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What Chinese tech companies need to know about doing PR in the West

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We live in a Global economy where companies that want to be successful need to expand into new markets. The Western media is full of US and European start-ups and technology companies betting their future on cracking the Chinese market. At the same time, there are many Chinese companies looking to grow their business in the West. In both cases, harnessing local expertise is essential. Companies need to successfully navigate the important cultural and business differences between the two markets and media landscapes.

This guide has been designed for Chinese companies wanting to increase their profile in business and technology press and who may not be familiar with how differently the public relations industry is viewed in the West.

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What Chinese tech companies need to know about doing PR in the West

  1. 1. | P1 | WHAT CHINESE TECH COMPANIES NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DOING PR IN THE WEST
  2. 2. | P3 | "Companies need to successfully navigate the important cultural and business differences between markets and media landscapes." www.bigideasmachine.com About this guide We live in a Global economy where companies that want to be successful need to expand into new markets. The Western media is full of US and European start-ups and technology companies betting their future on cracking the Chinese market. At the same time, there are many Chinese companies looking to grow their business in the West. In both cases, harnessing local expertise is essential. Companies need to successfully navigate the important cultural and business differences between the two markets and media landscapes. This guide has been designed for Chinese companies wanting to increase their profile in business and technology press and who may not be familiar with how differently the public relations industry is viewed in the West. John Ozimek, co-founder & director, Big Ideas Machine
  3. 3. | P4 | What Chinese tech companies need to know about doing PR in the West One of the mistakes many Chinese companies make when hiring a western PR agency is to only focus on media coverage. Whilst securing coverage in magazines and on websites is a core function of any PR agency there are many other aspects to PR which can affect the ability to get results. With so much competition for media attention, companies that don’t have a well developed and long term PR strategy will often find that they struggle to secure media coverage. Companies also need to invest in branding, marketing and localisation in order to present the company in the best possible light. Writing for the website Nee Hao, Sally Maier Yip, a UK-Asia/China PR specialist who has been working across Asia, China and the UK over the past decade feels that Chinese companies so- metimes look for quick and cheap results rather than invest wisely: “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 to- gether. 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. 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.” PR IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST MEDIA COVERAGE
  4. 4. | P5 | www.bigideasmachine.com A very common mistake made by both Western and Chinese companies is to think that the way to achieve coverage is to issue press releases. However, fewer and fewer journalists like to receive company press releases. Instead they use social media channels and their own professional network of trusted contacts to decide what is interesting and newsworthy. Our own research found that fewer than 50% of journalists use press releases or newswire services. This is very different to China according to Sally Maier Yip: “In China or Asia, press releases are still a main tool to communicate about a company’s new news or product. 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.” IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A QUICK FIX, DON’T CHOOSE PR Part of a successful PR campaign is creating a positive reputation for the company in the press and also with key stakeholders including customers, consumers and business partners. As Sally Maier Yip suggests, with so many established global brands in the West already it often takes more than a year of hard work before media coverage is even possible. Unless a company has an amazing new product or is involved in a major investment or acquisition, it can be very difficult to generate quick PR results due to intense competition from more established companies and a huge number of news stories published every day. According to data from the US Department of Labor there are now more than 4 PR professionals for every journalist in the US. A recent survey by the UK Office for National Statistics has also found that the number of PRs has risen by 50% in the UK over the past two years, with predictions that it won’t be long until PRs outnumber journalists in the UK too. This means that there are fewer journalists out there writing for a shrinking number of publications. Companies trying to secure media coverage can’t expect journalists to spend precious time researching their products, and instead need to put more work into making it as easy as possible for the media to write interesting stories by sharing data, insight, photography or access to key spokespeople.
  5. 5. | P6 | What Chinese tech companies need to know about doing PR in the West Many Western journalists have a healthy di- strust in the information shared through official channels. Once again the growth of social media and the internet has meant that reporters and customers no longer need to rely on informa- tion issued by companies, and can instead do their own research. This has created a trend for companies to share as much data as possible as a way of showing that they are trustworthy and transparent. Now, most companies who have created suc- cessful PR and marketing campaigns use rese- arch, insight and data as the best way to engage with the press. Companies like Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook now have whole areas of their websites dedicated to sharing market and audience data. Many old fashioned business people think that sharing data will somehow give an advantage to their competitors or that it will give away company secrets. But the reality is that unless a company is willing to share data which supports their product or business claims, they will find it very hard to get the media to believe anything they are saying. There is also an assumption that companies who are not willing to share data are wanting to hide something. This can be seen as a sign of weakness or that the company doesn’t have the data to back up what they say. Companies looking to raise their profile in the West need to understand that an unwillingness to embrace transparency will almost certainly prevent their PR campaign being successful. THE WESTERN MEDIA EXPECTS TRANSPARENCY, HONESTY AND PLENTY OF DATA Creating market awareness quickly can often be done through advertising and sponsored articles. However one of the reasons PR is so valued is because it has been proven that independent media coverage is more trusted and much more effective than articles which have been paid for. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts for creating successful, long-term PR campaigns that deliver real business value. Any company working with a PR agency for the first time should view it as a minimum of 6-12 months work before judging the return on investment.
  6. 6. | P7 | www.bigideasmachine.com With the pace of change so much quicker in China than in many Western countries, often Chinese companies don’t expect the level of planning expected by Western agencies. For example important trade shows like Mobile World Congress or CES need to be booked at least six months in advance. When applying for speaking opportunities, even small events will be working 2-4 months ahead of the event. And for Chinese app developers looking to launch on the Apple store - to have any chance of getting a feature slot you need to be showing your game or app to the Apple team a minimum of two months before you launch. Typically, Western PR agencies work to plans that are 3, 6 and 12 months ahead. This can be a difficult change for companies which are used to reacting quickly to technology and market changes, rather than follow a long term plan. Ideally, a company looking to build its profile in the West will have both. PR agencies often help companies build the- se plans as part of their work - but to properly research and build a plan can easily take a month or more. This investment in planning is essential, as it means that coordination and delivery of the PR campaign is much easier, and good planning can save a lot of time, money and effort in the long term. TO GET BEST THE VALUE FROM YOUR AGENCY, EFFECTIVE PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL
  7. 7. | P9 | www.bigideasmachine.com DO YOU REALLY NEED TO HIRE SEPARATE AGENCIES IN EUROPE AND THE US? Because of the number of tech companies and venture capital funds based in and around Silicon Valley many companies feel that using a US-based PR agency is the only way to get attention from the US media. The truth is that a good PR agency should be able to genera- te results in both the US and Europe without having to have offices in both countries. This is the same for US agencies targeting the European media, or the other way around. Because many important publications have reporters based around the world, it’s perfectly possible to pitch a story at Tech Crunch by spea- king to its reporters based in London, Germany, Hong Kong or Tokyo. Email and social media has made the world much smaller meaning that PR can be done on a global scale from a single office. Of course, for some companies it is important to have PR support in all key territories. But for many companies targeting the West for the first time it makes more sense to start smaller and scale up as necessary. Traditionally US agen- cies based in New York or San Francisco charge higher fees than the equivalent in London, Paris or Berlin - although the difference is not usually enormous. But hiring two agencies means at le- ast double the cost - which is fine if you are the size of Huawei, but really expensive if you are an early-stage business. . "Because many important publications have reporters based around the world, it’s perfectly possible to pitch a story at Tech Crunch by speaking to its reporters based in London, Germany, Hong Kong or Tokyo." Our recommendation is always to work with an agency that is as close to your own time zone as possible as close collaboration is essential in creating successful PR campaigns. Having to wait many hours or even overnight for approvals and information can mean that opportunities are missed, and can be less efficient and more costly. THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MEDIA IN EUROPE AND THE US When it comes to PR, the US is a much simpler market to target. It is mostly English speaking and has a strong pool of media titles which cover both a national audience, which are also influential around the world. Many large technology tradeshows like CES, GDC, E3 are held in the US, and attract a global media audience. Plus, the US remains the most valuable consumer and business market in the world. “In my experience, Eastern companies will come here thinking that they can manipulate the media. They soon learn that it is not the way things are done." Whilst the media landscape in Europe shares some similarities with the US, it is fragmented by geography, culture and language. This can make Europe a more difficult market to target. Luckily English is the preferred language for business across Europe, meaning many people read English-language technology news websites. The same is true for sites like South China Morning Post and TechInAsia, which cover news about Chinese technology companies for a Western audience. Many sites in India and South America also use English as the default language in order to attract a wider audience. However unlike the US, in order to reach the widest possible audience it can be necessary to also address the local media in their local language. This can quickly add complexity and cost to the PR campaign, and is one of the reasons companies often see the simpler US media as their priority.
  8. 8. | P10 | What Chinese tech companies need to know about doing PR in the West A 2015 study by IDC found that on average, technology companies spent 12% of turnover on PR-based marketing, with 3.8% on media rela- tions, 5.7% on content and branding, 1.9% on social media, and 1.1% on analyst and investor relations. Independent PR agencies are the ones that char- ge the lowest retainers, usually ranging between $2000 and $5000 per month. Retainer fees for startups (which often require more support across multiple areas) tend to range between $5000 and $10,000 per month. Big names in the PR agency world can have monthly retainers starting at $20,000 per month upwards. For example, Edelman PR is one of the top 3 agencies worldwide, and works with many blue-chip companies with significant marketing budgets. According to its US CEO, they “… have some clients that pay us $100,000 or so per year, some clients that pay us more than $100,000 per week and many clients that pay us $100,000 or so per month.” We spoke to Jonathan Morris, a former writer at Mobile News and editor of What Mobile who now runs his own site wwwjmcomms.com about his experiences of working with Chinese and Asian companies. “In my experience, Eastern companies will come here thinking that they can manipulate the media. They soon learn that it is not the way things are done. It is vital for companies to be willing to share data. This is what the media here need and what helps to show them that a company is transparent. Many companies ask for pre-prepared questions. That is not the way the media operate though. When it comes to events and trips, many companies will expect coverage as a result of it. Often though, there isn’t any news to report on. Companies need to understand that most of the time, it is just beneficial to have the background information, even if nothing gets written. You can see when an Asian company has been here for a long time, they change the way they operate. I know of one company in particular that only ever wanted to deal with senior editors. It didn’t work well - often that is not the role of a senior editor to just write stories.” HOW MUCH SHOULD I BUDGET FOR A WESTERN PR AGENCY? There is no hard and fast rule for how much you should spend on PR. But with public relations consistently seen as one of the most effective ways to deliver marketing ROI, it makes sense to spend a reasonable proportion of your overall marketing budget on PR.
  9. 9. | P11 | As with any form of marketing, the amount a company might need to spend on PR will vary de- pending on exactly what they want to achieve. Whatever the budget, it is important to have clear objectives and to measure the effectiveness of the PR campaign, so that investment can be increased if needed. HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT PR AGENCY FOR ME? With many thousands of agencies out there covering many different product and business sectors, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you require an agency that specialises in a particular area - for example, mobile adver- tising technology - then it may be best to work with a smaller agency that has experience in the areas you require. Larger agencies typically have offices in more than one country, which can be useful for companies which need to run focused campai- gns in multiple territories. These bigger agencies may also have their own in-house digital and social media teams, allowing them to offer more of an all-in-one solution for companies with bigger budgets. And the biggest agencies have a global footprint, and will have separate teams and divisions for different areas like technology, healthcare or corporate PR. For companies with bigger budgets it can make sense to select one of the big agencies, which already have a global profile. When looking for more of a specialist, it is a good idea to do plenty of online research. Companies that have the right specialisation should come up in search, and sites such as PRWeek.com, PRmoment.com and the organisation PRCA.org have lists and rankings of many known PR agencies. For a company unfamiliar with Western agencies there is also the option to use a procurement or matchmaking company who will select a list of agencies based on your requirements. www.bigideasmachine.com
  10. 10. | P12 | What Chinese tech companies need to know about doing PR in the West ABOUT BIG IDEAS MACHINE FIND OUT HOW BIG IDEAS MACHINE CAN HELP YOUR BUSINESS DELIVER EFFECTIVE AND AFFORDABLE PR AND MARKETING CAMPAIGNS IN EUROPE AND THE US - WWW.BIGIDEASMACHINE.COM Big Ideas Machine is a B2B Technology PR & Marketing agency. We work with companies of all sizes - from start-ups to large enterprises, across the technology spectrum but particularly in emerging or disruptive sectors such as wearables, ad tech and 3D printing. We have worked with companies that are part of the exciting wave of start-ups being created in China - including APUS, Cheetah Mobile, Kunlun Games and Hero Entertainment. We created Big Ideas Machine as a multi- skilled hybrid agency to meet the needs of a rapidly changing B2B landscape. The creation and distribution of high-quality content is a must for all our clients and their campaigns. Why? Because great content builds trust, establishes thought leadership and generates engagement with your target prospects. We work with our clients to create fantastic content, shape it into different forms and then seed it through multiple channels. We develop campaigns that drive traffic to our clients websites, converting inbound sales leads to high quality prospects. Through a mix of PR, SEO, social media and content creation we use a multi-channel approach to drive quality leads and get the job done. And of course, it stands to reason that our clients expect good results. Whatever the challenge, we’ve delivered in spades - just check our case studies at https://bigideasmachine.com/work/
  11. 11. www.bigideasmachine.com hello@bigideasmachine.com @bigideasmachine 1 Frederick's Place London EC2R 8AE +44 (0)203 637 4244

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