Advertorials as Effective PR - An Asian Take On An Old Tactic
Big corporate PR departments and their PR agencies in Asia already know about this, but if you are a small or medium business that wants to make a splash without a huge presence or budget, advertorials are a cost-effective tactic. As I discuss previously, finding an agency in Asia without being there is difficult, but with an advertorial you can effectively reach prospective customers and partners.
Now, to most Western PR practioners ‘advertorial’ is a dirty word; the idea of paying-for-play is more for the marketing and ad departments not PR. But in Asia, where both PR practioners and publications don’t have the preconceived disdain, a well-written advertorial is an effective tool for raising awareness about your company and generating positive buzz about your services and products.
Most English-language publications in Asia are open to advertorials including newspapers, magazines and online pubs.
This allows them to open up a revenue stream and, at the same time, beef up their editorial content at the same time. Let’s look at which countries are best to place your piece and what makes a successful advertorial.
Picking Where to Publish
While there are English-language publications in nearly all Asian countries, Singapore and Hong Kong as “native” English speaking countries, are the best places to invest in doing an advertorial. Both are regional hubs for companies and media outlets, and both have large foreign audiences – in fact, Singapore has around a million foreigners living there out of a population of five million. Depending on your industry, there are a lot of magazines and newspapers with good circulations to approach – here are few to consider.
Magazines in Singapore
Especially for companies that are looking to the female audience, Singapore Press Holdings owns a slew of great women magazines - Simply Her, Her World, GLAM, SHAPE, Icon, and THE PEAK. They also own the biggest English-language newspaper in Southeast Asia, The Straits Times.
Other publications like CLEO, Female, Shape, Seventeen, Elle and Harper's Bazaar publish monthly issues in Singapore.
If you sell products for families or are in the wedding industry, there are monthly magazines such as Babycare Book, Livewell Baby, Kids Company, Mother & Baby, Motherhood, Family, Female Brides, STYLE: Weddings, Young Parents, Cake Magazine, and Her World Brides that are great venues for advertorials that talk about your services.
There are also business-specific monthly magazines like The Executive Magazine and The Singapore Women's Weekly Women and Female Business. International publications like The Economist and Newsweek also have Asian editions and do take advertorials, but can be more expensive.
And there are even great monthly magazines that target health and Baby Boomers like LiveWell, NuYou and Silver Lining.
If you are selling products expressly for expats living overseas, you should consider Expat Living.
If you are in the food and beverage or travel industries, magazines like APPETITE, Eat!, Epicure, Food & Travel, Home and Décor, Home Concepts, and STYLE living.
There are also monthly industry verticals such as Marketing Magazine Singapore, Asian Banking & Finance, HR Asia, Human Capital, SME & Entrepreneurship Magazine, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and MIS that take advertorials.
Almost every U.S. airline that flies overseas has its own inflight magazine and Asian airlines are no exception. All of them take advertorials and have a captive audience of business professionals and leisure travelers. Articles can cover everything from travel experiences and products for travel to luxury and fashion trends and business topics. These are four of my favorites that I’ve worked with and they are great - Tiger Tales Magazine: Tiger Airways, SilverKris Magazine: Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Magazine: Jetstar, and Discovery Magazine: Cathay Pacific Airlines.
Magazines in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, there are fewer English-language publications than Singapore but those that are around are mainly regional focused, allowing the coverage to meet a wider Asian audience. Business and technology pubs dominate the Hong Kong list, but there are also a good number of lifestyle pubs too.
One large publishing group predominately based in Hong Kong is Questex Asia, who publishes Telecom Asia, Enterprise Innovation, Computerworld Hong Kong, CFO Innovation Asia, Networks Asia, Telecoms Europe, The Green Channel, CRM Innovation, eGov Innovation, SMBWorld, SMB World Asia, Storage Asia, Security Asia, Hospitality Architecture+Design and Hotel Management Asia.
Another large publisher that can be found in Hong Kong is the Haymarket Group who publishes a number of magazines like FinanceAsia, AsianInvestor, Campaign Asia-Pacific (covering executive communications) and CEI Asia (covering the MICE industry).
The South China Morning Post is the largest English-language newspaper in Hong Kong and is read by nearly everyone in Hong Kong. And The Economist has its Asian HQ in Hong Kong.
Writing an Effective Advertorial
So now that you know where to go, what kind of advertorial works best? Much like a great pitch angle, the advertorial will need to be tight, topical and localized. In fact, having someone in, either your existing PR agency or a freelance writer, write the advertorial rather than advertising or marketing helps ensure that the copy is not too product-centric or filled with ad-speak. It needs to read like a news article.
Asian publications are looking for good copy and successful advertorials have to be written in proper journalistic style – including quotes from your executives, customers and even analysts, a strong local angle, stats and data points to help round out the story and a good news hook.
Using a recent case study as the basis for the advertorial is a good idea. Ideally it will be about a customer that is a Singapore/Hong Kong or, at least an Asian, company. If that’s not at all possible, then go with a broader trend that highlights the challenges your customers face and how your solution helps them, no matter where they happen to be in the world.
Another good idea is to hire a professional writer to do the advertorial who is located in Singapore or Hong Kong. In my opinion, a “local” freelance writer who is a native English speaker, but who works frequently with the various publications in these markets will have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Matching the tone and style of the publication is also important; for instance if you want to get something in The Economist it needs to be different than the piece you do for The Straits Times.
A professional writer can help with this; so no matter if it’s a writer in the U.S. or in Singapore, getting a pro is the only way to go. I suggest looking at on Linkedin as a first place to start.
If you don’t have the support of a PR agency in Singapore or Hong Kong, but want to take advantage of an advertorial, don’t worry. It’s actually something that can be handled at relatively low cost over email between you, the publication and your writer. Check out the websites of the various publications listed above and contact their editor or advertising manager. Another way to find opportunities for your advertorial is the publication’s editorial calendar, which shows special issue publishing dates and topics and is usually posted online.
One thing to note: the bigger and more well-read (meaning circulation) the publication is, the higher the cost for the advertorial. But when compared to running a traditional advertisement or hiring an agency in every country, it’s a bargain.
I look forward to reading about your company in Asia’s various publications now that you know the tricks of the advertorial.
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