Credit: Annika Papenbrock

So what is typically German? The stereotypes that come to mind are brown bread, bratwurst, beer, forms, the love for cash or the Sunday coffee and cake ritual. Abroad you might also hear things like Oktoberfest, Beckenbauer or Volkswagen. In my daily work on the international stage, I have noticed over the years that Germans are also unusual when it comes to technology trade press work. So for me, these are the 5 things you should know if you want your B2B PR in Germany to be a success (no matter if you are a German or an international company):

Germans love print

According to the latest trade press statistics of the German Trade Press Association, print still accounts for the lion’s share of sales among trade publishers at 53%, despite a slight downward trend. A decision maker study from 2016 conducted on their behalf found out that the print trade magazine enjoys the most widespread use, according to 81% of the decision makers surveyed, followed by digital platforms from trade publications at 76%. We had very similar findings in our “Digging deeper into the engineering mind” study about the information behavior and preferences of engineers in Germany, UK and Italy back in 2017. 26% of German engineers said they think print trade magazines are a valuable source of information, compared to 5% in Italy and 9% in UK. These stats might have slightly changed since then, but our daily practise suggests that they are still largely accurate.

According to the German trade press association there were more than 5,500 special interest titles in Germany in 2018 with 616.7 million copies distributed, amongst these about 1.500 trade magazines in a narrow sense.

What does this mean for you when doing tech PR in Germany? There is a strong and very diversified trade media landscape in the industrial and electronics sector with several magazines addressing the same target audience and featuring similar content. So, in Germany this means you have to:

  1. have the market knowledge to know which are the best magazines to collaborate with on an editorial and advertising basis to best reach your target audience.
  2. believe that there are still print magazines that are actually read by German engineers – this is especially difficult to digest for digital- or lead-driven companies.
  3. to be prepared for very high media buying prices. A full print page can easily cost up to 6.000 € and more.
  4. to understand what print can bring you in terms of brand awareness. This is especially important for non-German companies wanting to access the highly competitive industrial market in Germany where they often compete with the established German top dogs.
  5. to know that cover stories in print trade magazines are mostly commercial and usually cost between 10.000 and 15.000 €.

Germans love trade shows

Germany definitely is a trade show country, even in the international context: five of the ten largest trade fair companies in the world have their headquarters in Germany. According to the German trade fair organizer association AUMA Germany is the world’s number 1 trade fair venue for international trade fairs. Every year, 160 to 180 international and national trade fairs take place in Germany, with around 180,000 exhibitors and 10 million visitors.

Source: Auma

So what does this mean for us when doing tech PR? Many of the most important electronics and industrial shows of global importance are held in Germany. I speak of events like Hannover Messe, SPS, Electronica, Embedded World, Sensor & Test, Light and Building just to name a few. An extensive list of the most important B2B trade shows can be found here at “Wer liefert was”, one of the leading e-commerce platforms in the B2B market. Many of these trade shows are of global importance and are therefore used by tech companies to launch new products and do a lot of marketing and PR around these events. In my experience, when doing tech trade shows in Germany, you need

  1. to be prepared for steep prices for exhibiting at the major trade shows of international relevance. A clear goal and strategy is therefore of upmost importance to make the most out of your trade show engagement and to deliver a clear ROI.
  2. to expect fierce competition for the attention of the trade show visitor. There is a lot of content that is published around these shows which makes it hard to cut through. This is why, if you are not the number 1 player in your market or do not present a ground-breaking new technology, we recommend doing the main communication about your new products outside of the trade show period, ideally upfront. To illustrate why this is, we measured the success of trade PR around Electronica 2018. Go here to see the results of our survey. A good example for this strategy is an invite-only pre-show press conference we host in a 5-star hotel at the shores of the beautiful Tegernsee, Germany, before each Electronica. It is attended by approx. 40-50 of the leading global electronics editors and gives a limited number of electronics companies an exclusive networking event and the opportunity to place their stories with the leading magazines before the big show.
  3. to prepare and distribute a show preview press release 2 months before the show to get the coverage you are aiming for. The reason being, the print heavy media landscape where the show special issues got published at least a month before the show.
  4. to know that most trade magazines in Germany have special features for all the major trade shows. This is why analyzing all the forward features is best practice. If you plan your content strategy well ahead you can secure valuable coverage around the shows you attend.
  5. Most trade shows still have print daily newspapers, usually prepared by one of the big B2B publishing houses. For Hannover Messe it is the Messe Daily from Vogel Verlag, for SPS it is the smart production solutions from WEKA or the official daily at Electronica from WEKA. These official newspapers are highly valued by the visitors and a great opportunity to position your show topics. But be aware: There is a growing number of commercial show dailies that are looking for advertising, but without offering any real value in exchange.
  6. to be creative. There is more to be done at a show than a simple press pack or press conference. There are for example awards, video opportunities, speaking opportunities, guided tours and 1:1 interviews, just to name a few.
  7. to tell a really good story and have good personal relationships with the key editors if you want to be featured as a non-German company. Your CEO might attract 40 journalists in the U.S., but this unlikely to work here in Germany, if you don’t have exciting news or you are “investing” in the media here.
  8. take the language barrier into account. While there are editors that are fluent in English, especially in the electronics sector, this is not the standard. Getting across your messaging will be 10x easier if you have a German native speaker communicating your story.

Germans love long-reads

The Germans love long and high-quality content (see this blog for reference 😊). The average person prefers articles of 1.000 to 1.500 words as research of an online newspaper shop shows. In our typical industrial trade media, the situation is quite similar: articles of 6,000-8,000 characters are the norm. In terms of writing style, detail-oriented German engineers tend to like articles that focus on technical features or case studies. If content is easy to read and digest, German engineers quickly assume this can’t be serious tech content – which is not surprising as we are taking about a language where you can compose words like “Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft” (Transport Infrastructure Financing Association). For this reason German trade magazines are generally hesitant to accept lighter content pieces such as trend comments and thought leadership blogs. This is important to know if you plan to pitch and place your centrally created ready-made content here in Germany.

As Germans tend to be rather late-adopters of digital technologies, digital content formats like webinars, when used for lead generation for example, show significantly lower performance than in the English-speaking world on average. German engineers are also very sceptical when reading pure marketing messages or press releases full of superlatives. This is what works well in Germany in terms of tech content in our experience:

  • In-depth technical articles
  • Classic, technical product press release
  • Scientific research
  • Application stories / case studies
  • Contribute to market surveys (editor asks several manufacturers to comment on a certain topic)
  • Technical graphics/infographics
  • Statistics that proof your messaging
  • Whitepaper featuring exclusive, user-relevant content
  • Podcasts

Germans have their own mind

Germans are a “special breed” when it comes to content and tech PR. We can see that when our international clients handle all their trade PR centrally except Germany. Here the German subsidiary prefers to do the PR on its own or to continue to work with their agency of preference (even though these agencies often don’t have the international capabilities and skills needed for global collaboration). The same is true the other way around. German mid-sized B2B companies have the tendency of doing the tech PR 100% inhouse or maximum with a local partner close to the headquarters they know for decades. Even bigger mid-sized German industry brands are still surprisingly Germany-focused in their PR and marketing approach even though the German machine building and industrial supplier market is heavily export-oriented.

Other examples of this special German way are that German subsidiaries of global tech companies often struggle with the centrally created content coming from the English-speaking world as it usually is perceived to be too marketing-heavy and not technical enough for the German organization and readership (see long-reads and print paragraphs above). The same is true for translations.

Germans mostly rely on traditional B2B sales

Lastly, Germany is also unusual when it comes to B2B sales and inbound marketing. The maturity level of the German market regarding content-based lead generation and marketing automation is significantly lower than in other countries – also due to stricter data protection laws which is another big difference to many other countries. The same goes for SEO and digital marketing (of course there are many positive exceptions to this rule, but this is our general market observation in comparison with our international clients). Digital marketing and inbound sales are growing in Germany, but the majority of B2B companies still rely heavily on traditional area sales and trade shows. This means, Germany either needs a lot of love and education from the global marketing headquarters or a special take on sales-related marketing activities.

Mark Herten
Managing Director/ Geschäftsführer Publitek Deutschland

You can get in touch and connect with Mark via XING, LinkedIn, or E-Mail.