Managing your company’s public perception in the U.S. is complex. But for U.S.-based technology companies looking to expand internationally, the United Kingdom presents a host of new marketing and branding challenges. Citizens in the U.K., for example, are three times more likely to view American technology companies as exploitative than trustworthy, a recent survey conducted by global communications firm Brunswick Group found.
More broadly, U.K. residents and government officials have deep concerns about tech companies’ business transparency and their morality, and those issues drive brand awareness in the U.K. more than in the U.S. Here, people are more heavily influenced by marketing/PR narratives that stress companies’ innovative natures, and the actual appeal of companies’ products to consumers, according to Brunswick.
Brunswick recently held an event in Silicon Valley with UK Trade and Investment, a UK government agency, to discuss the survey findings and examine the broader issue of how to manage corporate reputations in the U.K.—a major issue for growing U.S. technology companies seeking new markets for their wares.
The three top concerns about U.S. tech companies operating in the U.K. were tax evasion; data privacy; and national security, including worries about whether tech companies’ services were being used by terrorists, and whether companies were sharing relevant information with law enforcement to curb potential terrorism and crime, speakers at the event said.
People in the U.K. also tend to be more pro-regulation, a mindset that feeds many of these concerns. Seventy-five percent of the survey respondents agreed that the country needs “more regulation to ensure foreign tech companies based in the U.K. pay their fair share of taxes.” Similarly, 66% agreed that the U.K. needs stricter laws “to force Internet and social-media companies to give the security services more information they hold about suspected criminals.”
Still, nine out of 10 U.K. citizens said they would support foreign technology companies setting up major operations in the U.K., according to the survey. There is also public support generally for foreign companies creating more highly skilled jobs.
Event speakers stressed that it’s important for international companies operating in the U.K.—or those planning to—to engage in a meaningful dialogue surrounding their business operations, both through public relations and directly with government officials. UK Trade & Investment often helps international companies start these dialogues, both before they move into the market and once they’ve started operations.
The key takeaways for international companies moving across the pond, according to Brunswick? Focus on:
- How your brand is positioned–the way you communicate and what you say;
- How you form relationships–your ability to build coalitions and consensus; and
- How you behave–the way you go about business, as well as the products and services you sell.
For more details, read the Brunswick UK Perception Study.