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PR and the Party - the truth about media relations in China

PR and the Party - the truth about media relations in China

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Published by MSLGROUP
The latest whitepaper from MSL China, share insights on the Chinese Media Landscape, as well as best practices in Chinese communications for marketeers
The latest whitepaper from MSL China, share insights on the Chinese Media Landscape, as well as best practices in Chinese communications for marketeers

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Published by: MSLGROUP on Dec 09, 2012
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By Bill Adams, Catherine Cao, Linda Du and Charlotta Lagerdahl
MSL China Executive Whitepaper
PR and the Party
- the truth about media relations in China
Chinese Media
– State Controlled or Freewheeling Tabloids?
As China becomes more important to MNC’s, Communications and Public Affairsexecutives at global headquarters are being asked to provide support for companybusiness plans in China, as well as ensuring that local political or market issues donot negatively influence global business or their reputation. Most business failures inChina – from market entry difficulties or blocked mergers & acquisitions, to productflops and media crises – are due to strategic misalignment and lack of communicationbetween head office and local management. These problems could have been avoided ifcommunications leaders at headquarters had been more in touch with their local proxiesand had a better understanding of the market.Invariably, corporate heads of communications must rely on local colleagues andconsultants for support. But the Chinese communications landscape is complex, fluid,and often contradictory – how can you evaluate communication plans and messages ina market characterized by state censorship and a sensationalizing, profit-driven mediaserving the world’s largest group of Internet users and consumers? And when thingsgo wrong, and you’re the one in headquarters explaining to your CEO why Chinesenewspapers or bloggers have placed your brand in the crosshairs, will you be able toexplain how the Chinese media works and why it behaves the way it does?At MSL China we believe that in order to be effective in China, global PR and PA leadersneed to: · Understand which media are important and why· Know how Chinese media differ from their counterparts in the West· Apply best global PR practices adapted to local market conditionsThis whitepaper, based on nearly two decades of advising multinational companies inChina, provides some guidelines and best practices for accomplishing these goals. Wehave structured it as a “China media primer” for global communications executives;providing local context and suggestions for how to best navigate the media market.
About MSL China
Following the union with Eastwei MSL, MSL China is now a top 5 international strategic communicationsagency in Mainland China. With 200 colleagues across 4 offices, MSL China brings together over20 senior consultants with more than 12 years of strategic communications experience in this keyglobal market. Part of MSLGROUP Greater China, the largest PR & social media network in the regiontoday, MSL China provides knowledge driven, integrated campaigns and advisory services spanningnearly every industry and communications discipline. MSL China has received recognition from theInternational Business Awards, The Holmes Report’s “PR Agency of the Year,” the China InternationalPR Association and China’s New Media Festival for its creativity and effectiveness in strategiccommunications and industry-leading social media offering.
MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s speciality communications and engagement group, advisors in allaspects of communication strategy: from consumer PR to employee communications, from publicaffairs to reputation management and from crisis communications to event management. With morethan 3,000 people, its offices span 22 countries. Adding affiliates and partners into the equation,MSLGROUP’s reach increases to 4,000 employees in 83 countries. Today the largest PR network inGreater China and India, the group offers strategic planning and counsel, insight-guided thinking andbig, compelling ideas – followed by thorough execution.Learn more about us at:www.mslgroup.com http://blog.mslgroup.comTwitter  YouTube
With the world’s third largest advertising market, print, broadcast and digital mediaare thriving in China. Even with the active participation of propagandists and censors,China’s hybrid of state-controlled and commercial media is an incubator for fledglingmedia empires, muck-raking journalists and cutting-edge Internet platforms. Belowis a description of key media channels for corporate communications and marketingcampaigns.
Media Landscape
MSL China Executive Whitepaper
PR and the Party - the truth about media relations in China
China is a leading newspaper market with over 2,000in print and over 100 million total copies sold daily(compared to less than 1,500 in the United States and51 million total copies sold daily). Unlike their Westernpeers, Chinese newspapersare not in financial distress;print news media are still veryhealthy. Although most media in China are ultimately state-owned, newspapers and magazines can be divided intotwo categories:
official state-run
. Almost all of the independent-commercialpublications are part of media groups led by Party orgovernment newspapers, but they behave differently.Both kinds of newspapers must compete in the market,rely on circulation and advertisement for revenue, andare subject to the same system of censorship. However,official newspapers are older, conservative institutionsthat tend to act as the mouthpieces of the governmentor Party; whereas independent-commercial papers werecreated after a wave of commercialization spurred byeconomic reforms and are more consumer driven.While both categories of newspapers are capable ofproducing a professional level of journalism, officialmedia tend to be fairly sanitized, and the independent-commercial outlets can verge on the sensational.Consumers gravitate towards the independent-commercial newspapers because of their hard-wonreputation for investigative journalism and tantalizingcontent. However, bureaucrats, business leaders, andothers looking for the latest information and insights ongovernment policies and data, cannot afford to ignorethe official newspapers. PR professionals and marketersin China are keenly aware of the value of appealing toboth categories in order to reach a broad readership.Most newspapers are localized, and different regionshave distinctive characteristics. For example, Beijingpapers tend to be morepolitically oriented; Guangzhou,on the other hand bordersfreewheeling Hong Kong, soits newspapers often push the limits of governmentcensors. Every major city has one or two local paperswith wide distribution, but few reach national audiences.Like their peers in the West, most people in China tendto read their local paper.This provincial focus remains in place even though mostlocal newspapers host dynamic websites. However, theInternet has changed the way stories travel inside China.A popular story can quickly become national news, evenwhen local cadres attempt to suppress it. For example,when Xiamen officials attempted to use local mediato downplay protests over perceived dangers of a localchemical factory, the story was widely covered by othernewspapers around the country and spread despite thelocal efforts to suppress it.Other developments to note: most major newspapersnow provide an online version; some use
(aChinese equivalent of Twitter) and other social mediaaccounts. Many – such as
CBN Weekly 
Oriental MorningPost
, and
China Daily 
– have iPad or iPhone apps as well.
Business News Media
During the 1990s, China’s market economy began to expand rapidly and business media flourished along with it.While chief editors in other sectors remained hyper-sensitive to government controls in the immediate aftermathof the Tiananmen Square events of 1989, those in business media were given more leeway to operate and covercapital markets and at times act as watchdogs for the fledgling market economy. The China Securities RegulatoryCommission (CSRC), the PRC’s equivalent of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, explicitly supportedbusiness media serving as “unofficial regulators” to monitor financial corruption.Many of today’s most talented Chinese journalists launched their careers in the business press, which at thetime offered higher salaries and more freedom to operate. By 2000, with economic reforms bolstered by China’spreparations to enter the WTO,business media diversified andmultiplied with many new titlesreporting on the wider aspects ofChina’s political economy. However,while the government values the roleof an independent press in a market economy, it still favors its own media and uses these resources to maintain itsinfluence. For example, the CSRC designates certain papers and magazines, such as the
China Security News
and the
Security Times
as the only official forums for listed companies to disclose financial reports and official statements.
“ Most newspapersare localized ”“ ..most talented Chinese journalists launched theircareers in the business press ”
Reference News
) 3,180,000
People’s Daily 
) 2,800,000
Yangtze Evening Post
) 1,800,000
Guangzhou Daily 
) 1,680,000
Information Times
) 1,480,000
South Metropolis News
) 1,400,000
Yangcheng Evening News
) 1,170,000
Chutian Dushibao
) 1,140,000
News Express
) 1,130,000
Qilu Evening News
) 1,050,000
Global Times
) 1,040,000
Xinmin Evening News
) 998,000
Yanzhao Metropolis News
) 995,000
Qianjiang Evening
) 951,000
Urban Express
) 950,000
This Evening
) 910,000
Peninsula City Daily 
) 900,000
Southern Daily 
) 850,000
Wuhan Evening
) 850,000
Dahe News
) 830,000
Source: Baidu Zhidao (Media claims of their size of circulationare unverifiable; this list is for reference only and indicatesrelative market position of China’s leading newspapers.)
Top 20 Newspapers by Circulation

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