Chinese Whispers – Getting Grips with China’s Media
China is home to 1.3 billion people and is an economic powerhouse of the world. There are many opportunities for business to expand into this unknown territory. Setting out a clear, regulated and effective communication plan will ultimately secure international companies a place in this competitive and rewarding market.
The media channels in China are tremendous, with 2500 national and provincial newspapers in circulation, 800 magazines, 370 television stations and 280 radio station, PR companies need to formulate campaigns to reach its target stakeholders. Since 2000, the increasing usage of micro-blogging and forums has added even more complexity into this mix. Also, with 56 different ethic groups and 129 local dialects getting your message across is very challenging. Political sensitive subjects are definitely one to avoid. However, once you have a strong network or “guanxi” secured in China, it will provide any PR company important leverage for an effective public relations campaign.
Below are a couple of important rules to consider when dealing with media in China:
Respecting the authorities
The government’s hold on media releases in China continues to be strong and with a firm grip. Though, it seems to have let loose some of its monopolistic approach from the past. The government agenda will always prevail over the story. CCTV (China Central Television) remains the most influential television channel in China with 16 program channels and all local stations are required to carry CCTV’s 7pm main news broadcast and internal figures suggests it receives 500 million viewers countrywide. So the fundamental principle to build up and maintain good public relations with the media and the society is respecting the authorities.
Understanding the provinces
Every province has its own unique media approach. It is crucial for a PR company to understand and set out exactly which stakeholder you are trying to reach through the media. For example, reporters in Beijing will “play hard” and have a hard line approach in their interviewing techniques, they will try and get to the depth of their story with no consideration for “face”. As Beijing is China’s political HQ, it is also the home to the medial channels and media’s reports are often read by government stakeholders.
Shanghai on the other hand has a more gentle approach. Reporters tend to want to build on a long-lasting relationship. This can be reflected by Shanghai media’s angle driving towards more of the business and financial community of China.
Communicating with the media
Before any press release is published, editors of traditional media channels need to establish who your clients and what impact it may have on the Chinese society. This can be done through a very clear, simple email angle at the importance of the client’s story to the Chinese stakeholders. It is best this overview is written in Chinese.
The number of internet users in China is also growing rapidly. Forums, micro-blogging and social media are all catching the public’s attention and in direct competition with traditional media outlets. Already, 338 million internet users and counting, online media channels are becoming ever more influential and an important point of distributing news.
In conclusion, a good communication strategy for any PR firm in China relies strongly on understanding and respect for Chinese culture and customs. Building up a strong network of contacts and a patient attitude will lead to successful public relations in the Chinese market.