Hackernoon logoStartup PR in China: Your 10-Step Communications Strategy Checklist by@amirsan-roberto

Startup PR in China: Your 10-Step Communications Strategy Checklist

Amirsan Roberto Hacker Noon profile picture

@amirsan-robertoAmirsan Roberto

Serial Entrepreneur |Blockchain 4 Social Impact |Sharing/Subscription Economy Researcher|

In my previous articles, I shared insights about China's digital
that's shaping today's infrastructure, known from the making of China's Firewall to supporting the domestic rise of start-ups (some of which already have become unicorns). Across various mediums, a lot has been said about China's rise, scaling consumption, and growing number of middle class.

When I say middle class, I mean the 500+ million Chinese citizens that have in their household at least one vehicle and in most cases, citizenship or an entire family from English-speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom as well as most of their offspring educated overseas and proficient in English, French, or even Spanish. The list goes on. 

The following quote from an article by CNBC is a good example of the globally-rising interest in the Chinese market:

Yet, very few articles have been written on strategy for start-ups with a checklist on how to access one of the biggest, if not the biggest, internet markets — China.

There are, of course, scores of articles that touch upon a tactical or
specific aspect of business, such as retail, e-commerce, and emerging trends reports. However, I could not find one easy to use, understand, or with sources that could give me a glimpse of the "must knows" about the Chinese market.

Thus, the analysis, years of experience in China, research, and collective intelligence, inspired my team and me to put together this guide to help people navigate the Chinese digital infrastructure before entering the market.

The following piece is the result of 30 days of research and thorough discussions, based on our personal as well as professional experience in China; 20 days of developing, sourcing, structuring, and localizing content; and 10days of developing a visual positioning and A/B testing. Today, we are proudly releasing easy to follow and understand findings that will be further elaborated in our blog here.

So, what makes up our Top 10 China Strategy Checklist?  

1. Global context with Chinese characteristics

When expanding in China, you need to remember that your PR campaigns should be aligned within the framework of Chinese laws and regulations. You should also have a deep understanding of China’s cultural values and principles. You won’t be able to successfully market your brand and offerings if you lack the proper understanding of how the Chinese market and culture works.

2. China's digital and legal infrastructure

PR in China should be developed within the framework of Chinese laws and regulations, with a deep understanding of sensitive cultural values and principles, and yet Start-ups should be able to keep the global relevance of their products and services along with benefits that it can offer in the local market. That is in China.

3. The rise of Chinese social media

Chinese Social media outlets may have copied its counterparts. Instead of importing overseas made products, Chinese Social media integrated Chinese characteristics within their functionalities and exported its products via Chinese netizens.WeChat, TikTok, Weibo, Zhihuand scores of others are being used by Chinese netizens that are true and loyal advocates that inviting the rest of the world to either accept new rules of the game or stay behind.

And, the game is just the beginning.

4. Baidu is not Google

If you were to expand to China, you need to know that the Chinese don’t use Google and any of its products and services in their daily lives.

Instead, they have Baidu—the dominant search engine in mainland China that indexes all types of content in the Chinese language only. With this in mind, if you want to increase your exposure on the Chinese search engine, you need to consider not only the language, but the cultural resonance in everything as well. For technical matters, you also need to learn about Baidu’s infrastructure and functionalities so that you can strategize how your Start-up can come up in search results.

5. WeChat: the super-app

Since its inception in 2011, WeChat has turned into a must-have app for both consumers and businesses in China.

It has almost a billion monthly active users in mainland China, all of which benefit from functionalities the app has that are unique compared to other apps worldwide.WeChat is one of the most valuable assets for PR campaigns to engage with your target audience, build rapport with your fans and followers, develop mining-programs for your projects, ideate cross-promotional strategic activities and most importantly, make use of Online to Offline campaigns that have the highest ROI.

In China, WeChat is considered the super app that does everything, be sure to include in must explore/research items in your strategy.

6. KOL culture takes off

The influencer marketing industry in China is worth almost US$10 billion. It creates such a huge impact in the Chinese community that it has transformed the purchasing, decision making and even thinking habits of Chinese as well as chinese speaking netizens.

Because of this phenomenon, more and more organizations are turning away from typical marketing efforts such as billboards and online ads and opting to partner with KOLs or key opinion leaders to increase their engagement with their target audience.KOLs have been instrumental to businesses in making a long lasting impression online and offline.

If you want to gain more attention in China, you better check which influencers you can possibly work with.

7. Live streaming is the way of life

China's Digital Infrastructure opened many doors for local players to go global and live streaming apps are no exception.

Live streaming has become one of the most effective ways for brands to reach out to more customers every day.

From 2015 to 2017, over 700 platforms offering live streaming content competed for consumers’ attention.

According to Deloitte, the live streaming market in China reached US$4.4 billion in 2018, an increase of 37% from the previous year. It reached such a high value even with tighter government regulations in place.

Today, China’s live streaming scene is dominated by some of the top tech firms in the country.

To mention some:Weixin (WeChat), Douyin(the Chinese version of TikTok), Kauishou, Yizhibo(Weibo’s native streaming app), Bilibili, Inkeand many more others.

8. Guanxi meets social validation

It's not about what you know, but who you know, and Guanxi, which literally means "networks" or "connections" provides businesses with opportunities to grow.

Sometimes, creating Guanxi comes in the form of banquets, giving gifts, or networking. China is a Guanxi-rooted society.

Utilizing digital strategy to build Guanxi with potential followers, fans, and even business partners in the long run can help brands gain a strong social validation essential in making a PR campaign successful.

9. Community amplifies the importance of brands

If Guanxi opens doors for social validation, continuously supporting communities on top of creating and launching PR campaigns is a great way to expand your reach in China, tapping into communities is a better and faster way to reach more customers, partners, and even perhaps potential investors.

10. Localization matters

One of things that most startups tend to overlook is the value of localizing their work.

Contrary to popular belief, going global is actually impossible without going local first. While translation only deals with linguistic aspects, localization helps companies adapt to a specific market.

And in order to localize your products and services, you need to look beyond the surface of what it all means. When HSBC expanded in China, it lost US$10 million when it mistranslated its message in its rebranding campaign.

You might experience unrecoverable damages to your reputation when you mistranslate any of your messages, so you better be careful. Understanding what these points mean is only just the beginning. If you want to learn more about the Chinese market and its multifaceted digital infrastructure, you are welcome to explore our blog for more articles.

This is not it, we have easy to download E-Book that you can download for free here.


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