Earned media coverage is a sure way to build brand awareness and credibility among your Chinese audience. But the way media works in China is a mystery to many global marketers, and today, capturing the interest of Chinese journalists — who have no shortage of pitches — can be difficult.
Gone are the days when media events, media tours, and tradeshows could easily generate some media coverage. These boots-on-the-ground media activities are, of course, being upended by the pandemic. With overflowing inboxes and Wechat but limited attention and time, Chinese journalists are forced to raise the bar on how a company can contribute to earned media.
Our team works with Chinese journalists on a daily basis to get the stories of our clients in B2B and B2B2C industries covered in the news. Below are the insights we compiled to increase your odds of meaningful media coverage in China.
Media Pitching Basics
Chinese journalists, like journalists everywhere else, are always looking for locally relevant, timely, and objective stories that are based on facts, not self-serving.
To pitch your story to the media, you need to tie it to the local industry trends and the journalist’s editorial calendar. Additionally, many mainstream publications in China are either owned or controlled by the government, so make sure your stories are aligned with the government’s macro policies and narrative.
The first step to an impactful story that’s more likely to get picked up by media in China is a localized brand message. Use these exercises to establish local relevancy and start building brand awareness in China.
Stories That Will Pique Journalists’ Interest
1. Research Report
A research report that is backed by data is always something Chinese journalists are interested in covering. In fact, Chinese B2B audiences love reports.
On WeChat professional industry groups, you can always see B2B professionals looking for research reports. Some independent media publications even have their own WeChat group where they regularly share data reports in order to build their private traffic and user loyalty.
Your research report should include the background of the research and a deep analysis of the current situation of the industry. It should reveal the trends that are happening in the industry, their impact, and your outlook for the future. Your opinions and insights in the report should be well supported by case studies and data charts to make it credible.
When pitching your research report to a journalist, remember to tailor your pitch to each media publication. Journalists have limited bandwidth to read the entire report, so you need to selectively share parts of the report that are more relevant to the journalist and the publication’s specific audience to increase your chances of success.
2. Data-driven Story
An exclusive and fresh data-driven story almost always wins journalists’ attention. Many Chinese journalists (and journalists in general) agree that data is a more valuable source because of its objectivity. Data doesn’t lie, and good data can tell a story or a trend that’s bigger than the data itself.
But, what if we don’t have any proprietary data to share?
We believe every business has valuable data they can share or create, which could be obtained through your own data platform, customer surveys, or a third-party research organization.
Thanks to the advancement of data technology, surveys and data can be collected more easily and quickly without time-consuming focus groups or in-person interviews, allowing any organization to generate meaningful data on its own.
What about local relevancy? What if my data is conducted outside China?
Chinese journalists don’t just look for data-driven stories that focus on China alone. They also look for data that tells a global or a regional trend, as long as you can prove the value of your data which can contribute to a bigger, relevant narrative that matters to the outlet’s audience. So make sure you do thorough research on the publication, its audience, and the media editorial calendar before pitching your data story.
3. In-depth Opinion Editorial
An in-depth opinion editorial (OpEd) that shows the author's unique viewpoint is favored by the Chinese journalists.
An OpEd is a content format written by your company’s subject matter experts (SMEs) where they share their knowledge and opinion that stands for the point of view (POV) of your company. Your SMEs could be anyone from your product leader to the CEO who is the expert in a specific industry subject and has the exclusive industry knowledge to share.
As today’s news landscape becomes increasingly competitive, many journalist-turned-influencers and independent writers are also vying for contributor roles. To pitch an OpEd to media in China and differentiate your story from the crowd, you need to show that the piece is written by a credible and reputable thought leader and their opinion is valuable to the audience.
Talk to your product leaders or executive members to see if there is a compelling opinion they have or a trend they can cover as the subject matter expert. Once you found a topic and identified the right SME, conduct an interview with them to get their insights to draft the OpEd piece. Although some SMEs prefer writing their own opinion pieces, others may need help from PR professionals to draft the piece.
There is a caveat: Instead of creating a story for the sake of media pitching, make sure that your executive has a unique viewpoint and genuine insights to share with the audience in the OpEd piece.
4. Prediction Piece
Chinese journalists also like stories that predict the future of a technology or industry trend. Yet, this type of story is also very difficult to produce.
A prediction piece is usually written based on extensive research of both current trends and historical development of the industry, experiences from your internal SMEs, and combined with credible statistics.
Companies are less willing to make bold statements and predictions that might risk putting them into controversy. This makes the content for a prediction piece relatively difficult to produce. However, if the prediction is persuasive enough, it can make your story stand out from the competition and establish your company as a thought leader.
To pitch your prediction story to the media in China, you should show a perspective that no one else has taken before and provide the evidence to back your prediction. You also need to be careful in your approach when writing the prediction piece so that it won’t contradict current industry trends. Also make sure that your prediction is objective and drawn from facts and data, instead of a theory working backward.
A Collaborative Effort
Even the greatest leader of all time can’t do it alone. Approaching earned media in China is no different. Pitching stories to Chinese journalists is a joint effort between your local PR team (or PR agency in China) and your global comms team.
While PR professionals focus on building media relations with the Chinese media contacts, they also rely on the relevant SMEs to contribute to pitch and story development. The news cycle is churning faster than ever and stories quickly change in China, this requires a faster and more nimble approach to earned media.
As a regional or global marketer, make sure that your Chinese PR team or agency has access to your internal SMEs. And provide timely support and responses to potential media opportunities.
We believe every good business has a valuable story to tell. And we can help you uncover it. Contact us to learn more about what Tribe China can do for your organization.