Social media has democratized PR and communications, bridging the gap between consumers and companies and changing the PR role from a brand’s monologue to an entire market’s conversation. Where you as a company used to only be able to speak — not listen —, integrating a social media and public relations strategy now allows you to gain valuable, real-time feedback from billions of people with mere clicks.
Media in China has been evolving for decades, and now, the lines between PR and marketing are gradually vanishing. Not only are PR professionals competing for marketing budgets within a company, but the advent of platforms like WeChat and Tiktok has changed the way people engage and consume content, which pushed traditional media to adapt.
Today, most mainstream media and industry publications have established a solid social media presence and some of them use WeChat as the primary news distribution channel, which makes it crucial for PR professionals and brands to consider an integrated approach when executing a communications campaign.
In addition to social media being an effective message amplification tool, using social media correctly also gives PR professionals a channel to monitor public sentiment towards the brand and adjust their PR strategy and message swiftly.
There’s a lot you can gain from using social media as a PR professional. On this blog, we’ve condensed the top benefits of an integrated social media and public relations strategy along with tips for successful execution.
Social Media as a PR Medium
Similar to the western world, social media in China used to be a platform to amplify your brand message. Companies used to turn to social media as another tool to communicate with followers and the public at large. Now, social media has taken center stage in brands’ communication efforts, often being used as the first line for announcements, launches, and more.
Social media in China, and WeChat in particular, has extended beyond just another owned-media channel and became an important channel where original news stories are created and published. Social media allows your PR message to reach exactly whom you developed the message for — no intermediaries. Or partner with key influencers or industry media for an expanded reach.
Today, social media became an important PR medium where it allows you to:
Identify people to talk to.
Monitor news sentiment.
Manage your brand reputation.
Create and share stories.
Reach out to journalists.
Publish stories on media publications.
As a PR professional, it is important to consider social media and PR integral parts of your overall communications. This comprehensive approach brings many benefits, including:
It allows you to have better “control” over your brand message’s echo online across different platforms.
It gives you the opportunity to tap into a broader audience by sharing your PR content on social media.
You can use social media to identify relevant journalists and reach out to start building relationships.
Social listening provides a feedback loop for you to adjust your PR and messaging strategy.
Since social media and public relations are now intertwined, your strategy must align both elements to succeed.
How to Use Social Media to Maximize Your PR Efforts
Social media is where conversations start. Using social media as part of your PR strategy gives you real-time access to the public’s sentiment and discussions, which can be priceless when developing your message and media pitch.
These are three main ways to use social media for PR professionals in China.
Use Social Media as a Listening Tool
Many companies struggle with a disconnect between their internal perception and the public’s perception of them. How does your audience really feel about your product or brand? Social media gives you direct access to the conversations the public is having, so use it to monitor how your brand is mentioned in the public and the overall sentiment.
To start, monitor the brand mentions and coverage your company receives on WeChat. Are these mentions positive or negative? How are people’s reactions to your content and messages? Use these insights to assess your brand health and improve on PR strategy.
Social media also helps you stay relevant. Chinese journalists often use social media to identify the stories they’ll cover next. You’ll want to follow these conversations in real time and identify opportunities to step in. You’ll have a way to tie your brand to what people are talking about on social media and your PR pitch will be stronger.
On social media, you can also gather competitor intelligence. What are they up to? How are they communicating with their audience? By following them, you’ll be able to learn both from their success and their failures.
Identify Relevant Journalists to Build Relationships
Good media relations are based on building mutually beneficial relationships with the media. As a PR professional, you’ll be in a better position to pitch stories and get coverage if you build one-on-one connections with relevant journalists.
On WeChat, media channels have started crediting their writers, which makes it easy to connect with them directly. To make this connection even easier, some outlets created a platform for brands to exchange e-name cards with the journalists, allowing brands to reach out to the journalists directly.
Additionally, you’ll want to remember that email is fading out in the Chinese market. WeChat is the predominant communication tool for both work and personal purposes, which makes it easier to build connections with journalists. However, you’ll want to respect the journalists’ channels just like you would their phone: Don’t inundate them with endless pitches and press releases. Instead, understand what’s their story interest and interact with them on WeChat regularly by liking, resharing, and commenting on their articles to nurture a long-term media relationship. More importantly, show your value in providing the news sources that will let them write better stories.
As you gain a better understanding of the journalist’s interest and build a stronger connection, you can start pitching them relevant stories and gain a higher chance for your brand to be featured in their coverage.
Connect with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders)
Influencers, or KOLs, are increasingly regarded as an important part of brand communications strategy. Unlike media publications, KOLs are in direct contact with your target audience; they have earned loyal followers by focusing on a niche and sharing content.
Working with the right KOL can boost your social media strategy and help you reach your target audience. For B2B brands, KOLs can be anyone from an industry expert and analyst to an independent journalist. Nurturing KOL relationships is similar to media relations. Additionally, paid KOL engagement can help you deliver the message more effectively and it’s unlikely they’d ever share a negative content piece about your brand.
Integrating Social Media and Public Relations for your China Communications
The best way to incorporate social media into your PR efforts is by building an integrated strategy from the beginning. In China, your chances of success in PR may be slim without an integrated social media plan, so think digitally when planning your overall communications program.
At Tribe China, we have both digital and PR experts to offer integrated services to help our clients achieve their goals and maximize their ROI. Book a consultation now to learn about what we can do for your China expansion.
Interested in discovering the best Chinese social media platforms for B2B and tech brands? Download the comprehensive guide: