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How are PR professionals handling the Boycott China crisis?
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PR Professionals advise their Chinese clients to maintain a low profile to cushion the blow

How are PR professionals handling the Boycott China crisis?
  • With calls to boycott Chinese products seeing an everyday increase, we reached out to PR experts to understand how to deal with the hatred if your clients have a Chinese origin.
  • They shared how PR, if used tactfully, can bring back any business in the game.
There is a storm of anger on social media as a reaction to the Indo-China border dispute. People are calling a ban on all Chinese products and uninstalling Chinese or Chinese-funded apps.

Due to the on-going tension, BCCI is going to review its sponsorship deal for IPL with Chinese smartphone maker Vivo this week. Indian start-ups with Chinese-funds like Dream11, Swiggy, Paytm can also bear the brunt as BCCI reconsiders its sponsorship partnerships.

The dispute has also made Indian brands put their advertising monnies away from TikTok and other Chinese platforms.

So, as a Public Relations professional, how do you deal with this cloud of resentment coming in your client’s way on social media?

Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations advised to observe silence for a while.

He said, “Deal with it SENSITIVELY...which just means not raising visibility or in other words hackles, for a while. Even if this means an unduly lower profile than the Marketing folks may want, it's the PR managers job to push back. Getting your brand in the line of fire is a real danger just now. Losing share of voice you can address later, I am quite sure. If your brand is the target of attack because of PR adventurism, then the Agency bears the blame, rightfully.”

According to Mayank Sen, Co-founder, Moe's Art, "The best way to deal with the ongoing crisis is to have a subtle communication approach and avoid having any celebratory communication across owned and earned media platforms. This is not the first time Indian consumers have threatened to boycott Chinese products. In the past also, brands have faced similar issues whenever India and China relations have strained.”

He adds, “Companies and their representatives should also use digital platforms tactfully, as direct confrontations with consumers will attract sharp and negative reactions. The current public sentiment might stretch if the issue doesn't get resolved through diplomatic process and Government relations. Sometimes lesser communication helps yield better results from a long-term perspective. These are momentary challenges and will ease over a period of time."

Sonam Shah, Founder and CEO, Treize Communications says PR has immense potential to bring any business back in game, if used tactfully.

“We do not have a ‘swim lane’ or a ‘silo’ that confines our professional capabilities in times of crisis. What makes PR a valuable tool during any crisis is the ability to bring any business back in the game. Ups and downs are bound to happen if a brand is in the public eye, and there is no running away from it. Rather one should go and revisit their core positioning and offering and focus on it,” explains Shah.

Highlighting how the role of PR has expanded with time, Shah said,“Public Relations is all about building and maintaining a constantly evolving image within the end consumers and stakeholders. PR is no more confined to article placements. Today, Public Relations is an amalgamation of consumer psychology, news consumption patterns, strategy, and execution, which needs to be synced with the company's core proposition.”

So, she recommended going back to the basics.

“Regarding the Boycott China sentiment going around, one can only expect PR firms to meet such a challenge with something new and different that would bring in behavioural and perception shifts. I think any PR handling such a sensitive situation, should go back to basics and concentrate on it. Emphasis on highlighting the key features of the brand, map out key media outlets and chart a focussed PR strategy. Build a clear purpose behind doing PR. Crisis Management for PR professionals is an opportunity where the team gets to showcase its A-game. Get the team excited about it rather than making it sound heavy, that helps a lot. It is in moments like these that PR firms get an opportunity to build trust and faith for its client/brand within its audiences and they should focus on that,” said Shah.

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