One of the biggest obstacles as a foreign company in China is competing for local media attention. As a brand in this market, reaching the Chinese audience, full of complexities and bustling with local activity, can be intimidating. Space in the media is hard-earned and any chance of exposure is precious. Cue sponsored content as a tool to supercharge your public relations in China.
Sponsored media coverage is an excellent way to increase brand awareness and recognition. In China, sponsored content works differently than in the west, with media outlets not having to disclose its paid nature the way American (and other) networks have to. This makes a well-placed story the perfect opportunity to earn validation.
An added benefit of using sponsored content as part of your integrated China PR strategy is the increased exposure through convergence media in China. Simply put, sponsoring a post on one platform will likely mean that your content is shared across a range of media, including platforms like WeChat or Weibo, with hundreds of thousands of users each.
More importantly, sponsored content gives you control over how your messages will show up. Compared with PPC or banner ads, sponsored content appears more natural. It can also create human connections with the audience through the storytelling of the carefully-selected media or influencers whose followers align with your target audiences.
On this blog, we’re discussing the prime moments to incorporate sponsored content in your China PR, the available formats, and some of the best channels based on your PR goals.
When Is The Best Time To Use Sponsored Content For Your China PR
As a good rule of thumb, with any media effort, you’ll want to ensure that you have enough business activity in China to support a long-term strategy. The media prioritizes businesses that are highly relevant locally, so your media strategy, perhaps guided by a trusted PR agency in China, should be able to highlight what you’re doing in China to gain traction. Simply distributing news announcements from your corporate headquarters may gain you short-term coverage but won't get you sustained media interest.
Once you’ve decided to move ahead with sponsored content for your China PR, it’s time to plan your integrated PR strategy based on your business goals.
These are the best times to use sponsored content:
Product/report launch: Especially if this is your first product launch in China, a promotion strategy that includes sponsored content will guarantee favorable mentions of your product by media partners or influencers.
News announcement: New funding rounds, IPOs, and strategic partnerships all make for prime sponsored material. Book a sponsored spot to ensure that your latest news announcement gets relevant media attention.
Promote thought leadership: This strategy works well for companies that want to build thought leadership through CEO/executive profiling. Sponsored byline articles or blogs are the perfect way to show your expertise and establish yourself as an industry leader in China.
Support social media growth: Boost your WeChat presence by promoting your WeChat official account in relevant media or influencers’ accounts to gain followers.
New leadership: Changes in your company’s leadership, particularly if they include local Chinese businesspeople or affect Chinese operations directly, are a prime time to share as sponsored media.
Carefully planning your integrated PR strategy to include sponsored content can support many company milestones you’re trying to reach.
What are the best formats for sponsored content in China?
Video and live-streaming continue to gain popularity in marketing, even for B2B. So much so that Vhall projects that two thirds of B2B businesses will increase their marketing budgets for live-streaming in 2022.
Events like live interviews, Q&As, and streamed product launches are perfect for diving into sponsored content.
You can test video features by participating in interviews with local journalists to give company executives the opportunity to discuss the business’s vision and strategy.
WeChat is the primary means of communication for business in China. Connect with media or influencers to promote a new product or your report. There is also an option to include a direct link to your WeChat account in the sponsored post to grow your WeChat followers.
It’s also worth noting that most times if you sponsor a post in a publication, they’ll likely share it in their WeChat as well. This is a good opportunity to grow your own WeChat presence. If you’re interested in learning more about how to grow your WeChat Official Account, these WeChat B2B marketing strategies may help you.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, Weibo is a micro-blogging platform equivalent to Twitter in the west.
On Weibo, you can partner with media or KOL accounts to post stories, which are similar to Instagram stories except that people can comment on them publicly. Other than stories, accounts on Weibo can share static posts that include multimedia (video, photos, or infographics, for example) for followers to interact with.
A big plus of verified Weibo accounts is that they display insights on the person’s profile, including engagement and number of views, which can help you select the right partners for sponsored content.
To ensure you get the traction you’re after, consider posting your next press release as a sponsored piece on niche industry sites. Successful funding rounds, expanding teams, and launching operations in new regions are good examples of press releases that can work as sponsored content.
The Best Paid Media Channels For Tech & B2B Companies
36Kr (in English) is a news portal dedicated to covering technology, market trends, investment, and innovation. 36Kr has an editorial team that can conduct interviews with your C-suite executives or development team to create compelling stories to get your brand the attention you need.
36Kr is the go-to news outlet for everything tech-related. As an established tech media with strong news-making ability, getting a story featured on 36Kr can be a big investment, but it can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of users on their WeChat OA alone.
We recommend 36Kr for tech startups looking to create buzz-worthy stories or reach investors.
As the top tech and business publication in China, Huxiu is known for its objective, high-quality news content. Its primary audience is comprised of business executives in China’s tier-1 and tier-2 cities.
Huxiu offers a variety of sponsored content options on its social media (WeChat and Weibo) and their news app, and they offer the option to create content internally through their editorial team or post company-created content.
Additionally, the Huxiu app has a feature column page. This column allows companies to create different articles under one story topic for continuous exposure, which is great for educational series or trend analysis topics.
The price for paid partnerships on Huxiu ranges from 100,000 RMB to 800,000 RMB depending on the options you choose. Given Huxiu’s audience, this platform is ideal for B2B and tech companies whose goal is to increase their business exposure through a trusted media outlet and reach decision-makers.
While separate from its American counterpart, Forbes China boasts a similar reputation for thought leadership and is a prized resource for business owners and executives.
On Forbes China, there’s a wide range of paid options from short TikTok videos to extensive social posts on Weibo and WeChat. Aside from these, Forbes offers an e-newsletter and eDM service that gives brands the opportunity to reach an executive audience even if they don’t have one in China. Forbes also has a news app and can distribute sponsored content through their partner media channels.
Forbes China is more affordable than Huxiu, with the pricing for self-directed content ranging from 20,000 RMB to 60,000 RMB depending on the offer you choose. That said, Forbes China is a good fit for B2B entrepreneurs or start-up founders to establish their profile in China.
The Case For Sponsored Content As Part Of Your Integrated China PR Strategy
The lines between marketing and PR are blurring — with users being more educated and consuming content more thoughtfully than ever before. As your company expands, it’s crucial to devise a strategy that integrates both elements to support your growth.
Investing in sponsored content is an excellent way to give your brand the boost it needs to position itself successfully and maximize the effectiveness of your traditional media strategy.