Wayne Knowles: How SCMP's new edition, campaign build meaningful news media brand in Asia

Information is everywhere. By 2018, 33 per cent of the global population had a smartphone, with Asia Pacific making up 35 per cent of this total. This percentage represents some 1.4 billion people capable of capturing, uploading, and receiving information in the form of text, pictures, or video instantaneously, anywhere around the world.

In today's world of misinformation, how can this demographic differentiate between truth and lies? In short, how can Asian-based media brands build trust?

'The age of post-truth, indeed, stretches as far back as you care to look, there never having been a golden age of transparency.' - Steven Poole, author and Guardian journalist

Accurate reporting and truth in journalism are critical components of the SCMP's Asia Edition

Trust, transparency, and misinformation are not the only issues. Today, we are bombarded with media and, on average, consume five times more information daily than we did 35 years ago. However, according to a study conducted by Havas Meaningful Brand Research (2019), 59 per cent of media brands' digital content is not meaningful to consumers. This means that more than half of the content we consume is of poor quality or irrelevant.

In a world of information overload, and the potential for misinformation, what would the strategic implications be for launching the South China Morning Post Asia Edition? How can we connect with, and provide relevant and trustworthy news to our audience in the Southeast Asia region?

Ensuring proper representation of culture was key to SCMP's mission of being relevant and trustworthy.

Our key insight from market research in Asia Pacific was that there are approximately 400 million people who struggle to find news online from unbiased news organisations. These are people who seek legitimate and verified news daily. Despite various regional segments sharing different perspectives on local/regional media, consumers are still seeking more balanced news and views.

The opportunities for SCMP's Asia Edition

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) is a 116-year-old regional expert, with a unique position (close to China and Asia), but with a globally minded perspective. It's a trusted news brand that shows both sides of a story, reports in a fair and nuanced way, and champions the plurality of voices in Asia.

The SCMP remains committed to this, recently announcing that we are now a proud partner of The Trust Project, led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman. The project develops transparency standards that allow readers to identify and assess the quality and credibility of journalism.

To underpin this market position and build a meaningful campaign targeted at our Southeast Asian audience, we identified that media brands must provide content that falls into three significant pillars:

• Functional.

• Personal.

• Collective benefits.

This insight allowed us to build a content strategy that connected to our brand values. Within these pillars, we also established four key topics that were relevant to our intended audience:

China Military, Asia/China Economy (both chosen based on past performance data of organic and paid content).

Life & Culture (chosen for content diversification).

Local News (chosen to resonate with country-specific audiences).

To best address these topics to our Asian audience, we saw an opportunity to leverage SCMP's key qualities and differentiators: our insights and holistic views on China; our deep understanding of Asia (built from SCMP's This Week In Asia); our neutral position and balanced views versus local media; our inspirational content and stories that inspire readers to discuss issues; and our intelligence and opinion driven by our brand vision to "Elevate Thought."

The story behind the picture matters

The communications campaign had to be linked to our content strategy as we wanted to create a connection with our relevant and high-quality journalism. We also wanted to tie the campaign to our value proposition; SCMP Asia Edition exists to provide regional perspectives and interests on China through related news that matters to the SEA audience.

With the tagline, "The story behind the picture matters," the SCMP's Asia Edition looks at global and regional policies as well as China-centric topics.

"The story behind the picture matters" was the tagline of the campaign. We looked at current global and regional policies, topics and issues (many of which were China-centric) and explored their impact on the SEA region. We highlighted how the same issue may be seen from different viewpoints, such as East/West or regional/global perspectives.

"Every picture can tell multiple stories, that's why a comprehensive understanding matters." This was the crux of our creative execution. And with our comprehensive coverage from both sides, we encouraged Asian readers to take a look at topics from different angles. This enabled them to formulate their own views and opinions on pressing regional issues that mattered to them.

Meaningful results

SCMP's "Asia Matters" brand campaign reached multiple countries, including 4.5 million viewers via video, and we saw significant growth in our key objective of creating and strengthening our loyal reader base while raising brand awareness through trustworthy, relevant, and informative content.

Post-campaign, loyal readers and regular users increased 7% and 13% respectively, while brand awareness grew by 17% in Malaysia and nearly 24% in the Philippines. As we continue to grow, our Asia-centric stories and drive to cover the stories that matter to our readers remain an intrinsic part of what we do.

So far, it appears to be working.

Wayne Knowles is the creative director, audience growth in Hong Kong. He can be reached at wayne.knowles@scmp.com

Based on an INMA Ideas Blog.

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