Nanjing has joined the ranks of other cities in eastern China that have teamed up with an international public relations outfit to provide western social media content that promotes in-bound tourism.
Chicago, Illinois, USA-based PHG Consulting is no stranger to helping the Chinese authorities with advertising overseas; the China Municipal Tourism Board seeing fit some time ago to employ them in the promotion of the Earthly equivalents of Heaven; Suzhou and Hangzhou.
Back in 2016, Nanjing tourism authorities also started working with PHG Consulting in the provision of public relations services for the North American market, and the English-language website GoToNanjing.com swiftly followed. Now, by way of compliment to the website, dedicated Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube channels (@GoToNanjing) have also recently been launched.
Despite the fact that Facebook is banned in China, the government recognises its influence in international circles, and even pushes the limits in the fair and correct use of users’ data. After the Youth Olympics were held in Nanjing in 2014, the Games’ Facebook page, that had amassed thousands of followers in the years leading up to the Olympic event, was renamed Discover Nanjing.
There has also a widespread questioning of a, to some, apparently inconsistent “one rule for them, one for us” approach in applying its principals. Donald Trump was permitted to use Twitter during his recent visit to China, even Xi Jinping himself has a Facebook page and the official news agency, Xinhua, uses Twitter to promote its articles.
Nevertheless, the other side of the coin would be that China is not in violation of its own principals with the use of western social media to spread its message abroad; the international market, not the domestic, is the target, after all.
The new initiative to promote Nanjing can certainly have a very positive effect on the city, both socially and economically. More visitors can only help to solidify Nanjing’s new-found reputation as an increasingly international city, while the knock-on effects of a boost to the GDP from all those incoming dollars are obvious.
That a foreign P.R. firm has been called in also makes a lot of sense; being accustomed to the “lingua fraca” employed on western social media, and able to distill content culturally indecipherable in the West, may go a long way toward making Nanjing more appealing.
In an article on the industry website, travelpress.com, Paul Cohen, vice-president of PHG Consulting, commented, “Travellers from the U.S. and Canada are looking for new and unique destinations in China, and Nanjing is one of the cities they have started to discover”.
This latest initiative is just of many to be employed recently to boost the region’s image; the colourful “Miss Su” campaign is also underway to assist with promoting tourism on a provincial level.