Chinese multinationals face hurdles in Western media

NEW YORK: While Chinese technology companies still struggle to overcome negative perceptions in Western media, they often receive positive coverage for their strategy and management, according to a study by Weber Shandwick and Prime Research.

NEW YORK: While Chinese technology companies still struggle to overcome negative perceptions in Western media, they often receive positive coverage for their strategy and management, according to a study by Weber Shandwick and Prime Research.

The report, “Mind the Gap: New Rules of Engagement for Chinese Brands Going Global,” analyzed publications in the US and Germany from January to June of last year. It focused on Chinese technology companies because the tech industry tends to be a barometer for economic innovation and growth, explained Weber EVP William Brent.

The study found that Chinese technology brands accounted for only 5% of mentions in Western media coverage. E-commerce company Alibaba received the highest percentage of mentions among Chinese brands, with 1.2%. Huawei and Lenovo were the only other Chinese companies to have about 1% share of voice.

Comparatively, Apple was ranked at 29.8%, Google at 24.7%, Cisco Systems at 1.6%, and Dell at 1.3%.

Chinese technology brands received the most negative coverage in Western media on the topics of cybersecurity and legal conflicts. However, their overall business management and strategy often garnered positive attention.

“Chinese companies actually have more credibility than they probably thought they did in terms of company strategy and management. The general perception was probably that those were not strengths,” Brent said.

Chinese technology executives should take a more visible role to raise awareness and improve the reputation of their brands in the West, he added. Alibaba chairman and CEO Jack Ma was the only Chinese CEO to rank in the top 10 in terms of media visibility, the report found.

“Very few Chinese C-level executives have been able to establish a position as a visionary on the international stage and stand for something significant on that stage,” Brent said. “[Ma's] outspokenness and willingness to be an ambassador of the brand had an impact. There is a huge opportunity for a Chinese CEO to be a brand ambassador, to step up and think about his role as someone who can help address the world issues that we face.”

These communications issues are particularly relevant because more Chinese multinationals are entering Western markets, Brent said. Chinese companies made US business deals worth $6.5 billion last year, up 12% from the previous record of $5.8 billion in 2010, according to research firm Rhodium Group.

“We're now in an era of radical transparency, and that is an environment I'd argue most Chinese companies are not necessarily comfortable in,” Brent added. “As they pursue a more global presence, they need to think more strategically about transparency and try to embrace it in a more meaningful way.”

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