Czech managers who feel overwhelmed by the need to stay put and communicate 24 hours a day. On the other hand, take it as a huge opportunity. If you wanted to listen to the needs of your Chinese clients 15 years ago, you’d better had a great market research budget.

Now it’s enough to join a specialized online forum and you can test the mood of the market. It’s not easy, but it’s a matter of perspective. Reputation management is here to stay, and fortunately it’s in your hands to use it in your best interest, or to let the lack of action kick you out from the global market.

p.s.: Get your staff trained to speak foreign languages properly. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the big difference, for a company and for an economy altogether.