China´s companies go international at a fast speed, but because of lack of experience, they often forget the rules of engagement in other parts of the world. They often focus on sales, writes author Joel Backaler of China Goes West: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese Companies Going Global, in Forbes. Marketing and PR belong to the mixture.
No Chinese firm regrets allowing perceptions to be formed on its behalf more than telecommunications firm Huawei. Huawei has a truly global footprint with operations in over 170 countries and approximately 60% of its revenues originating from outside of China. But early on in its international expansion, Huawei’s single-minded focus on sales and business growth led it to stumble over allegations that it had ties to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In September 2012, Huawei finally had to address these concerns head on when it was called before the US House Intelligence Committee. The investigation ultimately concluded that Huawei equipment could undermine core US national security interests, virtually closing the US market for its core telecommunications business line.
At the same time, there are a growing number of Chinese firms that understand marketing and public relations are imperative to successful international expansion. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is investing heavily to help the global business community better understand its company and the unique nature of the Chinese e-commerce market. The most recent example is Alibaba’s launch of a new website that clearly communicates the firm’s value proposition and market opportunity. Lenovo, a consumer electronics firm that has long had a global marketing team led by international management, is taking a similar approach. The company is pushing to become more transparent through an ongoing series of posts by their CEO on LinkedIn’s publishing platform.
These are just a few examples of Chinese companies proactively managing their reputations, but there need to be many more. For better or worse, the actions of individual Chinese firms impact how the products, services, and intentions of all Chinese companies are viewed worldwide. Given the myriad challenges that Chinese companies face as they expand outside of China for the first time, their management should hire the right team and external advisors to manage their firms’ reputation and respond to corporate crises from day one. Otherwise, they are sure to run headlong into the arms of politicians on the lookout for new “anti-China” ammunition to support their political platforms and investigative journalists interested in the next juicy story about Chinese overseas corporate blunders.
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