Today we continue our series of posts from colleagues outside the US with a look at our operations in Japan, from Atsushi Suzuki, Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire/Tokyo. Previous entries in this series are available from London, Frankfurt, Paris and China.
Business Wire Tokyo is unique in the Business Wire family in several ways, especially how it came to be and how it operates.
We became part of Business Wire when the company acquired its former Japanese affiliate in 2005. (That is when I joined Business Wire, along with the office furniture and equipment!) So we are the only Business Wire office that has firsthand experience being an affiliate before joining the company. To this day, we retain some of those affiliate functions, including distribution of news releases from abroad to Japanese media.
The Tokyo office is one of the few Business Wire offices whose primary language is not English. Many Japanese people have trouble overcoming the language barrier between Japanese and English, and some people are downright allergic to communicating in English. As a provider of primarily English-based services, Tokyo is providing support to Japanese clients in the local language to make our services as accessible as possible.
Business Wire has been committed to localizing its services and accommodating the non-English speaking clients, and the effort has started to bear fruit. BusinessWire.jp was launched in October 2008, providing a more accessible portal to Japanese users. The website provides a basic tutorial on how to write an English press release and a step-by-step guide of the operational and editorial workflow of how releases are processed and distributed via Business Wire’s platform, highlighting the added value of our distribution.
Also, Business Wire’s in-house press release editing software will soon support Japanese and Chinese. This is expected to accelerate our media relations effort in Japan as well as improve the presentation of Japanese press releases at various media outlets.
However, language is not the only issue we have to contend with when promoting Business Wire in Japan market, and our struggle to penetrate other barriers is ongoing.
Public relations in Japan is quite different from that of the United States. Just a handful of Japanese companies have dedicated international PR departments, due to heavy emphasis placed on the domestic market. There are also companies that do not release information in English, hoping to contain negative news within Japan, which really is a bad idea in this day and age. All this is changing steadily, albeit slowly, with the increasingly global economy.
In addition, international media characterize the PR efforts of Japanese companies to be “passive” in general. There are a small number of exceptions, but Japanese companies are not known for being good at spin control, and this tendency is magnified when it comes to international PR. Quite a few companies are even reluctant to include contact information in their press releases for fear of inquiries flooding in from journalists abroad.
The media community in Japan is also quite different from western countries. One example is a system called Press Clubs, associations of journalists, which is still quite strong in Japan. The companies go there to physically put their press releases into inboxes to get them to journalists. The big disadvantage of this old-fashioned system is that the journalists tend to pick up only the news from big and prestigious companies. Small/medium-sized companies would need strong connections with journalists to get decent media coverage through this system.
Business Wire Tokyo has had a distribution partnership with Jiji Press, one of the two dominant news agencies in Japan, for almost a decade (counting the affiliate days). Thanks to this partnership, the summarized version of virtually every news release we handle is posted to their website and distributed to Jiji’s news outlets consisting of websites and news portals, financial databases, general-interest and trade-specific newspapers, etc., irrespective of the size or status of the issuing company.
Business Wire’s services are a perfect antidote for respectable Japanese companies suffering from international anonymity, as well as big name companies looking to boost their international presence further. Wire service is still a new concept for most Japanese, and we have been encouraging our prospects and clients to use us in order to actively take control of the information flow and use the media to their advantage to more accurately represent themselves in the international arena.
Now that the average ratio of overseas shareholders among listed Japanese companies amounts to around 30%, many companies have realized the importance of communicating their corporate messages internationally to improve and maintain their presence in the global market. We see a bright future here in Japan.