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Jiang Xiaofeng: Doing PR Differently
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North Head Executive Director Jiang Xiaofeng recently accepted an exclusive interview for a feature in the June 2016 edition of PR Magazine. In the article, Xiaofeng discusses his career and his take on what companies and the government in China are doing right and wrong in public relations. Through joining with his partners John Russell and Robert Magyar to found North Head and through his studies at CEIBS, Asia’s premier EMBA program, Xiaofeng was years ahead of China’s recent wave of “mass entrepreneurship and popular innovation.”


According to Xiaofeng, PR in China currently faces a problem: government, industry associations, and industry leaders have a weak grasp of the true value of public affairs and communications, and the public and many business owners may be totally uninformed. Although every company has a stake in the government’s goal of transforming and upgrading China’s industries, few realize what it takes to create an effective and diverse PR strategy that contributes to achieving their goals. Xiaofeng disagrees with those who associate PR work with cookie-cutter events and buzzwords with no relevance to business imperatives. To the contrary, PR is actually a challenging job which requires the ability to analyze a complicated and evolving environment to design and then execute sound strategies.


Even so, few PR professionals have the passion and insight to understand what a company or organization urgently needs for its PR or to study policy and make the most out of China’s reforms. This failure of critical thinking not only reduces the impact of PR programs, but also hinders innovation in the PR industry. Xiaofeng raises the example of digital, where innovation remains largely on the execution side and is still quite weak in product and service offerings or business models.


These are problems that need to be addressed to help guide China down its development path. As Xiaofeng points out, one of the great values of public relations is that it can create lines of communication which help avoid conflicts in the larger society. At the same time, it can also help shape better policies and bring business success.  “In other countries, even a little coffee shop is going to focus on spreading its brand, and the government is going to seek input from brands,” noted Xiaofeng,  “ in China, awareness of this kind of stuff used to be very weak but we see it picking up quickly, especially from local Chinese companies.”