Decoding China’s PR scene


Nothing is straight forward in China, and communication in China remains highly complex and fragmented. Let’s set the record straight on what makes the Chinese media tick and how public relations practitioners new to the landscape should delve into the communication trenches in China.

I have often been asked what it is like to do communications in China. “It’s hard!” and as a Brit would say, “It’s bloody hard.”

Time after time, I see public relations effectiveness being compromised by presuming that the way public relations is done in London or Hong Kong can be implemented in China. One crucial mistake that I observe companies making is diving in headfirst without first grasping a clear understanding of how China works.

China has more than 650 cities, with a population edging on 1.4 billion people. It has a vast geography with its own peoples, dialects, customs and brand preferences. Treating China as a single market is a flawed concept – it’s closer to the truth to treat China like Europe. Just like how it would not make sense to employ a single strategy across all countries in Europe, a cookie-cutter concept of bucketing all of China into one public relations plan will be totally ineffective in this fast changing and diversified market.

China has more than 4,000 years of history and culture behind it, so keep an open mind to adapting and embracing the different aspects of the culture. It is important to remember that in order to succeed in China, your goal should be to communicate effectively across different cultures, not to change the other culture!

“ It pays to employ self-censorship, especially if you are in a business focused on user-generated content.”

Cassandra Cheong

Cassandra Cheong is the managing director of The Hoffman Agency APAC. She has more than 25 years of communication experience, spending one-third of her career in China. She has earned the trust of many as the integrated marketing communication expert in providing strategic counsel and training that aligns media relations, brand communication, product marketing communication, channel communication, employee communication, executive communication, including digital campaigns. She has also worked in both B2B and B2C communications. The industries she is experienced in include the government sector and global companies in the technology, telecom and FMCG fields.