A couple weeks ago we were asked to comment on the shift in business dynamics in China and what it means for the PR industry. Here’s what we had to say:
What are the differences between doing business in Beijing and, say, Shanghai and Hong Kong for Edelman? Or for Western companies in general?
Traditionally Beijing has been the hub for influencer marketing and public affairs, while Shanghai has been the center for consumer marketing opportunities. Doing business in Beijing is often about getting things done locally within China, while in Shanghai it’s more about providing an open face to global markets and commerce. Recently our Hong Kong office’s approach and offerings have moved toward the more strategic and regional. Hong Kong remains a regional financial and corporate hub, so many of the briefs and projects we work on are for companies seeking regional strategic counsel. Increasingly though we’re seeing more companies looking to our Hong Kong office for help in the public affairs, sustainability and issues management areas.
Do you think the much larger population of China plays a role in the development of the Chinese PR industry? If so, what role does it play? If not, why not?
The size of China’s population does not set the agenda for the PR industry as much as its tiered market structure, which has shaped the patterns and channels for engagement. Increasingly, the PR business in China has become about engaging its rapidly developing second, third and even fourth-tier cities. Further development of the PR industry in China in this regard will require a combination of strong local market understanding with global resources.
Do you think there are differences between Weibo/Microblogs to Chinese PR and Twitter to American PR? Why or why not?
There are major similarities between Weibo and Twitter in the context of public relations. Both platforms are increasingly being accessed using mobile devices. Users of both are highly active in sharing their opinions and information with their social networks. And both have a strong celebrity, influencer and KOL presence that helps shape trends and conversations. There are also key differences: Sina Weibo has tended to innovate more quickly than Twitter with features such as photo sharing and threaded commenting. China’s social media landscape is also a more closely regulated environment, with government measures in place to monitor and, in some situations, censor online discussions. Information is nonetheless travelling ever faster across social media in both China and the U.S. Organizations need to actively listen to the space for any news or talk about their industry or brand, and have a solid strategy for response and engagement.