The Chinese public relations market is still in its infancy, so it’s not particularly surprising that a 16-year-old firm—AcrossChina International Group was founded in 1992—could have grown in less than two decades into one of the largest integrated marketing communications firms in the market, with a team of 200 (about 40 percent of them fluent in English) and revenues last year of RMB 185 million (about $27 million). Much more impressive is the fact that AcrossChina has been able to compete for multinational clients with some of the biggest and best international agencies operating in the Chinese market, and to build up a client list that includes names such as Oracle, Nokia, Novarits, Siemens, Xian-Janssen, Bayer, GSK, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Unilever, Microsoft, Volvo, BMW, Samsung, Chrysler, GE, Cummins, Baidu, and more—many of which retain AcrossChina not only for publicity and special events (still the most common activities for local firms) but also for strategic counsel.
Across China offers a comprehensive range of services that includes brand strategy, marketing communications, sports marketing, corporate communications and government affairs, across a broad spectrum of industry sectors from FMCG to fashion to finance to pharmaceuticals, from automobiles to technology and telecommunications. But the firm is probably best known for its expertise in two areas: the first is special event planning and executive (AcrossChina has managed a staggering 5,000-plus events in China over the past 16 years, from trade shows to ceremonies and celebrations to internal meetings, and was the first mainland Chinese member of the International Special Events Society); the second is integrated marketing (the firm’s mission is “to be the most creative and effective integrated communications solutions provider and it was recently named one of the top 10 branding companies in the market by Brand China, as well as receiving recognition for its creative work from the China Guanghua Foundation and the Shanghai Public Relations Association).
The firm has impressive depth of management, starting with president and chief executive Hersey Cao, who has driven the firm’s emphasis on integration after joining from one of Australia’s largest manufacturing and technology companies, where her responsibilities included sales, marketing, after-sales services and the overall management of the China operations. She works alongside founder and chairman Charles Yan and vice presidents T.C. Li, David Zhang (a veteran of Edelman, Ruder Finn and Hill & Knowlton who is responsible for the development of the firm’s PR business); Beijing general managers Albert Cao; and senior advisor Shelagh Lester-Smith, who served as vice president and director of corporate communications and public affairs for Motorola on three continents during her 16-year tenure with the company.
The firm enjoyed strong growth in 2008—revenues were up by about 35 percent last year—with the addition of a host of new clients including Volkswagen Group China, Google, Alibaba, Kingsoft, Carestream, DHL, Shell, Porsche and Zegna. The firm established a team focused on the fashion and luxury goods market, formalized its healthcare and pharmaceutical industry practice, and partnered with Shanghai PR Association and Shanghai International Studies Institute to create The PR Research Institute, which will produce annual reports on trends and developments in the Chinese PR industry.
Highlights of AcrossChina’s work in 2008 including work on the Sino-Japan Youngsters Friendship Intercourse project, which was opened with a speech from Chinese president Hu Jin Tao; the 100-year anniversary ceremony of the Bank of Communication, China, which included a series of PR and promotion projects covering Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.; and the Samsung torch relay project for the Beijing Olympics, spanning more than a year and including events in all of the major cities in China.
The firm works primarily in mainland China, through offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but does have relationships with partner agencies in other major markets.