The third day of the Chengdu get-together morphed into what was called a “Global Automotive Media Summit.” The idea was to prep the Chinese car manufacturers for their global push as far as the global media are concerned. For that, the services of TTAC were enlisted. The manufacturers need any help they can get when it comes to handling the media. From BAIC to SAIC, from Chery to Geely, from state-owned Dongfeng all the way to wannabe manufacturer Pangda, they all were there and delivered their speeches. The speeches could be summed-up in two words, looped like techno-rock:
“Global. Global. Global. Global. Brands. Brands. Brands. Brands. Global Brands.”
Paul Ingrassia, deputy chief of Reuters and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the management turmoil at General Motors, was there and warned about too much haste. His warnings largely fell on deaf ears. Then it was time for a round-table that was supposed to teach the manufacturers what the international media expects from them and what it can do for them if handled right. It was a good group.
All the way from Sao Paulo came Micheli Rueda, the editor of the business paper Brasil Economico. From London came Jim Holder, editor of the venerable AutoCar. The “Chinese, writing for a foreign publication” side was well represented by Yang Jian, Editor in Chief of Automotive News China. The Made-in-China foreign media had its ambassador in Zheng Wu, founder and CEO of the Chinese edition of Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport – honestly, I heretofore had no idea that something like this existed. Just like China is full with car manufacturers, there is no shortage of buff-books covering every conceivable angle. Yours truly was the moderator.
In a way, the round table showed everything that is wrong with how Chinese manufacturers handle the media in general and the international media in particular. We discussed how the big ones in Japan, Europe and the U.S. do it, we talked about what ideas the Chinese can appropriate for themselves. However, the first two rows of chairs, reserved for the captains of the Chinese auto industry, were mostly abandoned. After making their announcements, the execs had quietly left the room. No questions were fielded.
My remark “this round-table should be especially interesting for China’s auto manufacturers, but I see they mostly went home” caused a minor scandal in a room packed with Chinese auto journalists.
Make a mostly substance-free statement, and hide before anyone raises a question – that’s usually the way it goes in China, and the Media Summit did not break that mold.
Paul Ingrassia was right. Go slow, and do your homework first.