Lili Wang.

New Zealand Marketing - - Contents -

Chi­nese Her­ald owner Lili Wang has a clas­sic im­mi­grant story. She ar­rived in New Zealand with noth­ing but a cease­less am­bi­tion to make some­thing of her new life. And she has done just that, com­menc­ing her ca­reer in bank­ing, start­ing her own busi­ness and even­tu­ally pur­chas­ing the Chi­nese Her­ald. Now, as she sits down to chat with NZ Mar­ket­ing, she says her sights are set on build­ing a bridge be­tween the Chi­nese and what she calls “main­stream” com­mu­ni­ties in New Zealand.

On ar­riv­ing in New Zealand

“I ar­rived here 26 years ago as a young in­ter­na­tional stu­dent with a big suit­case. I didn’t know any­body. I was a bank per­son, hav­ing grad­u­ated from a very fa­mous univer­sity in China with a de­gree in fi­nance… I ini­tially worked in restau­rants and other odd jobs un­til I got my mas­ter’s de­gree in bank­ing. As soon as I grad­u­ated I got a job at ASB be­cause I spoke both English and Chi­nese. Back then, mi­grants were just start­ing to come to New Zealand, but there weren’t many busi­nesses that hired Chi­nese-speak­ing staff. I re­mem­ber work­ing in the St Lukes branch and peo­ple from all over Auckland came there, be­cause they knew there was some­one who would help them… I worked re­ally hard, from eight to eight. In the evenings, ev­ery­one else was gone, and the clean­ers would ar­rive.”

On start­ing her own busi­ness

“I got to a stage where I thought about whether I wanted to climb the cor­po­rate lad­der or do some­thing for my­self. Most mi­grants are em­ployed be­cause they’re good sales peo­ple or be­cause they have a tech­ni­cal skill, but if you want to reach a man­age­ment po­si­tion, it’s dif­fi­cult be­cause of the lan­guage prob­lem… [That said,] af­ter five years I was of­fered a branch man­ager role, but I didn’t feel com­fort­able lead­ing a Kiwi team. So, I de­cided to start my own thing. I left the bank and started my own mort­gage bro­ker­age busi­ness. I was one of the only Chi­nese bro­kers at the time.”

On dab­bling in con­tent mar­ket­ing

“When I started my busi­ness, I wanted to find a way to get peo­ple to know and trust me. When I worked in a bank, ev­ery­one came to see me be­cause they needed to come to the bank. But then, I was a one-woman band. So, I de­cided to take out an ad­ver­tise­ment in a news­pa­per to tell peo­ple who I was, how I came to New Zealand and what I’d done since ar­riv­ing here… Af­ter this, I started writ­ing a weekly fi­nan­cial col­umn. It was al­ways a soft sell. I didn’t ever push peo­ple to buy a house or in­vest… It was more about help­ing the read­ers. I even­tu­ally got a huge, huge fol­low­ing of peo­ple who wanted to read my col­umn every week and I kept this up for seven years and it helped my busi­ness be­come very suc­cess­ful be­cause the ar­ti­cles built trust by let­ting peo­ple know who I was.”

On even­tu­ally buy­ing the pa­per

“Af­ter 18 years of run­ning a mort­gage busi­ness, money stops mak­ing you happy. It’s a lonely job. So, I thought about what I wanted to do for my­self. It all hap­pened by chance. I knew the own­ers of the pa­per very well, and I told them one day: ‘If you do think about sell­ing the pa­per, please talk to me.’ It was just a co­in­ci­dence, be­cause they were also think­ing about what to do next. They also wanted a change… So, I sold a few of my prop­er­ties, de­spite ev­ery­one telling me not to.”

On giv­ing young im­mi­grants jobs

“Our in-house team is very young. Ini­tially, we only had 15 staff, but now we have 27. A lot of young peo­ple from China are to­day go­ing through ex­actly what I went through 25 years ago. They’re young, full of dreams and they want to set­tle in New Zealand… I feel so priv­i­leged that I am now in the po­si­tion to help oth­ers. As a mort­gage bro­ker, I only had my­self to worry about, but now it’s about the whole team. This gives me huge sat­is­fac­tion.”

On own­ing a pa­per

“I’m the third owner of the pa­per. I took over the busi­ness two years ago. Ini­tially it was just a pa­per, but last year we formed a joint ven­ture with NZME to in­tro­duce a dig­i­tal as­pect. The pa­per is 100 per­cent owned by me and the web­site is a joint ven­ture with 50 per­cent owned by NZME. The web­site was soft launched last Novem­ber and we also have the so­cial me­dia plat­form Wechat.”

On part­ner­ing with air­lines

“We are the on­board news­pa­per of all the air­lines, in­clud­ing South­ern China Air­lines, China Eastern Air­lines, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pa­cific and Tian­jin Air­lines. We are also plan­ning to add to this list as soon as more air­lines fly be­tween Auckland and China. It’s very hard to get a pa­per on a plane, but be­cause our brand­ing and con­tent is trusted, we have been able to de­velop th­ese part­ner­ships.”

On com­mu­nity trust

“Our pa­per has a his­tory of 23 years in New Zealand, and over all of this time we have pro­vided a link be­tween the main­stream New Zealand com­mu­nity and the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and also be­tween China and New Zealand. We have pro­moted eco­nomic and so­cial links be­tween New Zealand and China, and we have also done a good job of cov­er­ing the lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

On giv­ing mi­grants some­thing to read

“Cur­rently there are be­tween 130,000 and 170,000 Chi­nese in New Zealand with per­ma­nent res­i­dence, but it’s much more if you in­clude stu­dents and those on short-term visas. It’s prob­a­bly around 300,000… The num­ber of mi­grants ar­riv­ing in New Zealand has in­creased over the last 20 years, and the pa­per has re­ally wit­nessed this. We did have Chi­nese ar­rivals around 75 years ago, but the real growth has only hap­pened over the last two decades. [The ap­peal of the pa­per for mi­grants] is that it is in their own lan­guage. All the sto­ries are re­lated to their lives. Es­pe­cially in the early years, the in­ter­net wasn’t that de­vel­oped, so peo­ple be­came very at­tached to the pa­per. It’s not just about the news. It’s a con­nec­tion to your life.”

On cur­rent print read­er­ship

“The pa­per was ini­tially just a weekly pub­li­ca­tion when it started. Then it be­came two times a week, then three and now it’s four times a week [Tues­day to Satur­day]. The pa­per is only be­com­ing stronger and stronger. At the mo­ment, we send out 10,000 copies per is­sue. We’ve got over 100 de­liv­ery spots, and it’s of­fered as a free pa­per to the com­mu­nity. It’s avail­able at ho­tels, restau­rants, banks, air­ports and su­per­mar­kets. Once a pa­per is col­lected, it will likely be read by at least three or four peo­ple in a fam­ily [or at a busi­ness]. We es­ti­mate that the read­er­ship is around 150,000 per week.”

On dig­i­tal read­er­ship

“We’ve got more than 13,000 visi­tors per day on av­er­age. This is only af­ter eight months and the web­site is still grow­ing be­cause our main tar­get group are the peo­ple liv­ing in New Zealand who speak Man­darin. On top of that, we’re also happy to tar­get peo­ple out­side the coun­try who are in­ter­ested in New Zealand. We def­i­nitely still have po­ten­tial to grow.”

On spend­ing power

“Al­though we only have ten per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, we do have a lot of pur­chas­ing power in the Chi­nese com­mu­nity. They can spend a lot of money… and this is why many main­stream [brands are start­ing] to tar­get the com­mu­nity.”

On sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing

“A very small per­cent­age of our ad­ver­tis­ing comes from agen­cies, only around five or ten per­cent. We do most of our sell­ing our­selves. Most ad­ver­tis­ing is sold di­rect to clients… That said, the eth­nic agency Niche Me­dia also some­times lever­ages all our chan­nels for clients.”

On the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap at agen­cies

“At big com­pa­nies, they have staff that speak Chi­nese, so it makes the process eas­ier. Some­times if they go to an agency, they have to trans­late into English and then back again and it can be­come con­fus­ing. If we do the work right here with the client, it’s eas­ier. There are of­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems [with agen­cies] be­cause there’s a lot of back­wards and for­wards.”

On cul­tural gaps

“We have a good ex­am­ple of this. Dur­ing Chi­nese New Year, a com­pany had all the art­work for the Chi­nese New Year cam­paign. We found that even af­ter Chi­nese New Year had passed, they were still run­ning the same art­work. We had to re­mind them to change the art­work. The pe­riod was al­ready long gone, and this kind of thing re­ally makes peo­ple feel funny when they see th­ese ads.”

On the im­por­tance of ob­jec­tiv­ity

“It’s an elec­tion year, and we’ve had all the par­ties come and talk to us. We try to be very neu­tral. We even in­vited Win­ston Peters in to have a say. Even though a lot of peo­ple don’t like him, we need to stay neu­tral as a me­dia com­pany. This helps to build the trust. We just try to get the mes­sage out and let the peo­ple choose. Over time, we’re judged by every lit­tle thing we do. Peo­ple’s eyes are very sharp.”

On what sets the Chi­ne­se­herald apart from Sky Kiwi

“We’ve been around for 23 years, while they’ve only been around for 16 or 17 years. Our au­di­ence is prob­a­bly more ma­ture, while they have a younger au­di­ence of mostly in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. But we now also have the web­site and so­cial me­dia plat­forms. And the rea­son [th­ese chan­nels] are at­tract­ing such a huge au­di­ence is be­cause ev­ery­one knows that we al­ready have a good pa­per, which has been around for so long. It’s all about trust. Even peo­ple who might’ve given up on print news­pa­pers will still have a very good mem­ory of the Chi­nese Her­ald.”

On be­ing a bridge in a chang­ing New Zealand

“New Zealand will al­ways be multi-cul­tural and there will al­ways be more peo­ple speak­ing Chi­nese. Even Ki­wis are start­ing to learn Chi­nese. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween New Zealand and China has never been so good. And this pa­per is a bridge not only be­tween the Chi­nese and New Zealan­ders in New Zealand but also be­tween peo­ple the coun­tries of China and New Zealand… So, when peo­ple ask why I bought the pa­per, it’s be­cause I still see a big op­por­tu­nity [in what it does in this space].”

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