Re­la­tion­ships also key in West for new­com­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By WANG MINGJIE in Lon­don wang­mingjie@mail.chi­nadai­

More Chi­nese com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing in the United King­dom, trig­ger­ing a de­mand for pub­lic re­la­tions ser­vices to help build brand aware­ness and achieve busi­ness goals.

Ex­perts say due to a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal land­scape and busi­ness cul­ture, it is crit­i­cal for new Chi­nese en­trants to the UK mar­ket to un­der­stand how PR works in the West, which can be dif­fer­ent from how it works in China.

Si­mon Spor­borg, the UK man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Brunswick, an ad­vi­sory firm spe­cial­iz­ing in crit­i­cal is­sues and cor­po­rate re­la­tions, says one of the main tasks is to ed­u­cate new­com­ers about the mar­ket, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing lo­cal mar­ket in­sights and knowl­edge, pre­par­ing the man­age­ment team for en­gage­ment with lo­cal stake­hold­ers, and help­ing the com­pany un­der­stand lo­cal reg­u­la­tions.

He thinks Chi­nese com­pa­nies in the UK need to rec­og­nize PR as a long-term game. “If you ar­rive here as a rel­a­tive un­known en­tity and want to make an ap­pear­ance on the pub­lic stage, you can­not trust that peo­ple will un­der­stand who you are or what you are do­ing. You re­ally need a thought-out strat­egy for how you ap­proach that.”

One of the key is­sues in PR, he says, is to un­der­stand that “it is not an end it­self, not an iso­lated and stranded ac­tiv­ity. It re­ally needs to be driven by the over­ar­ch­ing strat­egy of the busi­ness and it is the busi­ness that drives the PR, not the other way around.”

Sally Maier Yip, the founder of 11K Con­sult­ing, a Lon­don-based UK-Asia niche PR agency, agrees. “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 a 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 and govern­ments, de­pend­ing on the busi­ness you are in,” she adds.

Yip be­lieves that in some way, PR is more un­der­rated in China than in the West. “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 Si­mon Spor­borg, when work­ing with Western agen­cies.”

While China might have a dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ing of PR, Anne Gre­gory, a pro­fes­sor of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Hud­der­s­field, says PR in the UK is about de­vel­op­ing so­cial re­la­tion­ships as much as about build­ing a solid rep­u­ta­tion.

“That in­cludes look­ing strate­gi­cally at how busi­ness is done and en­sur­ing that it is done in a way that gains the sup­port of those who have the power to build or de­stroy rep­u­ta­tions,” she says.

With the emer­gence and pop­u­lar­ity of so­cial me­dia, many say PR should also evolve with me­dia con­sump­tion habits and tech­nol­ogy us­age.

En­gage­ment with in­di­vid­u­als and groups is the key to a suc­cess­ful cam­paign, says Mar­cus Sorour, gen­eral man­ager of WE Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­sul­tancy firm that has deal­ings with sev­eral big Chi­nese com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing WeChat, ZTE and Len­ovo. He says it’s im­por­tant that a firm en­ter­ing the UK mar­ket signs up with an agency that un­der­stands lo­cal so­cial me­dia strat­egy and en­gage­ment.

So­cial me­dia en­gage­ment takes into ac­count the needs of both the client and those in the mar­ket­place, us­ing me­dia to pro­vide cre­ative con­tent at the right time to the right peo­ple or groups and through the right chan­nels, Sorour says.

He cites his com­pany’s ex­pe­ri­ence with hand­set maker ZTE. “We run their UK press of­fice — pri­mar­ily work­ing on a tar­geted re­view pro­gram to get its de­vices in the hands of key in­flu­encers, and pro­vid­ing in­sight, co­or­di­na­tion and in­flu­encer en­gage­ment ser­vices at the main trade, shows such as the Mo­bile World Congress.

“The goal is to con­nect ZTE with key UK in­flu­encers, grow their share of voice ser­vices against com­peti­tors and in­crease sales in this highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket,” he ex­plains.

At the 2016 Mo­bile World Congress, the com­pany set up tar­geted brief­ings for the ex­ec­u­tive team with key in­flu­encers to com­mu­ni­cate ZTE’s strat­egy and view of the mo­bile mar­ket. “We also en­gaged an in­flu­en­tial UK vlog­ger who up­loaded videos through­out the show,” he adds.

di­rec­tor of Brunswick the UK man­ag­ing

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