Finding the balance in Benelux

Eline Visser, MD at Marcommit PR, part of our ION Network, gives us an overview of PR in Benelux.

A common misconception from organisations starting PR and marketing in the Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg) region is that the same strategy can be applied to all three countries. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The three countries require very different approaches – and it is important to remember that Flemish and Dutch are two separate languages that require their own translations.

Apart from language differences, the cultural differences are huge. It is said that the Dutch have more in common with Germans than Belgians. Like the quintessential stereotype of a Brit with a stiff upper lip, there are similarly humorous stereotypes in Benelux. For example the Dutch are perceived as cheap (we’ve all heard the expression going Dutch). The Belgians, however, will go out of their way to give a visitor a great culinary experience. So going out to lunch in Belgium may take hours, whereas the Dutch may take you out for a quick sandwich.

In Belgium people address each other in a formal manner. The Dutch only speak formally to their grandparents. Overall the Dutch are perceived as far more direct. You would never hear a Belgian say: “What an ugly dress you are wearing today.”

There are also great differences in the media landscape. Of course, social media should be an important part of your PR strategy, but social media adoption and preferred channels are different for each country.

So are media preferences. Belgian journalists prefer a pitch over a press release, whereas Dutch journalists don’t mind receiving news that way. The Dutch media landscape is also rapidly becoming more commercial. In The Netherlands it is more common to use just one source for an article, whereas in Belgium the focus is on multiple sources compiled within articles. All these slight differences prove it’s crucial to treat the Benelux as separate markets, and adjust your PR strategy accordingly.

So do as the locals do and ‘go Dutch’ on your PR strategy.