Asian Media Relations- Increase Your Profile and Image in China

China's media is booming creating opportunities for marketing-savvy businesses. But many companies have little understanding of how to harness the power of the media in the world's most populous country.

The following are ten points to consider when embarking on a media relations strategy in the Chinese market and identifying with the Chinese media.

1. Understand cultural differences.

Be sensitive to local communities and understand the complex and varied structures of the Chinese media. They are not uniform and often controlled at a local, provincial and national level. Improve your cultural literacy by understanding the culture and history of those you're doing business with. Respect these differences and don't impose your own values and perceptions on how the local media should treat you. Never make assumptions, do your research.

2. Use a local spokesperson.

Depending on the news value of the story, you will have a better chance of gaining media coverage the more Chinese you make your message. Using a local spokesperson will give you greater credibility. For example in PR campaigns for Nokia and IBM in China, they use local Chairmen who are Chinese because they are well respected and have deep Chinese roots.

3. Know your point of difference - what you do in your own backyard you also have to do in new markets.

Find out what makes you or your service or product unique in the Chinese marketplace? How will it stand out from the competition. In the past cultural differences have been used as an excuse for dubious practices not acceptable back home. This has changed. Be accountable as your actions will automatically be associated with your company’s offices regardless of their location.

4. Clarify your communication objectives?

What do you want to achieve? To inform or entertain? To provide information? To build a profile? To influence public opinion? Personal marketing? Marketing or launching a new product or service? How will cultural diversity and differing news values influence this?

News values differ in China. Often issues will be reported one or two days later and not with the urgency or timeliness of the Western media. By understanding your objectives you are more able to set tasks to achieve them accurately and will gain a better understanding of the processes involved.

5. Define your target audience?

Who is your target audience? General public? Customers? Competitors? Suppliers? What age are they, what level of education, what beliefs and values, geographical location, how do they use the local Chinese media? How credible is the media your target audience uses? Does it still have credibility even though it is controlled?

The media is evolving and becoming more respected. Never assume similarities between similar markets in different countries, do your research, this not only helps define your objectives but offers cultural insight.

6. Identify the best channels of communication.

What is the best way to reach your target audience? TV, Radio, Internet, newspapers - local or national? Do your homework on how news is structured and gathered. Investigate who is reporting on what. Find out the nuances. TV has the highest penetration, while the Internet is growing amongst younger Chinese. Each market will be different and it is important to be specific and focused on these individually as well as collectively.

7. What is your key message?

The media is becoming more competitive and market driven. They need readers and viewers to stay viable in the new economy. How can you make your message appealing and newsworthy? Distil what you want to say into three key points.

Always check translations of media releases. Have them retranslated back into English to check for accuracy. Be careful with tenses and cultural influence particularly when using humour.

8. Build your case.

When building your case look for the China angle. What are the features, advantages and benefits of your message for your Chinese targets? What evidence do you have that is seen as credible and independent within their cultural belief system? Always use a local angle, even for an international venture.

9. What is the China hook?

What will make your message or news release stand out from the rest and appeal to the values of Chinese journalists? You are not successful in China until the local market tells you. Giving money to Chinese journalists is no longer acceptable.

Use more legal andethical incentives such as providing transport, lunch or a gift or souvenir item. This isn’t to be used as a bribe however, rather a hook, something to capture their interest and should be mutually beneficial.

10. Develop long-term relationships with the media.

Visit and meet journalists face to face. Network, get to know them and involve them in the story. There is now a focus on the interactive brand experience. For example in one successful mobile phone campaign local journalists were involved in trialing the product prior to launch. They were asked for their feedback and engaged proactively in its development providing them with ownership of the product and subsequent story. Relationships and personal connections, or guanxi, are very important in China and especially so in cultivating good media contacts.

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