Hong Kong, China skyline panorama from across Victoria Harbor.


It’s Export Week and the launch of Exporting is GREAT this week, so we wanted to share our tips for doing business in one of the most popular export destinations – Hong Kong and China.

PR and raising your business profile to help you build better business relationships can often be overlooked as part of exporting plans,  so we help businesses (large and small) develop the right strategy, then implement effective PR communications activity to best suit their business needs. Here are some of the key considerations …

Relationships – are the strongest form of currency in Hong Kong and China.

Hong Kong has a very open business culture where you will find lots of opportunities to meet people in a professional capacity and build a network quickly. There is no shame in leveraging the contacts you meet, asking people to point you in the right direction or make an introduction. It’s a small market so someone will always know someone who can help you. This is how business gets done in Hong Kong and because it’s a regional hub, often the contacts you make here can help you in China and other parts of Asia. It’s why so many businesses treat Hong Kong as a stepping-stone into Asia.

In China, it’s very rare that business decisions are reached quickly with new contacts. Your contacts will want to thoroughly assess you, especially if you have no reputation in the market. You need to expect multiple meetings. Also be sensitive to the hierarchical structure, which still pervades many Chinese companies, and ensure you show ‘face’ to your contact by fielding people of similar seniority.

Building relationships in China requires a time investment and a level of patience but once you have earned trust then a relationship becomes much more than transactional and can open up many doors to new networks. This is called Guanxi.

Never visit either market without a huge amount of business cards, which are always exchanged during an introduction. Always accept a business card with two hands and take the time to read and express interest in the card and the person who gave it to you.

Use Your Provenance – there has never been a better time to launch a British brand in China and there is a lot of goodwill towards British goods and services.

China believes more in foreign goods and services than it does in brands made at home. This is due to many factors including the proliferation of fake goods in China, scandals such as the 2008 baby milk incident and because of China’s traditional role as a manufacturer and not as innovator and designer (although this is changing quickly).

Purchasing foreign brands and services in China has cache and makes a statement about the person (even more so if it was also bought overseas).

This may sound like a cliché but the Chinese admire our monarchy, independent school system and universities and our capital city, both as an investment proposition and the role it plays in steering global trends. The Chinese have peace of mind that a lot of English goods and services have not just been created and launched to cash in on their new wealth but have been in existence for many years.

Localisation – in order to succeed in China and Hong Kong, you need to localise your marketing. At the most basic level, this means professional translation of your materials into Chinese, ensuring your photography includes Chinese models and ensuring you understand the significance of the symbolism of colour. It could also mean creating products or services specifically tailored to the Chinese market or taking into account market idiosyncrasies and adopting products to suit the market.

The Media – unlike the UK, media is controlled and state run in China and so editorial direction is very much driven by politics. For instance during the economic crisis, the media were asked to scale back the reporting of luxury goods and lifestyles and snap decisions like this can affect your communication planning.

There are hundreds and thousands of media titles across all media categories and so it can be overwhelming to know who to engage with. You will find many local editions of international titles but also a huge selection of local titles. Without any controlled circulations, you need to ask questions like how long titles have been in business for, check out the quality of the advertisers, quality of editorial and the reputation of the editorial team so you can make decisions about where to focus your efforts.

It’s not uncommon that if you invite a journalist to an event or an interview that you provide them with money in a red packet upon departure. This is normally equivalent to a taxi fare. There is an expectation of media coverage in exchange for the red packet but as with media relations in the West, you are only as good as your story and you still need to provide a solid angle and the relevant information.

It’s easy to criticise this practice but it was started by the first multinational companies who entered China as a way to cover the transportation costs of poorly paid journalists and has evolved from there. This practice does not exist in Hong Kong.

Social Media – is essential to succeeding as a business in China and needs to be at the foundation of your strategy.

China has its own domestic social media platforms. There is no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in China, which are all blocked. But the Internet has opened access to information for Chinese citizens that were unimaginable a few years ago and China’s social media platforms and online behaviours vary from international equivalents and are often hybrids of a few platforms.

For instance, WeChat, the most popular, is more than just a social network. It combines messaging, video calling, a twitter like service, a newsfeed, a feature for hooking up with people close by, online payments, taxi ordering and a browser.

Online influencers have as much cache as mainstream celebrities in China and all social media tools and apps are geared towards mobile rather than desk top devices.

In Hong Kong, you can access Western social media sites and both Western and the Chinese tools influence the market so any strategy needs to include both.

Hope these top tips are helpful?

Hong Kong, China skyline panorama from across Victoria Harbor.

Hong Kong, China skyline panorama from across Victoria Harbor.

If you’re considering growing your business beyond the UK, then why not get in touch. Contact [email protected] to set up a meeting.