International Edition: Starting A PR Campaign in Malaysia
You dominate the marketing landscape in Western countries.
You excel at communicating your products persuasively to Western buyers.
But what happens when you’re faced with an unfamiliar business landscape, a language barrier, or unknown cultural territory like Malaysia?
In Malaysia, communication can often get lost in a sea of languages spoken throughout the nation.
This means that communicating to your target audience in English alone may not be the best strategy for your PR campaign in Malaysia.
Looking to break into the Malaysian market?
You’re in the right place.
International Public Relations
Going international is a big move.
There are so many unknowns.
Who is your target audience?
What is your target audience’s preferred language?
How to craft a compelling message that relates with your foreign audience?
The questions are endless.
My key takeaway in this article is to provide you with a deeper understanding of Malaysia’s communications landscape.
And give you ideas to kickstart your PR campaign in Malaysia.
Let’s get into it!
Planning A PR Campaign in Malaysia
You’ve heard this a thousand times.
But, I’ll say it again.
The first step to a successful communications strategy is: RESEARCH and KNOW your target audience.
As cliche as this step sounds, it’s the most important step!
Rock-solid research helps to market your products accurately to the right people.
Not sure who’s your target audience in Malaysia?
I’ve got you covered.
Understanding Your Target Audience: Who Are They?
Malaysia is a melting pot.
Its culture can be summarised in two words: diverse & multilingual.
There are three main ethnicities living in the country.
Malay, Chinese, and Indian people.
These ethnicities are all Malaysian people.
Let me clarify.
The word ‘Malaysian’ refers to a person’s nationality; whereas ‘Malay’ refers to a race or ethnicity.
In short, any Malay, Chinese, or Indian person born in the country is Malaysian.
This makes them respectively either: Malaysian-Malay, Malaysian-Chinese or Malaysian-Indian.
Usually, English isn’t the average Malaysian’s first language – often being their second or even third.
In Malaysia, an individual’s first language often depends on their race or ethnicity.
For example, if you are Malaysian-Malay, your first language would usually be Malay.
Or if you are Malaysian-Indian, your first language would likely be Tamil.
This factor can be a disadvantage for your business.
Because a multilingual country like Malaysia causes a fractured communications landscape.
This will hinder you from communicating your products clearly and effectively to a Malaysian audience.
This problem is prevalent, especially for Western B2C companies, who communicate with their audience only in English.
As such, not everyone can relate or resonate with the company’s products.
And the power of persuasion is lost because: when your words don’t resonate with your buyer; your products won’t sell.
What Language To Use? The Golden Rule For Western B2B & B2C Businesses
The strategy to carry out a PR campaign in Malaysia for Western B2B & B2C businesses are very different.
Depending on whether you are a B2B or B2C business, you should approach your Malaysian audience differently in terms of the language you use to communicate.
Western B2B Businesses:
As a general rule, if you are a B2B business, it is standard practice to market your products and services in perfect flawless English.
This rule applies in Malaysia as well.
B2B businesses are often professional in nature.
So, there is no issue at all for a Western B2B business to communicate formally in a universal language such as English with their clients.
Such clients are usually professional workers or business-owners.
They are more likely to use English as a form of communication everyday as part of their professional work.
And therefore, they are more likely to be proficient in English than other groups of people in Malaysia (such as students and retired individuals).
Western B2C Businesses:
However, if you are a B2C business, it is best to market your products or services in English and another common local language.
This is because you will be marketing to a wider stream of customers in Malaysia.
Such customers will likely include groups of people who are not proficient in English.
Moreover, B2C businesses have a more personal relationship with their buyers.
As such, you can afford to be less formal and more interpersonal with your customers.
Being interpersonal also means communicating with your customers in their mother tongue (and not only in English).
Because it would be easier to relate and resonate with them when you do so.
So, communicating in English and another local language is the best way to go!
Not sure what local language to use for your PR campaign in Malaysia?
I’ve compiled a list of local languages spoken below.
Target Audience Demographics: What Languages Do We Commonly Speak In Malaysia?
A list of common first languages for your PR campaign in Malaysia:
Mandarin (Chinese language)
Cantonese (Chinese language)
Hokkien (Chinese language)
Use this list as a starting guide for your demographics research.
Don't speak to everyone.
Instead, carefully narrow down your target audience’s preferred language.
And target that specific group of people you want to reach in Malaysia.
The better you know your audience, the better you can prepare for your PR campaign in Malaysia.
*Bear in mind, the list above doesn’t indicate that Malaysians do not know English.*
It just means English isn’t their first language.
As such, every Malaysian’s English proficiency will vary drastically.
Your Marketing team must be aware that there are existing groups of people in Malaysia who are not proficient in English.
One such example includes: Malaysian university graduates (Millennials).
As evidence, The Edge Markets published an article on the average Malaysian university graduate's proficiency in the English language.
Click here to read more about this article published by The Edge Markets.
If university graduates are your target audience, this is an issue you should pay attention to.
Because they may find it hard to understand your message, or may not fully resonate with your message.
It's harder to persuade them.
The language doesn't speak to them.
To resolve this language barrier, you should always speak your audience’s language.
This is especially true when marketing your products in a foreign country.
Otherwise, your products won’t sell.
You need to appeal to your Malaysian audience to the point you can make them dream about your products even in their sleep!
Once that happens, you’ve hit a homerun for your PR campaign in Malaysia!
How is a PR Campaign in Malaysia Different From Campaigns in English-Speaking Countries?
The difference lies in both country’s awareness of good English and bad English.
In English-speaking countries, publishing a blog, website copy or brochure riddled with grammatical errors, unnecessary waffle, and English spelling mistakes, will tarnish your company’s reputation.
Poor communication, especially bad writing, makes your company look lazy, inadequate, and unprofessional – you get the drift.
BUT, that’s not always the case in Malaysia.
Some non-native English speakers here are seemingly unaware of the difference between good and bad English.
In fact, there are existing Malaysian ads, billboards, websites, blogs, and online magazines rife with poor quality English.
Now that you have a more comprehensive view of Malaysia’s culture and its communication landscape, I’ll talk about some tactics you can use for your PR campaign in Malaysia.
PR Strategy And Tactics for A Malaysian Audience
Here are some of my favourite tactics:
Video Marketing; and
You’re most likely familiar with most of these marketing techniques by now.
So, I won’t bore you with what you already know.
Instead, I’ve added a slight twist to these techniques to cater to Western businesses.
Let’s dive in!
Don’t just engage Malaysian influencers, but engage Western influencers as well!
Engaging a Western influencer helps boost your PR campaign in Malaysia.
If Western influencers reference Malaysian culture in their videos or social media posts, it would get more engagement from a Malaysian audience.
Because it shows us that foreigners are interested in our culture, festivals, food, fashion, and lifestyle.
And people here LOVE that!
Malaysians feel a sense of pride when our culture is recognised internationally.
When you celebrate our culture, we’ll naturally join in the celebration with you!
This is definitely one way to increase customer engagement for your PR campaign in Malaysia!
Check out this Western Youtuber who has over 2 Million subscribers.
This Youtuber obviously knows Malaysian culture very well.
He uploaded a video where he went to New York City to share Malaysia’s famous Maggi Curry Noodles with New Yorkers.
Look at the comments in the Youtube video.
You’ll notice that a lot of Youtube users commenting on the video are actually Malaysian people!
This video shows that when foreigners take an interest in our culture, viewer engagement from a Malaysian audience will skyrocket.
You can do the same for your company!
DON’T WAIT - Hire a Western influencer for your PR campaign in Malaysia!
What’s roadshows got to do with your PR campaign in Malaysia?
Although this technique is more of a sales tactic, rather than a PR method, it is still something worth mentioning.
You’ll see why in a minute.
Malaysian salesmen are often turned down by people they approach in public.
Well, it’s just not part of ‘Malaysian culture’ to approach strangers here.
Even if your Malaysian salesman fakes a smile, and approaches your prospective customer with a friendly attitude, people here would know they’re not being genuine.
It’s really just not a thing here to approach strangers in public.
In fact, it’s almost a guarantee that your Malaysian salesman would be turned down 99% of the time.
It's because people here instinctively know you are trying to sell them something.
And naturally, they would reject you before you can even get the chance to tell them about your product.
(I know, that stings!)
To get your prospective customers to give you their time of the day, you should hire a Western salesman instead.
The answer is psychology - Malaysian consumer psychology.
Malaysians perceive Westerners as friendly, approachable, and outgoing people who are willing to make friends with strangers on the street.
Yes, that’s a REAL stereotype here!
So, use this stereotype to your advantage on roadshows!
Although they might see a Western salesman holding a product brochure, ready to sell them something, their subconscious would nudge them to stop and hear what he has to say.
Because of the stereotype I just mentioned.
People here aren’t used to being approached by Westerners very often.
So when you approach them, it comes off as a startling surprise.
Bottomline: We can’t force your prospects to buy your product. But what we can do is try everything we can to get their attention.
And hiring a Western salesman does the trick!
And when that happens (and it will happen), you’ll at least get their attention to hear what you have to offer.
At this stage, it's up to them to decide if they want to buy your product or not.
So yes, this is why I think you should consider roadshows as part of your PR campaign in Malaysia.
Copywriting & Blogging
This section is very much related to what I talked about in my title above (The Golden Rule for Western B2B & B2C Businesses).
If you are a B2B business, using English alone for copywriting/blogging is fine.
If you are a B2C business, you should use English and another local language.
With that said, the real question here is: copywriting an effective marketing tool for a Malaysian audience?
Short answer, YES.
I know - I know.
It’s true - videos are preferred over written content these days.
But still, you want to cover as many communication channels as possible.
Don’t leave out blogging or copywriting, just because videos and social media are more popular!
If you leave out writing, you’d miss reaching out to your audience through a viable channel.
The aim is to reach as many channels as possible.
With that said, if you’re looking for a copywriter who knows Malaysian consumer psychology very well - I’m your guy.
As a born and raised Malaysian, I’m fluent in both English and Malay.
Send me an email today: email@example.com
Or learn more about my services here: https://www.theurbanwriter.com/copywriting
A PR campaign in Malaysia won’t be complete without video marketing.
Videos are the perfect clickbait to engage, entertain, and sell your products.
Video marketing works wonders if your target audience is not fluent in English.
Or if your audience prefers videos over written content.
Needless to say, this tactic works very well in Malaysia for Millennials, Gen Z, and even elderly people who have low proficiency in English.
Here are some popular social media platforms to use to market your product: Instagram, Tik Tok, WeChat, Twitter, Youtube & Facebook.
In case you’re wondering…
At Urban Writer, we also offer video marketing services to our clients.
Click here to learn more!
Seminars & Webinars
Host a seminar/webinar to increase your brand awareness.
Western B2B businesses can host seminars to offer their expertise and insights on a topic.
This tactic would rope in a large crowd of Malaysian audience.
Because you are a foreigner, people here would assume you have new insights and experiences to share.
And they want to learn from you!
Quick Tip: A good place to host your PR campaign in Malaysia is at the KLCC Convention Centre.
It is located just outside Malaysia’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur.
Large events are usually held here.
Tealive Campaign: A Successful Business Expansion in Australia
If it’s your first time expanding your business in Malaysia, this section is written just for you!
Here, I’ve put together my research on Tealive’s PR and marketing success story.
This story was written to boost your confidence, and nail your PR campaign in Malaysia!
It’s a story about how a Malaysian company thrived in the West.
What Is Tealive?
Tealive is a Malaysian F&B company specialising in selling bubble tea drinks.
It is owned by its parent company, Loob Holding Sdn Bhd.
For the uninitiated, bubble tea is a sweet-tea drink filled with black chewy tapioca balls at the bottom.
The drink was originally popularised in Taiwan.
Today, there is a high demand for bubble tea among Asian Millenials and the younger generation in Asia.
Just last year in May, Tealive opened its first outlet in Manchester, United Kingdom.
Before we talk about their success story, let’s rewind a little bit.
Long before Tealive’s debut in the UK, Australia became the very first Western country in which Tealive expanded its business.
It’s outlet is located just opposite the Melbourne State Library.
Bubble tea is still regarded as a very foreign drink in Western countries.
In fact, it’s fair to say that even Western Millennials or younger, might not know what bubble tea is.
The fact that the drink is foreign and unheard of by Westerners already puts Tealive at a disadvantage.
It’s because people need to be introduced to it.
You don’t need to introduce a handbag or a microwave to your customers.
(People already know what it is!)
But surprisingly, Tealive’s campaign still became a success in Australia!
Check out this infographic below on what Tealive's PR team (The Sphere Agency) had to say about their campaign's success:
Punchline: A good PR team can turn your PR campaign in Malaysia into a success, even if you sell something foreign and unheard of.
Don’t believe it’s difficult to introduce bubble tea to Western countries?
Here’s what Tealive Founder, Bryan Loo, had to say:
“There are a huge number of Asian bubble tea brands who have not been able to target any Western markets, and there are a lot of markets that have not been penetrated.”
If a foreign drink such as bubble tea can become a huge success overseas, your product can be just as successful too, or even better!
This is especially true if your product or service is already something that the world is familiar with.
So, Western businesses, you have the advantage.
We all live in a very Westernised world.
Western influence has always dominated at a global level in: music, food, automobiles, branded goods, and all that jazz.
Besides, most Malaysians are already familiar with Western products.
Western food and snacks such as hamburgers, fries, Doritos, Skittles, and Kit Kat were already popular here years ago.
You wouldn’t need to introduce hamburgers to Malaysians for the first time!
Now, compare this to what Tealive had to face.
Tealive had to introduce their customers to a foreign drink.
On top of that, they took a big risk when choosing the location for their Australian outlet.
Here’s what Bryan Loo said about their location:
Bryan explains that this was to allow the brand to mix with the local community.
So, the odds were clearly stacked against Loo’s company.
But still, they successfully infiltrated the Australian market anyway!
If your product isn’t something foreign or unheard of like Tealive, you’ve already got one huge barrier out of the way.
All you need now is proper strategic execution for your PR campaign in Malaysia.
Aside from their location, another impressive obstacle which Tealive Australia overcame was the size of its store.
Its Melbourne branch store was actually a converted ATM outlet.
It is so small and only amounted to 6 square meters.
And can only fit two staff members!
(Click here to see how small it is!)
On Tealive’s launch day, the Melbourne branch successfully delivered 1,000 drinks to its customers in just 4 hours!
Yes, they beat the odds.
If you think about it, it’s a whopping success for such a small store!
According to Loo, The Sphere Agency played a vital role to help Tealive build a successful Eastern brand that also appeals to the Western market.
Behind every successful communications strategy is a strong Marketing or PR Agency that cut their teeth into making their client’s campaign a huge success.
Bryan Loo made the right choice to hire a PR Agency that knows his audience demographics in Australia better than he does.
This infographic below shows the success of Tealive's business expansion overseas:
If you are looking for a Communications Professional to help you bridge the communications gap between your company and your audience in Malaysia, we can help.
Check out our portfolio here to see our work!
Wrapping It Up
At the end of the day…
Regardless of the country you are expanding into...
Communication is what it is: writing and speaking your audience’s language.
It's that simple.
This concept should always be at the heart of every communications strategy.
Now... GO SMASH that PR campaign in Malaysia!