Promotion of Chinese business in Russia: approaching the matter wisely

It’s no secret that nowadays economy of China is in its heyday as it is stimulated by numerous state reforms. Country’s leadership adheres to the One Belt, One Road Initiative which aims to encourage investments in infrastructure and to strengthen relations with neighboring countries, while actively supporting national business in its strive for expansion at the global level.

In this regard, more and more representatives of Chinese companies are interested in foreign markets, studying their potential and evaluating possible benefits. And the Russian Federation, famous for its richest natural resources and a broad consumer market, is a gold mine for investors due to a lower tax burden, low labor costs and, as a result, low production cost as well as lower logistics costs when dealing with Europe.

However, during expansion to a new market one should not forget that all the potential opportunities for a company can be realized only through competent promotion with properly chosen communication tools. Whereas the company is unknown to the potential consumer there cannot be any commercial success.

Marketing and PR communications in Russia have their own specifics which are related to the specifics of business processes in the country and the Russian mentality. According to Buman Media communication agency, currently in Russia there is a high demand for integrated marketing communications — an approach which combines marketing, advertising and PR tools, creating a synergy effect.

Popularity of integrated communications is explained by the fact that they satisfy the requests of most local companies, which can be formulated as “it should have been already done yesterday”: in the conditions of rapidly changing market demands and coordination between various departments, companies require quick adaptation of all communications to current conditions.

However, such approach may be interesting not only for local players, but also for new companies on the market. Integrated marketing communications ensure sequence of appearance and tonality of information about the company, creating a unified concept of promotion on the market. At the same time, it should be taken into account that in order to create an effective marketing campaign all company departments engaged in marketing strategy implementation should establish a well-coordinated communication, so that different types of promotion do not conflict with each other and bring maximum benefit.

To develop a promotion strategy for a Chinese company on the market it is necessary to take into account the specifics of the Russian media market which has its own distinctive features and trends. According to the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications, today there are more than 80 000 media outlets registered in Russia. However, in the last years there has been a trend for reduction of this number: in 2016 for each new media outlet there were two outlets which reduced their issue, and the overwhelming majority of them were print media.

As in the rest of the world, the popularity of online projects is growing, and in this regard the Russian market has its own features: due to the wide territory of the country many of its residents do not have access to high-quality and high-speed Internet and therefore popularity of press and TV still remains on a high level. By the way, it also explains the existence of a large number of regional media, and one should pay great attention to regional communications for successful promotion in Russia.

Russian media in general can be characterized as interested in materials in new formats and qualitative content: more and more media go online, update and maintain their websites, come up with their own mobile apps, use technologies (for example, augmented reality) and generate activities on their pages in social networks.

The Russian social networks market is really highly developed — social networks are visited by tens of millions of people, and with the right approach they give brands almost unlimited opportunities for promotion. Apart from that, every year such a channel of digital communications as bloggers engagement, which specifics directly depend on company’s target audience, is becoming more popular. Different platforms are popular among representatives of different generations: for example, if company’s target audience is teenagers, it would be most effective to reach them via YouTube, middle-aged people are more prone to communicate on Livejournal platform, and if the visual component plays the central role in communication, the best choice would be Instagram. Russian bloggers appreciate gifts, invitations to press tours and other displays of loyalty and they are ready to become brand ambassadors in case of regular effective cooperation.

As for work with Russian media, it is important to mention that in order to start interaction and to receive qualitative coverage it is necessary to find a right approach to each type of media outlets and to learn how to present the same information from different angles, as well as to process a large number of journalists’ contacts, each of whom specializes in its own sphere.

At the PR Trends conference, organized by Buman Media in Moscow in 2016, industry experts and key players of the public relations market formulated a thesis that content is currently the most important component of company’s promotion, while instruments and platforms are secondary. Еvery year the number of publications and the status of media are becoming less important, while the opportunity to be published in an outlet which is read by the target audience is really crucial.

While promoting a new company on the Russian market, it is necessary to take into account not only general and local media trends, but also specifics of each type of media one plans to work with: sometimes outlets that review allied spheres have different work principles, so each sphere requires an individual approach.

We can consider media specializing in IT segment, where is an impressive number of Chinese companies, as an example. As it is a new and not entirely familiar to a Russian consumer segment of business, it is possible to get into almost any outlet with materials written with a competent approach — not only into business or IT, but also, for example, into glossy. As it was already mentioned, information which is presented from specific angles is valued in Russia.

In general, communications in the field of IT are strictly divided into B2B and B2C segments, and each segment needs a special approach. As for B2B communications, media are interested in articles from technical specialists, expert comments and researches, so that’s why a new company on the market should pay much attention to its speakers and key messages. IT media like materials dedicated to success stories, which reveal details of successful agreements with clients, and stories of company’s cooperation with partners and resellers. They are also interested in interviews with companies’ key speakers and by-line articles with business tips. In B2C communications various reviews of products and software are very poplular.

So far, in IT segment it is quite easy to achieve good brand awareness: the topic is very interesting to a wide audience and the number of IT media is increasing, but it is still important to pay attention to the technical part of the issue and to be ready for crisis communications, which are the integral part of work in IT communications.

As for media in automotive segment, where is also a large number of Chinese players, a different approach in communications is needed: the media market in this sphere is oversaturated with information, so media outlets are more selective about materials, preferring only qualitative and sometimes exclusive content. Russian automotive journalists are the experts who value competent speakers. They actively take part in corporate press tours and test drives (in Russia and abroad) and appreciate a creative approach to these issues.

One of the specific factors in promotion of automotive brands on this market is that integrated marketing communications act there quite well: for example, many outlets refuse to work with brands on informational basis if they are not bound by commercial relations.

As for retail sphere and e-commerce in particular, where Chinese companies traditionally take leading positions, promotion should be based on qualitative corporate communications. Both specialized and business media appreciate when companies share their figures and statistics, and regularly prepare reviews which allow market newcomers to get in line with market giants and quickly get consumers’ attention. Media outlets also like such formats as interviews with companies’ top management, useful by-line articles containing tips and expert comments and also actively support research materials. As for B2C communications, reviews regarding company’s products and services as well as materials from key opinion leaders or brand ambassadors are very popular. It is remarkable that high-quality materials allow companies to get into almost any media, including key glossy outlets.

In summary, it can be stated that promotion of foreign brands in Russia may be carried out with the help of a great number of communication tools, however they will not be effective without taking into account the specifics of the local market. Buman Media annual research dedicated to PR trends demonstrates rising interest of companies to the sphere of public relations: it attracts both big enterprises and young companies with a variety of opportunities to raise brand awareness. The choice is yours — whether to gradually study the Russian communication field by yourself or entrust this work to professionals.

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