In continuing with our series of interviews with new partners, we asked EASTWEST PR about trends in communications and PR in China and Singapore. It's loud and clear that digital media is effecting every aspect of business there -- from consumer behavior and brand engagement to agency service offerings and PR tactics. EASTWEST's associate director Christian Dougoud explains in this insightful Q&A.
We've worked informally with EASTWEST PR for several years on joint business opportunities and I've always been impressed with the creativity of their recommendations -- particularly around engaging consumers on social channels. When we started to look for a new partner in China - and across Asia - EASTWEST was the natural choice for us! I'm happy to be working with Christian and the whole team there. Also excited that China and Singapore will be represented in our 5th annual Oriella Digital Journalism Study coming out in May!
Here's the Q&A with Christian.
1. What is EASTWEST's story, in a nutshell?
EASTWEST Public Relations is an independent agency that specializes in traditional and digital public relations and is based in Singapore and China. Since 1995, we have helped over 400 clients become recognized in 12 Asian countries. We specialize in both traditional PR - such as media relations or event organization and corporate communication - and digital media services.
We are focused on helping our clients achieve their goals, enhancing the lives of our team, and making a contribution to the community that sustains us. With three offices in Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai, and as members of the British Chamber of Commerce and the Entrepreneur’s Organization in China, we have strong ties to our surroundings.
2. What are the big stories making the headlines in China or Singapore right now?
In our and our client’s industries we are seeing a shift to more digital platforms. Sina Weibo, the most popular micro blogging platform in China shows membership upwards of 30% of the entire internet population in China. The user base of Sina Weibo though holds a special place for PR practitioners in China – not only is Sina Weibo populated by normal consumers and users, but journalists, influencers and analysts too.
Sina Weibo can be used not only for community engagement, but as the premiere social media platform in China it’s becoming more and more of a ‘base line’ standard for brands. If a brand has no plans for a social media presence in China and wants to do business here they may need to rethink their strategy. EASTWEST's founder, Jim James, and I recently gave this presentation called Social Media in China: The Weibo Phenomenon, at the GCPR meeting in Bangalore.
3. What are the trends in PR and communications that you’re advising clients on right now?
The most prevelant is the power of including digital media into your core PR plan: digital outreach helps our clients gain an edge over the competition. But classic PR activities still dominate the minds and budgets of our clients. Especially in China where digital is a new phenomenon, relying solely on digital PR activities hasn’t yielded the best ROI. That being said, a digital presence is increasingly a necessity. If an interested party has a hard time finding a brand when they look for it online they will trust the brand less.
A social media presence in China is becoming easier and easier to set up and manage - especially on Sina Weibo. On Sina, a business can verify their listing as the official outlet of a business which adds to credibility and reputation building. There are several other features that make Sina Weibo the platform of choice for brands in China.
4. What’s next for EASTWEST PR and the Chinese agency market?
No surprise - we are looking at developing the digital side of our agency. Since we have been around since 1995, we have ‘grown up’ with a very strong traditional PR presence that has proven time and again to be effective. But every year digital activities are growing in popularity in Asia and the direction of the industry as a whole is moving towards digital. In addition to our own shift and expansion of services we recently moved to a new location where we are now surrounded by other creative agencies in web development, advertising, mobile gaming and video production. We are developing partnerships with many of these agencies and together we'll offer a more complete digital communications offering. We think this will be a requirement for agenices over the next few years.
5. As our newest partner, what appeals to you most about Oriella?
Oriella excites us not only for its global reach but the organization and culture of the network. While we only joined recently, we have already participated in several pitches and a survey of the digital landscape through Chinese journalists' eyes. To us, this welcome by Oriella to work with other partner agencies almost immediately upon joining is a good sign of the cohesiveness of the network.