Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast
PR agencies are often tasked to get clients into publications; that’s one way to work with the media. Another is to find out what the media is organizing and have a conversation with them around a possible partnership. Especially during these COVID times, publishers are keen to find ways to generate revenue. Remember that the traditional ways that journalists and media make money is to write articles and sell that publication as a subscription or as an advert. Those are the two general business models of publishers. Now, publishers are getting creative by doing things like organizing awards, which are a great way for companies to work with the media to enter, compete, and win awards that will get you great marketing.
Say you want to promote awards in Southeast Asia and China. The first steps would be media selection and finding the perfect target audience, as these determine how to effectively leverage an award to make the Chinese media, Chinese audiences, non-government organizations, government organizations, and people who are innovating in a particular sector, say water technology, hear about these awards and take part. It’s suggested to select a media that can speak to both foreigners and natives for greater reach and easier communication. One can target the mainstream media instead of just the vertical media in that particular sector if there are hopes of partnering with NGOs. Talk to groups that may not enter the awards, but are interested in it, because these people can help spread the word more broadly. With that criteria, Global Times and ChinaNet are the best options.
How Global Times and China NET can get the job done
Global Times was established back in 2007 under the approval of the State Council Information Office, and it has the investment from People and Global Times. People was the magazine and newspaper media group of the Chinese Communist Party. The international reach, though, of Global Times has extended significantly over the last decade. It’s now being sent to over 150 countries and territories. This is part of China’s push to take China’s side of the story overseas in English language for those people that are interested in China, those considering working with China, and especially with the Belt and Road Initiative that they have pioneered using this to communicate what the Chinese government is looking to do.
Global Times, upon communication with them for a possible awards event, provided a great scope of work, and their proposal is to present information within a pavilion attached to their large website and under a subsection of the technology department. They will then list the award and include the client’s news updates and relevant information about the participants, the judges, and the criteria. They’ll showcase information about the previous awards that took place. They’re also going to help get registrations by distributing short video clips related to the award to their followers. They’ve got followers on all the media platforms in China, including Douyin, Kuaishou, Youku, Weibo, and WeChat, so by partnering with an established media company, it’s possible to piggyback off of their distribution infrastructure using one’s own content. They’re also willing to work on the information as the awards draw near, informing people of who’s registered, sharing information on the awards evening itself, and doing interviews with the winners. Working with Global Times is a cost-effective way for the client to access the media that otherwise wouldn’t run this as a story other than a press release. If the client was to try and build a pavilion and attach all the content, and most importantly, try and attract all the audience, then there is no way they could do that with their budget. This would be tens of thousands of US dollars instead of hundreds of thousands. But also from the perspective of time, Global Times can get this up and running within weeks, not months, so partnering with existing media is a great option to consider.
Another is ChinaNet, which is the key news website led by the State Council Information Office. It’s managed by the China Foreign Languages Bureau, and it’s published around the world in 11 versions, 10 languages, and in more than 200 countries. These awards provide opportunities for people from around the world to enter, and using their platform, which works across multiple language groups, can help get global reach. Actually, the Chinese media are probably more international in their language usage than most countries. British publications all take place in English, the Germans in German and English, the French in French and English, but the Chinese have really embraced multicultural and multilingual communications on the media. This would be an interesting way of getting into markets like Africa, the Middle East, and even Latin America and Southeast Asia, because the Chinese government, not individual publishers, are funding the information being shared on these platforms, and it’s definitely not all propaganda. There is a genuine interest and passion within the Chinese editorial community to highlight and work on important issues. Though there are limitations on the political discourse in the Chinese media, they are still just as active in communicating about every other topic as media from any other country.
ChinaNet can offer to run a live broadcast for a possible partner, and without a doubt, China is leading the way when it comes to understanding and deploying streaming technologies. They are willing to create a separate channel for an awards show and then broadcast both the awards information in advance and live stream the awards that will take place. They’d subtitle it, of course, into Mandarin and other languages, and they’re also going to include it on their video platforms, including Douyin (which is similar to Tiktok), Kuaishou, Weibo, and Youku. With all these platforms, they will aggregate the content onto one of them, and then they will help disseminate it. This is a more expensive option, as it will cost around $100,000 to live broadcast, but not only will a client be getting the broadcast distribution, but the audience as well.
CNN, CNBC, or BBC wouldn’t even engage in this, so an evident problem is getting the international TV companies to embrace this. Some would if the budget is big enough, but if diversity of the content distribution across multiple geographies and multiple languages is the main goal for a global award, select a media agency that can cater to all languages. It’s not just for one language and one community, and Chinese media are represent an interesting gateway into the worldwide audience without having to work with different media outlets in Africa, the Middle East, the ASEAN, or Latin America.
Why the media need us as much as we need them
Credibility comes from media partnerships, and it comes because the media are considered gatekeepers of the content and its quality. Anyone would want their company showcased, their awards known, their new products demonstrated on these channels, but it’s important to exercise caution as well so as not to be conceived as masquerading advertising in the form of editorial. To get around that, one can partner with media outlets. The key driver now is that in COVID times, publishers need revenue. Traditional advertising revenue was already evaporating due to the decline of print. The old days of $6,000-$7,000 worth of advertising per page to buy space for a trade press are gone. Now, the media are selling subscriptions to newsletters, which may be even only $50 or $60 a month, and the banner ads on websites no longer command the kinds of fees that they did when they were a full-page advert or a double-page spread before a trade show.
The media bring an amazing amount of authority to any topic, and not only that, they have this amazing distribution. If you’re looking at what you can do with your company and how to promote something you’re launching, think about which media would actually address your target audiences and talk to the media about what they could do, because they’re already looking at ways to make money through partnerships where one partner brings the content and the commerce while the media brings the credibility and the distribution.
While it may sound slightly unbelievable, it is possible to find media that will work without even a budget, and they’re willing to do that if you can introduce them to other forms of revenue. If you could be the content partner who introduces them to partners and vendors who will fund the event, then that’s another way to work together. Think about what the media could deliver to you in terms of credibility and reach, and what you can do for them in terms of revenue and content, and then structure a deal just as you would with any partnership, because the media right now need us as much as we need them. There’s never been a better time to get public relations coverage through partnerships with publishers.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.
Cover Photo from Image Branding