Media & PR-Work

Find out more about one of the richest media landscapes in the world.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, China is rapidly moving into the information age and has an immense range of communication channels. China is characterized by its fast transformation from rigid government owned structures into new business models, from traditional press into new media and innovative forms of news making.

From state owned to new business models

At present, most traditional Chinese media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines and news agencies, are government owned and widely scattered. Many traditional media outlets now feature web platforms and have to compete with other online media competitors for the attention of Chinese web users.

There were 1,937 newspapers in mainland China in 2009, with fewer than 100 of these considered to be influential national newspapers. Some of the most important ones include Reference News, Global Times, Southern Weekly, China Daily and Economic Observer. Among the hundreds of different magazines, a few business-related ones stand out in the crowd - Caijing, Century Weekly, Global Entrepreneur and CBN Weekly.

China has two news agencies - Xinhua News Agency and China News Service. They publish official government standpoints and are widely quoted by most of the mass media in print and online.

However, there is a clear trend towards new business models which involve private investors. An increasing number of private firms such as Alibaba and Tencent are investing in new online media platforms, making a shift towards more innovation in the Chinese media landscape. Traditional newspapers are slowly being replaced by news and information apps such as Toutiao.

Surging online media with a strong mobile focus

Although the internet was late in coming to China, it very quickly became one of the country’s main information sources. Currently, the most important online platforms are Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu, which together account for more than 70% of mobile usage.

Today, China has around 750 million active internet users with the vast majority of them using mobile devices to get online. Microblog sites like Weibo are very popular among the young generation and helped reshape China’s information culture. While they are still relevant, they have since been surpassed by WeChat, the most important mobile platform in China. There are about 1.4 billion mobile phone subscriptions in China and users are very open to mobile technology, actively consuming and producing mobile content.

WeChat - China's most important social media platform

WeChat (known as Weixin in Chinese) is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent. It has multiple features including video chat, voice calling, QR code scanning, geolocation searching (Shake), blog posts (Moments)... Full mobile commerce capabilities are also offered inside the app.

Since its creation in 2011, WeChat has undeniably become one of the most important social media platforms in China. WeChat has some 898 million subscribers with users spending an average of 66 minutes on the app per day.

WeChat has also evolved into a very interesting work tool for all professionals. The latest WeChat User Report by the Tencent Penguin Intelligence Survey Platform, shows 83% of users employ WeChat for business purposes and most new contacts are now work-related. The trend is still growing.

Censorship Issue

There is a constant struggle in China between the need for informational freedom in order to ensure further development and the Chinese government’s desire to control content and maintain informational hegemony. People living in China have to deal with blocked websites and filtered search results; many international communication platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter cannot be accessed freely in China.

However, there are ways around censorship in China and in places like the blogosphere, journalists use humor and political satire to criticize the Chinese government. Bloggers sometimes spell Chinese characters phonetically or substitute similar-sounding innocuous characters to circumvent censorship tools.

For more information about censorship in China, please consult this page: Council on Foreign Relations.

Practical Tips for your PR-Work in China

Building and fostering a positive relationship with the media

Based on the company’s profile, products and services as well as characteristics, the selection of key media will be the first step. This may be print media, TV, radio and online media, or vertical media, mass media and urban media. Companies usually hire PR officers to communicate with the media. It is also possible to use external PR companies to set up media pools, send out press releases, handle media inquiries, arrange interviews and book advertisements.

It takes time to build strong media relations from scratch. However, a personal friendship within the Chinese media is greatly beneficial to businesses. PR workers should spend some time and money on networking with journalists. Official exchange visits between companies and the press are indispensable for future cooperation, which can take the form of interviews, press releases, etc.

Maintaining and improving your media relationship

In order to maintain good relationships with Chinese media, a personal connection and financial support is required. German media has evolved quite differently. German journalists do not usually combine their personal and professional lives, and are financially supported by their employers for professional travel purposes. However, the situation varies greatly in China.

Once established, relationships with media outlets should be continuously maintained. Broad and solid relationships will pave the way for tackling any future contingency, such as crisis management.

Pre-session media communications

If a company has important news or events to share and wishes to raise public awareness, media contact is crucial. A clear timetable with a well-prepared schedule to communicate with the media is necessary. If a company plans to host a press conference, it should allow half a month to invite journalists and double check the participation list one week before the conference. A media kit in Chinese should be prepared in advance, including press releases, personal resumes of the speakers and a PPT of the speeches given. Media kits should be delivered during the media registration period.

Drafting a professional press release

A press release is seen as a window to a company and special attention should be paid to every detail. A bold title is useful, as well as a brief but clear introduction. A short text and boilerplate at the bottom are also essential. The whole document should not sound like advertisement, which may be off putting to media; instead press releases should contain new, objective information with key points. Bilingual English and Chinese content is preferred and convenient for publication. After delivering a press release, it is important to monitor the various media channels.

Location selection for your event

In China, it is important to consider ‘face’ when choosing the venue for a meeting or event. If the budget allows, an upmarket hotel is preferable to an office meeting room as the location is seen to reflect a company’s financial situation. Gifts with the company logo are also welcomed.