Most global marketers know that having a plan is paramount for doing PR and marketing in any market; however, it can be challenging to navigate uncharted waters when facing an unknown territory like China, with a completely different business and digital landscape.
Working with a PR agency provides expertise in navigating these waters – yet, it's crucial to have complete clarity on your goals, priorities, and the audiences you're targeting beforehand so that your PR investment can yield maximum returns.
If you don't know where to start, the tips and one-page PR plan template below will help you create effective messages that are relevant to your brand and resonate with your target audience.
Ready? Let's get started!
1. Set Your Goals
When prioritizing your PR and communications plan for China, it's crucial to keep your goal in focus. Your objective should guide all activities while also serving the needs of local stakeholders by aligning with both business objectives and market priorities.
As a PR agency in China, we usually recommend that clients establish two types of goals -- a big picture goal and milestone goals.
Your big-picture goal represents what you want to achieve in the end, driving all marketing and PR activities in China. In some cases, this goal may overlap with your business goal. This is normal, as PR & marketing ultimately supports the business goal. However, make sure you understand how exactly PR can help you achieve your business goal.
Common big-picture goals for a PR plan include:
Generate leads and support local sales
Build trust as a new entrant in China
Drive customer preference over global and local competitors
Elevate corporate reputation in China
On the other hand, your short-term milestone goals help break down achievement into time-bound increments so progress is measurable over a set period — be it monthly or quarterly.
Common time-bound milestone goals include:
Introduce a new product/service to the market in the next 3 months
Sign 5 new clients who represent your ideal client in the next 6 months
Increase the number of leads by 10%
List all the “big picture goals” you want to achieve in the long term.
Next, write down the top 2-3 milestone goals that are most important to serve your business priorities and are realistic to achieve in the next 6-12 months.
2. Define Your Key Message
Your messaging strategy should support how you achieve your goal. Say your goal is to build trust as a new market player. Then your key messages should focus on communicating your commitment to Chinese customers and showing the credibility of your business and products/services. If your goal is to steal sales from competitors, then your key messages should address how your business and product differentiation and how the differentiator can benefit the customers. Finally, your key messages need to be supported by factual evidence and delivered with concise and engaging language.
One mistake to avoid is directly copying your global messages and applying them to China. Although you might find similarities in customer needs and pain points across different markets, their worldviews, belief systems, and cultural/political environments might be completely different. Applying your global messages without any customization for local audiences will lead to an ineffective PR strategy. Instead, you need to balance between global consistency and local relevance by taking into account your Chinese audience’s unique needs, pain points, and cultural contexts.
Identify your target audiences in China. Are they a similar group of people to those in other markets or are they completely different?
Find the basic demographic and psychographic information about your target audiences in China.
Talk to your local sales team to get to know about your customers’ (biggest) pain points and how you are uniquely positioned to help solve them.
Research how they get news and information to make a purchase decision. Know how they like to be communicated with, and on what platform. Whom do they trust and why.
Ask yourself, are there any important cultural context and policy trends that need to be considered in your message to the Chinese audience?
Finally, use tools like our brand messaging workbook to create your key messages.
3. Get Tactical
Once you have a clear business key message, it's time to get into the nitty gritty that will make your strategy into reality. These are what we call tactics – direction-setting strategies crafted to guide actions in order to realize a goal over days, weeks, and months.
Examples of suitable tactics for the Chinese market may include:
Create a Chinese name and logo, perhaps also a localized slogan for the Chinese market. You’ll eventually need these in the long term, whether you decide these are the priorities in the next 6 months or not.
Identify the top 3 competitors who have a presence in China. What are they saying in terms of messaging? How are they showing up in the news media?
Conduct customer interviews to understand local customer pain points, both their psychological needs and their business needs.
Localize your website and work on SEO so that your Chinese audience can find you online. Make sure your key messages are reflected in your website copy.
Select 1-2 social media channels following a “WeChat +” strategy: WeChat + one additional media channel (such as i-media channels 自媒体 or Zhihu).
Translate relevant global content for use on social media and media pitching. Leverage both global assets and local content tailored specifically to your Chinese audiences to maximize the effectiveness of your communication.
Based on your target audiences, develop a key media list that contains 20-30 media/influencer contacts that you want to engage regularly for pitching content, commentary, and press briefings. Include both trade media and general business media for maximum exposure.
Build your PR & communications calendar around the newsworthy events throughout the year (i.e. company anniversary, local partnerships, product launches, or office openings) and create a sophisticated communications and PR plan to consistently put your company under the media spotlight.
Identify internal subject matter experts who can share expert insights and speak about local industry trends for any media commentary or co-create content for bylines, feature articles, social media content, etc.
Plan 1-2 creative campaigns that will generate buzz — launch an industry report, reveal an exclusive survey/research finding, or release a whitepaper. Try to be creative while ensuring they serve your overall goals.
Subscribe to Baidu news alert to monitor key industry trends, competitor coverage, and brand mentions for PR opportunities and potential PR crisis prevention.
Pitch 2-3 media interviews for your local spokesperson, and leverage their insights, passion and knowledge to generate in-depth media coverage and build thought leadership of the company.
Attend relevant industry events and conferences where you can show up as an industry expert to build trust and industry leadership.
Identify the tactics from above that will accomplish your overall PR goals.
Mark urgent tactics with a "1" and less urgent tactics with a "2" to stay focused on the most important tasks and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
4. Download Your 1-page PR Plan
Now that you have learned the important steps you need to kick off a successful PR strategy for your Chinese venture, it's time to put everything together. Now, you can download the 1-Page PR Plan template below and use the "Action" prompts in this blog to start creating your comprehensive 1-page PR plan!
5. Executing Your PR Plan
Peter Drucker famously said, “Strategy is a hallucination without execution.” Once you have crafted your game plan, it's crucial to know the resources needed to execute. Key considerations include internal planning (budget, team, tools) and external planning (agencies, channels and vendors).
Finally, make sure there is internal alignment between your regional and global teams. As you execute your plan, it is important to have support from different internal stakeholders, and having approval from leadership and alignment internally is critical for ensuring the successful execution of your plan.