All of us may start out thinking the same thing, that Western working practices don’t hold up in the China market. This seems especially true in the media sphere.
Here are a few common questions you might face in pitching art media in China:
1) How does one engage art media in the China market?
‘China market’ is really a misnomer.
Individual cities, their constituent provinces and geographical regions play a larger role in determining the market. We suggest approaching the art market in China according to the media profiles of different cities and districts. For example, the art ecosystem in Beijing is different from that of Shanghai. Media in Beijing lay more emphasis on how the artist creates a piece, the stories behind each work. Shanghai media, on the other hand, usually mix art with business. They love to discover the production costs of an exhibition or what the development strategy of a gallery is. In this way, Shanghai might be closer to the whole of Europe rather than China itself.
These generalities aside, when one pitches smaller topics, it’s important to find a point of relevance for the readers of a publication. One can’t be too niche in speaking to a publication with broad appeal, but you also need to avoid being too general, offering readers at least some form of relevant insight. Interviews don’t work with every publication. Most will follow thematic guidelines throughout the year, and knowing their plan is important.
There is an old saying in China: Fight no battle unprepared. You should play to the power of an exclusive offer if you have one to pitch. Rather than offering a pitch or invitation where the media will be expected to put in the extra leg work to extract a story, offer an exclusive or an experience to snag that competitive edge. Media are busy, so preparing materials ahead of time shows your professionalism and removes obstacles by reducing their investigative work.
Last but not least, all publications in China are licensed by the government. Everything is regulated to some extent by the government. Publications must show that their brand supports or at least respects government policies.
2) How do I pitch foreign artists/projects to Chinese art media unfamiliar with their work?
Try an agency? Yes, Sinclair Arts!
I’m not joking. Sometimes an agency can really solve your problems. Our expertise as arts and culture communicators lies in the knowledge and understanding of what media outlets are looking for in advance. Using our extensive media database and knowledge, we speak to media one on one, focusing on the angle we know will appeal most and secure the story.
The team at Sinclair Arts are experts at driving a conversation and delivering a top line pitch that tells the key points of a brand story in 30 seconds, then converting that to more in-depth knowledge once interest is secured.
3) How do I maintain meaningful relationships with Chinese media?
Good guanxi is key to communicating well in China.
Guanxi is an important system of beliefs in Chinese culture that is based on personalized social networks and relationships cultivated individual to individual. Face to face and personalized relationships with both publications and individual media are key to developing meaningful connections for local and foreign brands. In addition to an accessible spokesperson there is a need for an informed and efficient contact point dedicated to communications who can not only speak on behalf of a brand but can facilitate information, images, interviews and access as needed. When launching a new brand or introducing a brand into the China market it becomes ever more impactful to have a known and trustworthy representative on the ground who can speak directly to media with whom they have strong connections. Again this is where agency support comes into play, teams of PRs who are well connected and equipped with language skills, local intel and a clear understanding of the nuances surrounding individuals and cultural differences.
Just because you have a journalist’s WeChat, doesn’t mean they want to write 800 words on your exhibition/artwork/ space. And don’t think that a media allowance fee will necessarily change that. If your approach to media is entirely transactional, you’re going to see that in the flat stories released about your brand. By knowing both the brand and the media intimately, a good PR can successfully position a brand.