October 03, 2016
Yes, I realize that I actually do this for a living. And yes, I have been doing it for many years. But somehow I always feel like a bit of a fraud talking about it because . . . well, it just seems like common sense to me.
Uh oh, the cat’s out of the bag. We have been making a living selling common sense.
When I was still with IBM, I met the editor of a major Indian tech magazine who had been writing about the industry since the 1960s. He was there when the first RISC chips were introduced. And I thought, wow, this guy has been writing tech since before I was born!
But obviously not all the reporters we work with have this much experience. I certainly don’t.
So the way we talk to this guy or pitch a story obviously has to be different from how we address, let’s say, a 28-year-old business desk reporter from a Vietnam business daily. Needless to say, the level of understanding of the two journalists will be light-years apart. The gap widens even further when you take into account the maturity of the media in the two countries.
So what do you do? Here are five tips to get you started right in B2B media relations in Asia.
Tip #1: Start simple, stay focused
Do you know why you are doing this? And what are your priority markets? You might scoff but getting a handle on the true objective of a particular PR exercise is harder than you think. Anyone who has ever worked in an MNC can tell you how muddied the waters can get when dealing with multiple stakeholders with differing objectives.
And keep in mind, Asia is home to more than four billion people in almost 50 countries, and covers an area of over 44 million square kilometers. It is almost impossible to have a single communications strategy for the region.
For most B2B companies, their Asia Pacific focus spans about 10 to 15 countries. But for those starting up – often with limited resources – it’s a good idea to start even smaller with your top 3 to 5 markets, and add others in phases.
Tip #2: Creative B2B content is always appreciated
It doesn’t matter how experienced the reporter is, they appreciate a good story. Successful B2B campaigns are built on coming up with the most creative – and by this, we don’t mean fictitious – stories we can. It isn’t about spin because good reporters will see through spin in a second.
It is about digging deep for the hidden nuggets of great content – often buried in a mountain of technical data. There is always a good story to tell. It could be about how it changes the life of the end-user, or the impact it has on the environment. It could be about how scientists solved an age-old problem previously thought impossible, or how a whole new market is emerging.
It’s there. You just have to find it.
Tip #3: Different strokes for different folks
What works in one country may not – in fact, will not – work in another. The more mature the media scene, the harder we need to work to come up with stories that will capture the attention of the often jaded reporter.
For example, an announcement that will attract 30 media attendees to a press conference in Shanghai may not get even three attendees in Singapore. In some places, turnaround global product releases will get some coverage. In others, it will get nothing – seriously, not one word.
Interviews tend to work better in mature markets like Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Small group briefings work in countries where the media are still willing to work with each other to share questions because they are uncertain about the industry topic or are more comfortable in their local languages rather than English. Some publications will take article contributions on industry trends written by your executives, as long as there is no attempt to hard sell your company or solution.
Bottom-line, please take local counsel rather than apply a cookie-cutter approach.
Tip #4: Relationships work both ways
Yes, media relationships are important because they open the door. But in order to keep that door open every time, we have to do our part by remembering that they have a job to do, and editors to answer to too. Ask yourself – will the story fly with their editor? Is this the type of story this publication typically runs? Will their readers be interested?
For B2B media relations to work in Asia, it cannot be a hit-and-run. You have to keep at it and show that you are interested in building a long-term relationship with them.
The question is: are you?
Tip #5: Local, local, local
When working with the general and business dailies, you have to make it easier for the reporters to do their jobs by putting your client’s story in local context. This means linking your client’s product, service or solution to a local hot topic or top-of-mind issue.
Whether it is a renewed interest in creating a support system for the elderly, or concerns about recent banking security lapses, it takes local knowledge to feel the pulse of the country and find ways to make your business and story relevant.
The litmus test is: if the reporter wrote the story, will people stop to read it as they flip through the morning newspaper over breakfast? Would you? If the answer is no, well, then you know, don’t you?
It ain’t rocket science
Asia is a place where extreme wealth exists alongside abysmal poverty, where the latest technology is available to some, while clean, drinking water isn’t available to others. And the pace of change is unbelievable – you only have to look at the various city skylines to see for yourself.
What doesn’t change is the importance of common sense. Taking a common sense approach to your media relations – together with a healthy dose of local knowledge – will pay off much better and faster than high-fluting, grand-sounding schemes any day. Are you ready to get started?