Weber Shandwick Seattle brings you Global Media Relations Insights, a blog series that explores media relations around the world through Q&A’s with some of our top global talent. The second edition of the series includes insights from Adam Steinberg, an account manager in Weber Shandwick’s Beijing office.
A: China’s media landscape is far more complex and advanced than many people might think. While there are thousands of media outlets and all are technically overseen by the State and the Party, the industry-sector media is given a great deal of leeway on what they can print. Also, the media in China is becoming very sophisticated – very quickly. For example, we interact frequently with China’s top-tier finance outlets such as CAIJING or Caixin. Both of these media now report from the USA – in English and in Chinese – and their depth of understanding can sometimes exceed that of the international media. We are also seeing the trend of Chinese finance media influencing the writing and narratives of the top international media. This would have been unheard of several years ago – and it’s a testament to the increasing sophistication of China’s business media.
Aside from business media, there are trade media in China covering just about every industry you could imagine: from wine collecting to watch making. Of course, at the top, there are the official State and Party media organs, which are more regulated. It’s in the industry media where we are seeing the most rapid development and sophistication.
Another major trend is the advancement of online-only media. Similar to Politico and BusinessInsider.com, China has highly-respected online media outlets, such as Hexun.com and Jrj.com (these are finance-focused).
Q: How do you go about pitching and securing client stories in China?
A: The tactics we use are similar to what you would do in Seattle: we study the media outlet, study the reporter’s beat and recent coverage, make sure we are telling a compelling story and make sure that our spokesperson and delivery channels are effective. The slight difference is that the media in China will usually require a China angle to the story – they will want to know how the news is relevant to China and why? The story has to be tailored for the China market. Additionally, China is an extremely diverse country with 23 provinces and a great deal of local media outlets. If a client is pitching in a particular a region, we would want to tailor the story so that it’s relevant to that region – and not just to China overall.
Q: What is the role of social media in China and how does it impact telling client stories?
A: There are many more social media users in China than in the US. In fact, China’s social media services such as Tencent Weibo, Tencent Weixin and Sina Weibo are vastly more popular than Facebook and its competitors. We are leveraging the Mediaco approach for all of our clients and they are responding very well to the philosophy that we can help every company become a media company. Social is an essential channel for telling stories in China and it’s also a place where crises can start and potentially spin out of control.
Q: How do you engage with media and develop relationships in China?
A: While we have large media databases, we focus on building quality personal relationships with the media in China. This means daily communication. Relationship-building is essential in China and we “live this” in our ongoing relationship-building with the Chinese media. For us and our team, most of our interaction and engagement is with China’s top tier finance media.
Q: What piece of advice can you share about working with media in China?
A: My advice is to ensure that the story you are telling the media is relevant to China and possibly to a region of China if you working with regional media. This is an especially important point – stories need to be made relevant for China (e.g. what will the impact be on the China market in the particular sector you are discussing?). Also, you should consider having local spokespeople in China who can help to localize the message.
Just as in the US, however, the focus should also be on telling a compelling story and in deeply understanding the needs of your target media outlets.
Adam Steinberg is an account manager with Weber Shandwick’s Corporate & Public Affairs Practice in Beijing. Originally from San Francisco, Adam has lived in mainland China for nearly nine years; he is fluent in written and spoken Mandarin.
Adam is passionate about financial communications, corporate communications and investor relations; he has studied the links between corporate communications and maximizing equity value. He has deep experience creating thought leadership and reputation management programs for financial services firms and multinational corporations.
Connect with Adam on Twitter @Steinberg1.