China in the PR Spotlight

PR in the Middle Kingdom is still an adventurous task, especially given that the role of media still differs from media elsewhere. The interview below illustrates the PR landscape and the challenges of PR in China. 1. What is the latest trend (change) in PR you have identified in your region? EASTWEST: One major trend is certainly the increasing importance of social media. As the number of internet users has exceeded 400 Million, China is now the No. 1 internet nation worldwide. You can find internet cafes virtually in any place you could imagine – even in tiny villages in the country side. 2. How does your agency react / handle / embrace this? EASTWEST: Our PR strategy starts with content creation such as hosting monthly round tables on social media, and demonstrating thought leadership in social media. You can watch our latest video by clicking the link here. Also inspired by the work of Brian Solis and Jess Thomas on the conversation prism, ‘the art of listening, learning and sharing,’ EASTWEST dedicated some time to map out each of the social media tools and platforms available in China, using Brian Solis’s original prism as the framework. Clients can use the prism to determine the best distribution strategy to garner the best possible level of audience engagement. The conversation prism should help understand where best to listen, learn and share in China. (See the prism on home page of www.eastwestpr.com ) 3. Can you give a recent example from a project? EASTWEST: Foreign companies doing business in China want to take advantage of the huge popularity of Chinese social media to increase their online visibility and improve brand awareness. Avnet Technology Solutions has chosen EASTWEST PR to help gain visibility on Chinese social media networks. EASTWEST PR produces, translates, publishes and promotes Avnet’s vidcasts on Chinese networks. You can go to the article Avnet TS gets visibility on Chinese video networks to watch the video and learn more. 4. Are there PR practices in which you think your region differs from PR in other part of the world? EASTWEST: In my experience the difference is one of timeframe and expectation. PR in the USA and Europe has been practiced since the 1950’s and companies understand the time that is required to build an understanding of an organization over time. They also respect the editorial integrity of the media. In China where the PR industry is less than a decade old and there is a practice of paying for coverage, to which EASTWEST does not condone or practice. PR is seen as tactical and the expectation is that it will generate a direct result immediately. In a country where the pace of growth is so fast the concept of long term value is sacrificed at the altar of superficial quality. Besides classic PR, online PR and blogger relations have become a lot more important for PR executives here in China. Social networks like Renren, Kaixin, and Douban, blogs and microblogging services like Sina Microblogging are used frequently for communication and for exchange on a variety of topics. Still, social media is a valuable communication channel – if you do some extensive research on the social media scene, get familiar to the special interest of those bloggers who are relevant for you and contact them carefully, you may well gain their attention and thus reach their readers. 5. Can you describe common mistakes foreign companies make? EASTWEST: The Number one mistake is of course not to invest at all into PR and Marketing in China. Brand loyalty has by far not developed to the same extent as in many other countries – and all the brands of the world are trying to conquer the biggest market worldwide at the same time. Consumers are confronted with a real cacophony of messages 24 hours a day – and unless your product is a global brand already that Chinese consumers are longing for you’d better make yourself heard. 6. What do clients from other markets need to keep in mind when they plan to do PR in your region? EASTWEST: Working with an experienced PR agency that offers state-of-the-art know-how as well as an excellent contact network is a prerequisite for successful PR work in China. The agency should be well connected not only to the media, but also to industry experts and relevant key opinion leaders. When you start your PR activities you should carefully think about the messages you want to communicate. CSR has developed as a major issue here in China, and your company’s stakeholders, including the general public, will always be interested in the impact of your company’s activities in China. That includes local investment, your HR policy, social activities as well as environmental standards. The main question will always be: “What are you doing for China, and how will your stakeholders, your clients and the general public benefit from your activities in China?”

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