What Chinese companies need to know about PR in the West

The UK is fast becoming one of China’s most favourite places to invest with multi billion pound trade deals between the two countries. With more (both large and small) Chinese companies coming to the UK, there is an increasing demand on PR services to help these companies build brand awareness as they enter a new market. 

Nee Hao Magazine has consulted Sally Maier Yip, a UK-Asia/China PR specialist who has been working across Asia, China and the UK over the past decade, to tell us what Chinese companies need to know about Public Relations in the West. She advises Chinese and Far Eastern clients on how to use PR effectively to build, manage and protect their brand reputation when they come to do business in the West, and vice versa.

As new market players, it is critical for these Chinese companies to understand how PR works in the West, which is arguably vastly different from that in China.

I have to say, as an insider, there is often some level of misunderstanding of what PR can do and can’t do in the eyes of these Chinese companies when they start venturing out globally.

Here are my four top tips for Chinese companies about PR in the West:

 1.  PR is not a ‘side business’. It is a highly respected profession in the West.

In some way, PR is underrated in China than that in the West. It can be due to the fact that PR originated in the West, and has always advanced faster than that in China and Asia as a profession.

When Chinese companies work with a PR agency in the West, they need to understand that they are buying their PR agency’s expertise which has a price to it. Chinese companies need to play the game when they enter the Western market. They need to show respect and be cooperative when working with Western agencies together.

Like all other services and products, there are a great variety of PR agencies with all sorts of standards and ethics in the market, and good PR agencies of course will charge more because of their high-standard expertise and professionalism. So if you are looking to hire a PR agency in the West, don’t try to cut costs as you get what you pay.

2. PR is not about quick fixes. It is about long-term strategy.

Most Chinese companies may still think that they only need PR when they are launching a new product or service or when they are in terrible crisis. PR is not about quick fixes, but is about building long-term, meaningful relationships with your stakeholders which can consist of your customers, media, governments, NGOs, etc. depending on the business you are in.

If you are only willing to employ PR services for a few months, I’d recommend not even wasting your money on it. It is short term. People will forget it. The impact will be minimal. For any PR programme that will actually make real significance on the business, it usually takes at least a year or longer. But I can assure you that it’s all worth the money, as Bill Gates infamously once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”

Remember, PR is about long-term strategy and should be cohesive with your business growth plan. If you want quick sales or fixes, hire a sales or business development person to do the job instead.

3.  PR is not just about getting nice press coverage. It is far beyond than that.

Many Chinese companies still think that PR is all about getting nice articles in the press, and that is. Yes it is part of the many merits of PR that we help clients get coverage through editorials, not paid advertorials or advertisements.

However, Chinese companies should not treat PR professionals as media relations people only. Experienced PR experts are far beyond that. They should be able to help you solve bigger problems, help achieve your commercial goals and get the brand image right through various means. A good PR programme should start with the strategy, objectives, messaging and then tactics. Getting nice press coverage is only one of the many tactics to fulfill the ultimate objectives.

4. PR is not about boring press releases. It is about providing insights.

In China or Asia, press releases are still a main tool to communicate about a company’s new news or product. If I may generalise, Chinese or Asian journalists often ask you for a press release and then they will write the whole article based on the information you provided in the release without even speaking to the company’s spokesperson.

However, it doesn’t work like that in the West. Journalists in the West dislike receiving standard, non-personalised press releases. They may still refer to releases for fact checking, but often require getting some real insights by speaking to someone senior in the company directly. If the story doesn’t have any new, quirky or surprising element, it just doesn’t work for the Western media.

Finally, my concluding advice for Chinese companies on PR is Respect. PR is people business. Though you are an ‘employer’ of your PR agency, it is still about win-win business partnership. If you treat your PR agency with respect and gratitude, no doubt they will do the same and will work even harder for you.

The article was written by Sally Maier-Yip for Nee Hao Magazine, Founder and Managing Director of 11K Consulting, a London-based UK-Asia PR and digital marketing agency enabling clients to grow locally and globally.
The article was written by Sally Maier-Yip for Nee Hao Magazine, Founder and Managing Director of 11K Consulting, a London-based UK-Asia PR and digital marketing agency enabling clients to grow locally and globally.

Website: 11K Consulting

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