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back to index backASIAtalk September,  2005

Tips for Successful Media Relations in China

Many foreign companies find it difficult to manage media relations in China. Following these tips can help.

  1. Respect journalists
    Though China has been liberalizing its media gradually over the years, some censorship mechanisms remain in place. Nevertheless, publications, websites, and television programs in China earn readers and advertising revenues only to the extent that audiences view them as truthful, authoritative, and readable. Journalists in China are looking for newsworthy stories, interesting angles, and straight information. Publishers may be happy to sell "advertorials," but journalists and editors want accurate, significant stories.
  2. Respect China
    Companies should ground their press releases with angles that highlight the value and strength of the assets they bring to China. Releases should also reflect a company's support for China's continued development.
  3. Do your homework
    Foreign companies must improve the relevance of their releases by learning what is on the minds of people in China. Companies should scan Chinese websites and print media—at a minimum, by checking independent sites such as and English-language versions of PRC government media such as , , , and .
  4. Trust professionals on the ground
    It is impossible to understand how things get done in China—let alone to actually get them done—from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, or anywhere else. If your public relations (PR) agency is running China programs out of Singapore, find out how and why.
  5. Use targeted messaging
    It is important to pay attention to the different audiences of China's diverse media outlets. Trade media are interested in new product releases and features, changes in distribution, and recent industry awards. Regulators and industry analysts are more interested in corporate news: announcements related to developments in an organization's technology, management, and financial circumstances. Job seekers look for features that provide some sense of an organization's identity and culture, as well as a direction for the future. Companies should also be aware that these audiences may be seeking more than just China-specific information and may want to consider translating headquarters' press releases into Chinese.
  6. Set the stage
    Is your president or CEO planning a trip to China? Will your products be featured at an upcoming trade show? Were significant contracts just signed with Chinese organizations? Will an office or other operation soon be opened or expanded? If an event is coming up, your company should consider a mini-campaign of three to five targeted releases to prepare media, trade, consumer, regulatory, and other audiences.
  7. Match the tool to the job
    When in-house PR staff, an agency, and a newswire service such as PR Newswire get involved in a project, separate the work sensibly. In-house PR employees need to be involved in the information-intensive, relationship-intensive tasks of obtaining feature stories, planning media briefings, and managing press conferences. Agencies—assuming they are on the ground in China—excel at supporting in-house PR staff, developing creative angles and tactics, VIP handholding, and sometimes, government relations. A newswire service exists solely to deliver releases to media, quickly and economically.
  8. Review geography
    Aside from the top portals, China has very few nationwide media. Print, radio, and even TV media influence is quite local. Company outreach to key media groups naturally tends to focus on a few cities where operations or markets are most concentrated. Still, when and if developing a national reputation becomes important, companies should consider using a news distribution sorted by geography, to extend media reach to neglected but strategically important parts of the country.
  9. Release. Rinse. Repeat.
    One release is a flash in the pan. To win and keep the attention of important audiences—usually trade audiences—companies should send at least one release a month. If a company's expectations are not met in one instance, it should not give up on the idea of reaching audiences in China. Get some advice and try again. Some international organizations send three releases a week in China, and the releases do generate coverage. Keep trying.
Source: China Business Review - GAI

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