5 Tips for Strategic Media Relations in Japan

Strategic media relations is key to any organization’s success in securing positive media coverage. These 5 tips outline Parthenon Japan’s recommendations for success in communicating with journalists in Japan.

1. Build and nurture media relationships

Developing strong relationships with target media contacts is essential to effective media relations. Take the time to understand their interests and needs, and provide them with relevant and valuable information. Regularly communicate with them and offer exclusive opportunities to strengthen the relationship.

To build these relationships you need a strong understanding of Japan’s diverse and complex media landscape. While digital media has risen in popularity, TV and national newspapers remain strong as reliable sources of information among the Japanese public. Although print media circulation is in a downtrend, national newspapers still have strong influence over public opinion. TV also continues to be largely influential in Japan in comparison with other countries. Outside of Japan’s three main media markets, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, local newspapers, local TV networks, and Japanese newswire services continue to have strong influence.

For business-related news, Nikkei media group is Japan’s most influential mass media network. Nikkei’s organization includes TV Tokyo, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan’s foremost business and economy-focused national newspaper, the Nikkei Business weekly magazine, industrial magazines such as the Nikkei Business Daily, and a large internet media network under the umbrella of Nikkei Digital, which has over 3 million paid subscribers.

In addition, the press club system continues to have influence. There are about 40 major press clubs in Japan, which hand-pick the media organizations who are allowed to attend their press conferences.

On the other hand, the influence of foreign media organizations and foreign correspondents continues to grow among business and policy decision makers as Japan becomes more globalized. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan is the world’s second largest FCC in the world after Washington D.C.

2. Be proactive

Instead of waiting for media inquiries or coverage opportunities, be proactive in reaching out to journalists and media outlets. Regularly pitch story ideas, provide expert commentary on industry trends, and offer unique angles that journalists cannot find elsewhere. This proactive approach will help in getting your organization’s message out there.

In Japan, the most successful media relations approach is having consistent contact with journalists who are interested in covering your organization. Contact doesn’t just mean story pitches, but also includes casual chats, meeting over lunch or dinner, and giving journalists more access than what is normally conceived.

If spokespeople cannot make such time commitments, it is important to task internal PR personnel or external consultants with creating and maintaining these crucial relationships.

3. Tailor your pitch

When approaching media outlets or journalists, make sure to personalize and tailor your pitches according to their specific interests and beat. Research their recent articles and understand the audience of their publication to align your messaging and story ideas accordingly. This personalized approach increases the chances of having your pitch accepted, and getting timely coverage.

Instrumental to successful story pitches in Japan are facts and data. Articles in the Japanese language are short, and an hour-long interview might only lead to a single quote if anything at all. It is important to set expectations and prepare spokespeople to deliver newsworthy information in order to capture the attention of journalists, and convince not just them but also their editors that the story is worthy of publication.

4. Be transparent and authentic

Maintain a transparent and authentic approach when dealing with the media. Provide accurate and reliable information, and never mislead or exaggerate. Establishing trust with media professionals is essential, as they rely on credible sources and will be more likely to cover your organization’s news and stories.

This might seem like common sense, but it is hard for a spokesperson to be authentic when they are prepared on specific, even rigid talking points. One way to win the respect and trust of journalists is by being willing to share the spokesperson’s personal and career journey. While it might not become the subject of the article, a journalist is more likely to want to cover stories told by a person who they find interesting or inspirational.

5. Prepare and train spokespeople

Ensure that your organization’s spokespeople are well-prepared and trained for media interviews. They should be knowledgeable about the key messages and objectives, and be able to effectively communicate them in a succinct but authentic way. Conduct media training sessions to enhance their skills in handling tough questions, staying on message, and maintaining a positive image for the organization.

One thing that global executives often overlook is the importance of non-verbal communication and the fact that the interview starts as soon as they greet the journalist and doesn’t end until they part ways. Executives tend to guard themselves from journalists out of the fear of being misquoted, but this is not a winning strategy. If the spokesperson cannot treat the journalist in a friendly and collegial manner, that journalist is less likely to write a story that makes them and their organization look good.

At the same time, other executives get too friendly and start speaking off-the-cuff, potentially saying things that are not aligned with the talking points or divulging information that the company does not want to communicate externally. It is important to remember that in Japan, nothing is actually “off-the-record” and everything that is communicated in an interaction with a journalist is fair game. In addition, major media outlets do not usually allow organizations to check their spokesperson’s quotes before they are published, so this has to be taken into account when training spokespeople.

About Parthenon Japan

Parthenon Japan is a strategic communication firm that develops, proposes, and implements unique action plans for domestic and global companies operating in Japan. Our team of consultants provides hands-on support that delivers results for each client across our strategic communications, government relations, and PR consulting practices. We leverage our experience and network to effectively deliver messages through inspiring campaigns.

Even a rookie can issue a press release, but it takes a pro to get it in the hands of the right journalists. Our team has strong networks with top-tier Japanese media across diverse beats and fields. From standard corporate coverage to obtaining features in newspaper, TV, and online media, let us be your guide to better and more valuable media coverage.

If you think that our services are the right match for you, don’t hesitate to contact us to set up an initial consultation.