Behind the Headlines with Wei-UK’s Cecilia Yan

Ruojun “Cecilia” Yan, head of PR and social at Chinese speciality consumer engagement agency Wei-UK Consulting, on aligning Western and Chinese media objectives for clients, her days working 24-hour shifts as a journalist and why she loves Wei-UK’s “We Love Cake” mantra.

wei consulting

Before I reach the office in the morning, I’ve already…
Been up working for about three hours because of the time difference between the UK and China. I’ll be responding to and chasing up China-based journalists, bloggers and publicists via email and Chinese social media instant messages on WeChat and Weibo. Once sorted, it’s a quick breakfast and then a bus ride into the office. I prefer taking the bus so I can review the latest stories and campaign coverage on both Western and Chinese social media. Love the feeling of being connected.

You’ll mostly find emails about…in my inbox.
I organize my different responsibilities into two different inboxes. One deals with my PR work for Wei Consulting and is full of emails for client projects. The other deals with my editorial duties for MINT EDITION, Wei’s Chinese fashion and lifestyle media brand.

There are so few quality Chinese media touchpoints available in Europe, which is why as an agency we decided to create our own three years ago. As for inter-office communication we try to avoid communicating via email, so for that we have direct instant messaging and messaging work groups on Slack.

I know I’ve had a good day if…
I manage to get through my daily checklist with time to spare for a really decadent hot chocolate from the Italian café across the road. Love being in Soho!

My first job was…
As a journalist for a Chinese newspaper in London. It was my first real job after finishing my postgraduate degree and I found it really challenging. Timekeeping was gruelling as we had to produce high-quality articles almost immediately.

I remember working many full 24-hour days without sleep for a live report. It was tough, but I loved developing my writing skills, interviewing and meeting new people, attending events and communicating angles. It’s because of this that I ended up shifting towards PR and comms.

I can tell a campaign is succeeding when…
The client’s Western and Chinese media objectives are aligned. There are major differences in perspectives of what is considered newsworthy content and ensuring that the client gets the message they want across in a way that is attractive to Chinese media can be a lot of hard work. So straight away, during the initial brainstorming, when both sides are in agreement on a specific angle I know that a campaign is going succeed.

I eat….when nobody is watching.
Our office mantra is “we love cake”, so someone in the office usually brings in one every week from a Chinatown bakery. Chinese cake oil instead of butter, which makes the cakes super light and airy, so I’ll eat a slice with everybody, but still have room to sneak another when no one’s watching.

The first time I pitched to a journalist…
Was three years ago for a destination campaign with a Chinese national broadcaster, it doesn’t get any bigger than that! I had no idea how it would go, I was nervous beyond belief, but very quickly I found myself falling back on my own experience as journalist to anticipate their needs. I ended up getting national television coverage for my client and it felt great!

The worst thing anyone has said to me is…
When people say the Chinese market isn’t important. Come on! It’s one of the biggest markets in the world and the consumers account for more than 30% of many brand’s domestic UK retail sales. Only by actively and directly engaging Chinese consumers through Chinese media touchpoints is this sustainable.

The last book I read was…
Grief Grocery Store by Keigo Higashino. Japanese mystery thrillers are hugely popular in China and South Korea right now. The last English novel I read though was The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, but I cheated a little by reading the Chinese translated edition.

I’ve never really understood why…
Some UK PR professionals continue to make assumptions that because some things are the way they are for British media and consumers, they will automatically be the same for Chinese media and consumers.
Even basic things such as a press release are very different.

For instance, an English press release needs to be one to one and a half pages max, structured, concise and to the point. However, a Chinese press release needs to be on average six pages, elaborate, descriptive and captivate journalists so that they lift sections into their own coverage.

If I could go back and talk to my ten-year-old self, I’d say…
Continue being yourself, explore, open your mind and everything will work out just fine.

This time next year, I’ll be…
Twice as busy, the team is working on growing the MINT EDITION media brand with new online and social channels. So to add to my existing client work and editorial duties, I will also be working on our own campaign promotions.

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