Source: Global Times
By Chen Dujuan
Public relations firms in China face a lot of issues that might seem strange to their counterparts in other countries, like press-shy clients and reporters who want to get paid for writing stories. Jim James, a native of Britain who studied in America, is something of an industry veteran, having founded EASTWEST Public Relations in Singapore at the age of 27. Attracted by the growth potential in China and having clients who wanted to break into this market, James came to Beijing in 2004 to study Chinese and in 2006 opened a Beijing office of EASTWEST PR. Five years later, he talked to us about the unique experience of running a PR company in China.
"The idea of EASTWEST as one word means the fusion of East and West and our role to help Western clients to communicate in Asia and increasingly help Chinese clients to communicate with audiences in the West," James explained.
EASTWEST focuses on business-to-business consulting, helping companies to communicate with companies.
According to James, one of the big trends in PR is video. "What we’ve done for clients is to produce traditional media, but what we increasingly do is to create video content for them. Online media communication is definitely the future. With Eggplant Digital, where I’m the chairman, we can do the production and help clients get online. And with EASTWEST, we can do the content, the video and promotion, so that’s why we get the two companies together," James said.
In China, EASTWEST just spent a successful year with Bayer CropScience, producing newsletters including design, layout and writing. EASTWEST also managed to get coverage for another client, Edison Capital Partners, in major national newspapers, and Chinese and international media.
In his opinion, to be a successful PR company in China requires finding the best possible people, training them and giving them experience to become better, and there is still a skill shortage for PR.
"PR companies help clients communicate, so the primary requirement for working in PR is being a good communicator," James said.
"They should have interest in learning because we have clients from different industries, maybe telecommunication in the morning and RFID in the afternoon, so you need to have the desire to learn about those things. The third is to be proactive, because PR should look for people and places where clients can communicate."
"In terms of delivery, the biggest PR problem in China is the ‘allowance for reporting,’ (jiaotongfei)," said James of the sketchy but common practice of paying reporters to run stories. "We stick to integrity so we don’t pay the jiaotongfei because I think the relationship between the reporters and PR person should be about respect and not just paying someone to write something. We should give you a good story, do something relevant for you and your readers, help you do a good magazine, newspaper or TV station, so in PR, the problems are corruption in the system."
To deal with these problems, James has come up with countermeasures. "For credibility, the way is marketing, through continuing to tell people what we do and have a good website and presentations, like press releases, interviews, blogs, Twitter, videos, monthly newsletters, and events like journalist lunches and roundtables.
For delivery, we stay true to our principles and we find relationships that have integrity, that means we look for clients and reporters that operate things like we do, and they exist. In terms of administration, the solution is to hire good administrators who manage the papers that need to be put in place."
James says he likes keeping busy. He used to be a member of the British Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and partner in Metcalf & Q, he founded and chaired the British Business Awards. James is also the co-founder of the Beijing Chapter ( eobeijing.com) of EO, an organization that helps entrepreneurs become better in building business through sharing information and supporting one another.
"In EO, I’ve learned a lot from and been supported by my fellow entrepreneurs about all challenges that I face and have a lot of fun because being an entrepreneur is always stressful and lonely," James said.