For any tech startup, expanding business to a new market is exciting. But it also comes with great challenges, especially in a complex market like China.
Regardless of your success in other markets, you’ll soon discover how differently China works. Being a household name in other countries doesn’t mean Chinese audiences will know who you are. The Chinese media space itself is vast and filled with nuanced intricacies. All of these means you’re essentially starting from scratch and learning about this market and the best practices as you go.
Having a range of good local PR tactics for startups is pivotal to business growth in China. For one, Public Relations is a vital tool for startups to gather feedback from the media and relevant stakeholders and build credibility in the early days to increase their odds of success in China.
In addition, as traditional media converges with social media, startups can also leverage digital PR to build brand awareness without having to set up local operations first.
So let’s start at the top: Why should you care about PR as a startup?
3 Reasons Why PR is Important for Startups
PR Fosters Awareness Without a Local Operation
Even if you are a tech unicorn in your home country, chances are few people might’ve heard your name in China.
The global pandemic closed the door for many offline business activities in China. But it also opened the door to digital PR, making it possible for startups to engage journalists and relevant stakeholders online and build the foundation before they make a physical appearance in China.
Getting your name out there in the Chinese media in the early days is the perfect groundwork for gaining attention around your next product launch, partnerships, or key milestones.
PR Attracts Investment in a Competitive Market
Every startup needs funding to take its business to the next level. Building a positive brand image within the investor community in China through PR is an effective way for startups to secure their next round of financing.
Through PR, startups can define their local narrative and connect themselves to the bigger and relevant local trends, which makes them attractive to Chinese investors. That positive news coverage in the media can serve as a strong 3rd-party validation that boosts your credibility, giving you an edge over your competitors in this crowded market.
PR Builds Momentum With Local Media
Public relations is a long-term game. Its success lies in the strong relationship foundation with the media, which can be nurtured by feeding the journalists with truly valuable and exclusive insights.
PR for startups has a compounding effect. Securing your first stories will acquaint journalists with your brand. And eventually, they’ll be more willing to cover your business — thus achieving a sustained PR momentum over time.
PR Tactics PR Tactics That Worked Well With Our Startup Clients
Localize Your Startup Narrative
For a tech startup, having a localized brand narrative is an essential first step as you start any PR activities in China.
Focus on developing your local brand narrative or messaging around your Chinese customers’ challenges and how your solution solves their greatest pain. It may be similar to your global message, but take the time to understand the Chinese market and your target audience before deciding whether translating your global messaging is enough or you need to develop a different narrative that fits in the local context.
A localized message is an essential first step for brands entering China. Check out our Guide to localizing your brand messaging for the China market.
Invest in a Paid CEO Interview
Sponsored content is a crucial PR tactic for startups. Paid or sponsored content is an effective way to build brand awareness in the early days when you enter the market by placing favorable content on credible media outlets.
In China, sponsored content has an extra advantage in that media don’t usually publically disclose the paid nature of the content, so your paid content looks just like a regular news piece.
We recommend startups to invest in a paid CEO interview because, as a startup, leveraging the founder’s story to shine a light on your brand is the smart way to attract attention while putting a human face to your startup. That initial media exposure will also give you the legs you need to pitch further media opportunities.
Boost Your Awareness With Digital PR
In the past, traditional media were mainly in print formats like newspapers, magazines and other print publications.
Today, the majority of Chinese media exists online — whether on websites, news apps, e-newspapers, or social media formats. This provides opportunities for startups to build their voices through digital PR — leveraging your social media content to pitch media for online/social media coverage, which also creates synergy between your content, social media and PR efforts.
Since content is the key to digital PR efforts, make sure everything you share presents unique insights and shows your industry expertise. Exclusive content such as data, in-depth reports and polls are widely popular content media are interested in picking up.
PR Is More Than Just Coverage
PR isn’t just about how much coverage you get. It's about the story that you tell, the thought-leadership programs you put in place, the speaking engagements, executive interviews, press releases, bylines and more.
While there are many PR tactics startups can implement, it’s crucial to identify the right mix of them at the different stages of your startup to maximize your PR impact.
Finally, your PR goal in China shouldn’t just focus on the volume but also on prioritizing building industry connections and communicating your value proposition among the local community and the larger ecosystem in China.
Is it time to prepare for a China launch? Let’s talk about what our Tribe of experts can do for your public relations in China.