Don’t Eclipse Your News During the Lunar New Year – Why Sending News to China During the Spring Festival is a Bad Idea

February 18, 2015

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By Matt Allinson, Media Relations Manager – International Markets

China’s Lunar New Year is nigh (February 19), but the travel frenzy known as Chunyun (a 40-day period surrounding the Spring Festival) is well underway. It is a migration unlike any other, with an estimated 2.8 billion passenger trips undertaken between February 4 and March 15. Millions upon millions of people will be hurrying home to reunite with family and enjoy the holiday. It is said to be the largest annual migration in the world.

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Chunyun travel in progress

With so many people concentrating on getting from one place to another, it stands to reason that not a lot of business gets done in the People’s Republic of China during this time of celebration. It also stands to reason that sending out a news release around the holiday is not a wise move – unless, of course, you’d rather people not see your news.

Shaun Bowers Interfax ChinaI had the opportunity to speak more about this with Shaun Bowers (pictured left), the Managing Director of Interfax News Services in China. He was kind enough to answer some questions I had, as well as some questions that are often put to me.

Q: Can you describe the impact Spring Festival travel has on not only the news distribution business, but all business in China?

A: It (business) almost stops. Family is at the very center of Chinese culture and this is the time of the year that workers all across China return to their home province to visit family. Often, it is the only time they will see their family during the entire year.

Starting in January, factories will stop taking orders because of the holiday and will be rushing to fill orders they have in hand. The distance workers have to travel means journeys can take days, so often workers will start traveling two weeks early … and it’s not uncommon for a factory to close for an entire month. So for most businesses, it is a quiet period … unless you are a food vendor near a train station or a retail clothing store (it is traditional to buy new clothes for the Spring Festival).

Q: A question I have received in the past is: Don’t the Chinese have the most cell phones (per capita) in the world? Wouldn’t they still be absorbing news on their devices during the holiday?

A: Perhaps you should ask them if they sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and read the news. The Spring Festival is a time for celebration – the whole of China is on holiday and people are focused on fun and seeing old friends.

Q: To which western holiday would you compare the Lunar New Year? Or is there such a comparison?

A: It’s hard to compare … for Europe it would be Christmas, and for the U.S. I would say it’s like Thanksgiving … at Thanksgiving, people will do anything to get home. The U.S. has 330 million people and I’m sure readers can relate to what a nightmare travel can be during Thanksgiving. Now imagine adding another 900 million people, and you get a sense of what it’s like.

Q: What have been your personal observations and experiences with the Lunar New Year? Any crazy travel stories?

A: My wife’s family is from Hong Kong so we don’t have to travel, but it’s quite normal for us to sit down to dinner with 67 immediate family members … some of whom have traveled from all corners of the world. There is a saying in Hong Kong: “Don’t go on holiday as everyone you know will be on holiday, so stay in Hong Kong and enjoy the peace and quiet.”

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According to Shaun, it’s not that people in China don’t read news during the holiday; it’s just not a top priority. Chinese New Year is the one time of year when all workers can return home and, in essence, MUST return home. It is important for them to do so and it is expected that they will return with gifts for the whole family. And in the end, what’s more important: being present with family or reading up on news about listed companies?

Shaun’s advice, and mine, is to hold off on sending any news to China between the 18th and 24th of February.

And I will take this opportunity to remind you that it’s a best practice to always make sure the country to which you’re trying to send news is not on a holiday.  A quick check of timeanddate.com, bankholidays.com, officeholidays.com, or any similar site can save you time, resources and headaches when sending news internationally.

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Media Speed Dating in the City of Roses

November 3, 2014

By Matt Allinson, International Media Relations SupervisorMatt 1

The weather in and around Portland, OR, was anything but tranquil on Thursday, October 24. The dark sky chirped and clapped with wind, hail, thunder and rain. But, try as it might, it could not drown out the roaring chatter coming from inside the Bridgeport Brewery, where six of Portland’s finest journalists and over 50 of Portland’s finest PR professionals gathered to laugh, learn and get to know more about each other.

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The luncheon was broken down into four 15-minute sessions. While the media members stayed seated, guests moved from table to table to talk with the four editors/reporters to whom they were most interested in speaking.  Representing the Portland media were: Nick Mokey (Managing Editor of Digital Trends); Sarah Rothenfluch (Executive Editor of News at Oregon Public Broadcasting); Erik Siemers (Managing Editor at the Portland Business Journal); Tim Steele (Digital Managing Editor at KOIN 6); Kristi Turnquist (Entertainment Reporter at The Oregonian); and Bruce Williams (Senior Assignment Manager at KGW). The event was expertly moderated by Becky Engel (Director of Client Services at Grady Britton).

The rules were minimal: no pitching. Everything else (within the law) was allowed. Great networking followed and a few tips from the media came forth:

  • Networking is key to getting reporters to cover a story … make the effort to meet us in person. We get hit with a lot of stories daily and we’re much more likely to run your story if we have a relationship with you (and the story is innovative/relevant). –Nick Mokey
  • It’s good to form relationships with reporters. They’re not going to take every pitch, but if you stay in contact and stay persistent, there will come a day when they’ll need to talk to you. –Tim Steele
  • Staying ahead of an emerging trend will get you to be considered an expert on the subject. –Sarah Rothenfluch
  • Visual content plays a role so be sure to include multimedia in your pitch. –Kristi Turnquist

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  • I get between 800-900 emails per day, so make sure your pitch is targeted, has a unique subject line and includes photos/video. – Bruce Williams
  • If you’re making a pitch, you have to think of it in terms of what would interest you if you were to receive what you’re pitching. Why would we be interested in it if you’re not? –Tim Steele
  • We love exclusives … bring us something exclusive and there’s a much better chance that it’s going to get run. We’re greedy that way. –Erik Siemers

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  • The news cycle is constant. Is your story a tweet? Some stories are. Or is your story a big, in-depth conversation that would take a month to plan? Or is it somewhere in between? If you can figure out where your story is on this spectrum before pitching, it’s extremely helpful. –Sarah Rothenfluch
  • If you have a good story, don’t be afraid to reach out … but know who you’re pitching and what they do. Email’s probably the best way to pitch … but please don’t send a blast. Target your pitches. And don’t be afraid to follow up. – Erik Siemers

Putting Makeup on Your News Release: Tips for Getting Your News on Television

June 4, 2012
by Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor
Matt Allinson

Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

I recently had the good fortune of making my way to the Rose City (Portland, Oregon) for a media event put on by the Public Relations Society of America’s Greater Portland chapter and featuring a variety of news presenters and news producers with KATU (Channel 2 – ABC affiliate), one of the city’s fine news stations.

Discussing what it takes to get a story on the morning news show “AMNW” at KATU were morning show co-anchors Carl Click and Natali Marmion;  morning show executive producer Karen VanVleck; assignment manager Nick Bradshaw; and photographer Bob Foster.

Morning news co-anchor Carl Click discusses his use of social media.

The quintet discussed a myriad of topics from crowdsourcing, to pitching, to finding experts, to the ever-present impact of social media on television news.

Click, who has worked in the Portland television market for 29 years, marveled at the meteoric rise of social media and its impact on traditional media.  Click says that he and his co-anchor Marmion realize that a lot of their audience check their Facebook and Twitter feeds first thing in the morning so it’s important they reach out to their viewership in new ways.   “Social media has overtaken us the last two years,” he said.  “Natalie and I are now very active with Facebook and Twitter on set.”

Bradshaw, the Assignment Manager at the station since 2009, said he’s willing to take pitches via Twitter, noting that the medium and other social networking sites have become so popular that it’s impossible to ignore them.  “We have so many eyes on Twitter now,” Bradshaw said.  “Two years ago, not so much – but now, we have to pay attention to Facebook and Twitter.”

But Bradshaw mentioned that while KATU closely monitors Twitter, they’re also less likely to pay attention to those who tweet too much (aka “Twitter polluters”).

No matter how you choose to pitch KATU (or other television stations) your news, there are some important things to remember according to Bradshaw and VanVleck: 1) Keep it short; 2) Pack it full of information; and 3) Include either pictures or video (this is of the utmost importance).  TV stations won’t do much with your news if there are no visuals according to the people most responsible for putting news on air.

Another tip the group offered that is always easier said than done:  make sure your news is interesting and will provide good content for the TV station.  “We don’t repeat news, unless it’s breaking news, if we don’t have to,” VanVleck deadpanned.  She also noted that TV stations love it if they can be pointed toward the people who will be impacted by the news you are putting out.  Like any news pitch, the more homework that is done and the more that is provided only increases the likelihood of a story being picked up.

And if your aim is to weave your announcement into the morning news show, at least at KATU, you’ll want to get it to them at least three or four days in advance.  If they want to make a story of your news, they’ll need to time to do it right.  Lastly, if they do run your story, make sure to be accessible for follow-up afterward.  Too often, says Bradshaw, the station will need to follow up only have the point of contact not be reachable.  Not only does this hurt the current story, but it can hurt confidence in using that source in the future.

Happy pitching. Throw fastballs . . . no curves.


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