BLUE’s truly global client base means that we have a lot of ground to cover – literally – when it comes to reaching target audiences across the world. With a huge marine and energy presence, a vital link in global supply chains, and a highly nuanced marketplace and culture, China is a key geography for many of our clients.
The sudden termination of China’s Zero Covid policy marks a major turning point for the country, and for anyone doing business here. For us as Asia communication and PR specialists, the last two years were truly unique. Because of the lack of industry events, the complete stop of international business visits and difficulties to travel domestically, communicating efficiently and ensuring positive visibility in China’s key online, print and social media channels became even more important for our clients.
Ensuring a strong brand presence despite the lockdowns was paramount. While some other companies reacted to the economic uncertainties with reduced marketing budgets and a lack of communication, those who doubled down on their PR efforts were able to optimize their brand positioning and build an ideal foundation for the post-Zero-Covid-time in China – which starts now.
The super app WeChat – a messenger, information source, payment tool and much more combined in one mobile app – is essential for professional China communications. With more than 1.3 billion MAU (Monthly Active Users), the app is omnipresent in Chinese daily life. Most of our client companies attract more visitors to their official WeChat accounts than to their websites.
WeChat is very different from Western social media channels. Storytelling is key; market relevant content, specifically developed and designed for WeChat, ensures efficient communication to the Chinese target groups. If used properly, the platform can be an ideal tool to communicate directly to existing and potential customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Of course, there are other important channels in the unique Chinese social media landscape, and any social media strategy in the Middle Kingdom needs to be tailored to the needs of each company to ensure success.
It’s not only social media that is completely different in China to what Western communications professionals are used to. So are the search engines; so is online marketing; so is the media landscape. A China-centric communications strategy must take all of this into account.
One common crucial element for a successful communications strategy across all locations, however, is a good story. For our customers in the maritime, energy and other industries, we conceptualise and create stories, and secure editorial coverage in leading Chinese trade media. Exclusive interviews, bylined articles, or China-wide PR campaigns – newsworthy content that addresses the problems keeping readers awake at night - will get broadly published. The pandemic and the lockdowns have increased demand for high quality content, with the B2B media market evolving to keep up.
With print magazines under pressure, most of the leading Chinese B2B media is online – and mobile. While many of the print magazines are government-owned, an increasing number of online media platforms follow new business models which involve private investors. Big players such as Alibaba and Tencent have invested in such new online media. As these platforms compete for Chinese readers, they are innovating and raising the quality of their journalism. This development creates an ideal setting for targeted PR work in China.
The Chinese Year of the Rabbit is just beginning. In Chinese culture, the rabbit is known as a harbinger of tremendous luck and good fortune. But to ensure an optimized brand presence in China, you don’t need luck – you just need good stories to tell.
Bernhard Hagen, Founder, Hagen PR,