by Michael O'Neill
January 14th, 2014

The past six months have seen foreign pharmaceutical companies investigated for a variety of reasons, threatening the stability of some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical brands in one of the world’s largest markets. The media has been shaping public discourse around these cases, scrutinising company actions and responses. To those companies questioning how further investigations may impact their efforts in China, a working knowledge of the country’s vast and complex media environment (and more importantly – how to leverage these shifting media trends) is of immense value; particularly should a company’s reputation come under attack.

In a new report, Media Trends in China’s Healthcare Industry, Weber Shandwick’s China Healthcare practice outlines six media trends that have emerged, and what each trend means for brands. These include:

1.      Shift to more people-related stories
Editors are no longer interested in news solely about official institutions. It’s less about the Party and officialdom, and more about the people. 

2.      Increased media attention placed on high priority health areas
Tackling high priority health areas, such as chronic disease, is high on the government’s agenda. Content surrounding this, highlighting the wider effects on society, are receiving strong coverage in prominent news outlets.

3.      Greater media coverage of Sino-international collaboration and market development issues
Internationalising the industry is a key aim of the reforms.  As a result, partnerships between foreign and local firms attract substantial media interest. To amplify a leadership position to media, firms should stress how their work is benefitting Chinese people.

4.      Emphasis placed on headline-grabbing stories (among mainstream and business media)
During the recent corruption crackdown, it became evident that headline-grabbing stories were coveted by both business and mainstream media.

5.      Greater objectivity among trade media
Whilst the healthcare industry features highly on mainstream media, coverage is likely to be inclined towards a viewpoint. Trade media coverage frequently presents more objective coverage.

6.      Increased utilisation of third-party expert commentary and analysis
Third party expert opinions and analysis are now frequently featured. Authoritative figures are being called on regularly to provide commentary, advice an analysis on headlines.

While these findings may be specific to the healthcare industry, as such scrutiny spreads to other industries (including the historically issues-laden dairy industry), they are also relevant for companies across sectors. Closely monitoring policy changes and the tone of both industry and public media will be critical for companies looking to ensure successful reputation management in the future.

For more insights and expert advice, including further detail on the aforementioned trends, the full report is available to download free, at Media Trends in China’s Healthcare Industry.

This article first appeared at Weber Shandwick’s China website

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