How to Get Good Brand Publicity in Japan

Posted By Jim Kersey

While the focus on traditional PR has been declining for a number of years in Japan, with the gaining appeal of digital marketing options and their ability to deliver more measurable results, there’s still no denying that getting good brand publicity (both traditionally or digitally) is an important goal for many brands operating here.

To win earned media in the form of press mentions or coverage on various online publishers, you’ll need to plan a holistic content strategy that entices Japanese media influencers to pay attention to you.

This should ideally include a combination of integrated activities like blogging, search engine marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, and content marketing — all working together.

In this post, we explore a few tips international brands can use to build one of these strategies and get good publicity in Japan.

Table of Contents

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Understand Japan’s PR Landscape

Media influencer giving brand some good publicity in Japan

Public relations still plays an integral role in the success of many companies in Japan, but it’s becoming far less likely for brands, small or large, to rely heavily on traditional PR tactics alone.
TV, newspapers, magazines and even radio still remain integral to people’s daily lives, and getting good coverage in certain spaces will still have a huge impact. However, Japan has also recognised the power of digital marketing avenues such as PPC social media marketing and Google Search Ads, which allow companies to more easily track the performance of their campaigns.

Many brands have taken their once standalone PR departments and pushed for integration with wider marketing and advertising departments. And if you’re thinking of outsourcing your PR work, you’ll find the kind of services offered now look very similar to those offered by more traditional advertising and marketing agencies, signifying a kind of industry-wide convergence.

HB Pro Tip: For foreign brands, all of this can be used to your advantage. Rather than trying to navigate Japan’s incredibly complex traditional press club system, you now have a few more options to consider when it comes to getting the kind of coverage you want to put your brand on the map. And you don’t need to choose between digital or traditional forms of media.

Find the Right Media Hubs and Influencers

One of the first key things you’ll need to do is understand who the important influencers are who can help you get coverage. These individuals aren’t just social media influencers and include anyone who helps to establish trends and amplify messages to certain audiences.

For example, this could be the editor of a magazine, a journalist or even a website owner who is in charge of the editorial content that goes live each week. Basically, whichever platform or channel you are trying to get publicity on will have one or even several media influencers who will have the authority to promote your brand, or reject it.

The first hurdle is finding who these people are and convincing them it’s worth their time to share content about your brand.

HB Pro Tip: Building long-term relationships with media influencers is incredibly important and can help you get a head start when planning content and promoting your brand through various publicity-focused activities. Try your best to manage relationships respectfully, especially with native Japanese speakers where communication approaches might differ.

How to Find Relevant Influencers

In the print and broadcast world, media influencers include a combination of journalists, columnists, industry experts, and tv and radio producers. However, digital influencers can be harder to categorise.

Some might manage their own YouTube channels as authoritative individuals or industry news channels together with a group of industry experts and thought leaders. Others might simply be other marketers who are tasked with running the blog of a lifestyle brand.

Some tips for finding the right media influencers include:

  • Set up a Google alert for industry-related terms to see who is regularly writing content about important topics in your industry
  • Identify your competitors then find the influencers who promote them
  • Find influencers who might not already post content about your industry but who share a similar audience and who can potentially provide just as much value as those who are already tied to your sector
  • Ask your existing audience where they like to consume content and the kind of influencers and media platforms they value the most
  • Look at the writers or journalist who have published content covering brands like your own

HB Pro Tip: It’s also possible to attract influencers to actually come to you through smart content marketing. For instance, our friends at Scaling Japan Podcast started their own podcast by asking well-known entrepreneurs in their network to appear on their show. They then leveraged those names to get a broader range of entrepreneurs to join them and today they regularly feature prominent leaders in several fields, including individuals from government agencies. To learn more, watch their interview with our very own Nathan Hoernig

Make Your Brand More Appealing to Japanese Media Influencers and Audiences

Japanese creative working on project to get good publicity in Japan

The tastes, interests and mindset of Japanese consumers can be different to what you’re used to. Sometimes you need to make a few crucial changes to our brand and the way you showcase yourself to customers in order to have more resonance in your new market.

We would say that a healthy amount of localization should always take place before you start engaging in any significant PR or marketing campaigns.

As generating good publicity also relies on content creation to a large extent, we would also recommend that you get your hands on some decent Japanese creative talent (whether that’s designers or writers) that can help you craft engaging content that publishers want to feature, and their audiences want to read.

A few suggestions include:

  • Invest in original research and consider having a spokesperson for your company head up the project
  • Create a resource hub that shares original and engaging content about a certain topic related to your brand
  • Develop some powerful infographics or data visualizations that combine insightful analytics with creative flare
  • Start a podcast and invite thought leaders to share their insights with your audience
  • Create an animation or short documentary that says something unique about your industry
  • Launch a trial or freemium version of your product or service
  • Offer some virtual courses or lessons that share knowledge and skills with your audience

HB Pro Tip: At the very least, make sure you invest in a killer press pack that showcases the best of your brand to Japanese journalists and news companies. As well as adding credibility to your organization, it shows people that you have an approach that is adapted to the local market.

To learn more about adapting aspects of your brand to suit the tastes of Japanese consumers, take a look at our blog: Japanese Website Localization – Do I Need to Reinvent My Brand?

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Learn How to Pitch Well

Japanese brand representative pitching idea to get publicity in Japan

How will the coverage you are proposing, or the content you have created, benefit the journalist or publisher you are pitching to? This question should be addressed quickly and clearly when you’re establishing an initial connection with new contacts.

To do this, we recommend personalising the approach to an individual and knowing their channel or site in enough depth that you can reference specific aspects of it, such as audience breakdown, trending topics, content that has featured recently, and other such things that will signal to your contact that you understand their market and that your content is likely to align with their existing audience.

HB Pro Tip: Think about your long term plan to entice publishers into more committed relationships with you. For example, having a more extensive narrative to support your recent announcement or piece of content that ties in with your product and promises future highlights can be more attractive than a single idea you’re trying to pitch. After all, not every piece of media coverage can be about a big company announcement or the fact that you’ve just launched your product in Japan.

Digitally Pitching on PR Platforms

There are several platforms like PR Times that allow brands to publish their press releases to thousands of media hubs and publishers in the hope of getting decent publicity in Japan. With the right press pack and newsworthy piece of content that you’re proposing, pick up here can be good.

However, this style of outreach does lack the personal touch that can go a long way in the world of Japanese PR. We would recommend doing your best to organise your distributions by segments and adjusting your releases so they speak to the values of each group more closely, rather than simply sending out a generic press release to as many contacts as the platform allows you to.

Pitch Tips for Getting Publicity in Japan

  • Be humble – In your PR pitch, it’s always good form to be kind, respectful and polite when contacting new people. Do what you can to show gratitude for someone’s time and understand that publishers can encounter endless reach outs and cold pitches daily. Ideally, it should all feel like a collaboration where both parties benefit, rather than a forced transaction.
  • Leave room for other ideas – You don’t always need an immediate yes to establish strong relationships with Japanese press, influencers and media hubs. If your initial pitch doesn’t go down that well, offer other information, expertise, insights or content that you could share now or in the future.
  • Be sincere about your goals – As a brand who is trying to gain traction in a new market, it will be pretty obvious that one of your main goals in reaching out to publishers is to get exposure. It’s best not to try and hide this fact. We would recommend clearly stating the required goals of your activities, whether it’s SEO or access to a niche market. People are more likely to respect that.

Want to Learn About Japanese Business Culture? Take A Look At Our Practical Guide!

Integrate Your Publicity and SEO Strategy

Team of marketers planning integrated strategy for seo and publicity in Japan

Digital publicity in Japan can be amazing for building your online presence and traffic Some companies even launch entire PR campaigns simply for the purposes of making some important SEO gains through the natural link building that takes place when reputable domains mention your brand.

Because of this, we always advocate a combined SEO and content marketing strategy that leverages the power of PR activities to boost your site’s traffic too.
When interested readers click through to your website and review your brand, you’re also getting some quality referral traffic here, so it’s worth spending a decent amount of time and money addressing how all these things tie together.

HB Pro Tip: Sometimes it’s possible to create just one amazing piece of content and repurpose it in several different ways and across several different channels to get good traction and publicity in Japan. This could be a guide, report, or just an interesting piece of thought leadership content. Focusing efforts on quality rather than quantity is so important!

Paid Social and Japanese PR

Paid social can be used as another way you can do more with the content you already have. It’s clearly an ad, but it gets your piece of earned media in front of the right people, increasing the chance of it being picked up organically. Whether it’s a promoted tweet, Facebook ad, or Instagram ad, paid social can help to increase the amplification potential of your PR content.

Final Tips on Getting Good Publicity in Japan

Two colleagues reviewing press release and branded publicity in Japan

Public Relations (PR) isn’t always a priority for foreign brands who have just entered Japan. It can often seem more strategic and less risky to focus on scalable and measurable digital marketing tactics that offer a lower barrier to entry.

However, plenty of companies miss out on easy PR opportunities that help to do more with what they already have going on. Rather than thinking of getting publicity in Japan as a separate activity that requires separate people and separate content, it’s much better to plan your project more holistically.

When you put great content at the heart of all your activities, there’s no reason you can’t tick off a number of objectives at the same time, whether that’s advertising, marketing, or PR, by leveraging the same great pieces of content you’re investing so much into creating anyway.

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