Hello, Asia! (How to communicate your brand and engage with media)

That feeling of complete helplessness that occurs when you find yourself in a strange land, surrounded by unrecognisable smells, tastes, sounds, faces or landmarks, is culture shock.

Sometimes it comes as a complete surprise – you might be well-travelled in a region, and well-versed in what you do, but still feel completely alien in a certain corner of the world. This is particularly true of Asia, both a melting pot and a large patchwork of countries, cultures and languages.

Watching the news or picking up a paper in a new place can be a big indicator of the shift in culture, language and tradition. It’s no surprise then that despite the regions being very geographically close, news outlets across Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore operate very differently. Whilst you might be well-versed on Asia as a region, you’ll need to understand and manage the complexities of the each specific country or city’s journalists’ motivations and media processes if you want to build a solid foundation for your brand.

In subsequent blog posts, we’ll elaborate how media in the key markets operate. Firstly, here are some journalist traits we’ve noticed are consistent in the region:

  • Deference and face, leading to shyness and reticence to ask questions in public settings
  • Language and cultural barriers (where ‘yes’ can sometimes mean ‘no’)
  • Displays of passiveness and quietness
  • Preference of personal over public contexts
  • Often younger – bright and clever, but without depth of knowledge and experience
  • Everything is captured, socialised and shared

While journalists differ from country to country, media still encompass a core, similar structure across geographical boundaries. Anywhere in the world, media want the freshest, breaking, headline-grabbing news. Journalists have a duty to inform, entertain, and enlighten their audiences – your story should make their job easier. News editors are looking for human interest and relevance. What’s the benefit for my country, and how will this development affect my people? Apart from words, media are also looking for sound-bites and visuals (even in print).

Be it Singapore, Japan, Indonesia or another Asian country, your in-person media engagements as part of public relations should always check the following boxes:

  • Always check for understanding
  • Be doubly accurate with numbers
  • Provide written summaries (spoon feed)
  • Prepare to lead the conversation, but don’t be afraid to stop
  • Prepare for the ‘door stop’
  • Prepare to be recorded and photographed endlessly by a smartphone wielding media

So, what’s your story? Regardless of your business or industry, you need to package a story and message that’s relevant to your audience. How will your announcement impact people? How is it relevant to the market? What solution does this provide to a specific market’s problem? Walk a mile in your future customer’s shoes to fully understand the context of the situation, and then execute a tailored and well-suited plan.

Here is a quick list of tips you can check against before you pitch stories to media:

  • Make sure you know where the journalist is from. For example, Bangkok Post is different from Reuters, and needs to be handled differently
  • Put your audience in the headline
  • Repeat your key point or message
  • Provide a written copy that can be used
  • Get help to prepare in advance – the best don’t leave this to chance

Before you dive into PR campaigns in a new, unfamiliar Asian market, take a moment to understand and appreciate the complexities of the media in your target country or region.

You might also be interested in Mutant’s handy guide for writing press releases. Get in touch to find out how we can help build your brand reputation in Asia and engage with media. Reach us at [email protected].

Hong Kong 2013 image by Singaporean photographer Adrian Seetho