Bad Press Drives Xiaomi to Hire PR Guru from Weibo?

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October 22, 2014 by ...

Xiaomi announced that it has hired Chen Tong from Sina- Weibo. Chen Tong was one of that company’s founders and his last role was Chief Editor, which in China-speak means he dictated what could be discussed and monitored topics on Weibo and Sina, which is an enormous internet property.

Lei Jun lured him away with an RMB 5 million promise including options and unlimited KTV parties. Ok, that last part may be untrue. But the fact is that Lei Jun did mine Chen and is bringing him on board.

Many in China claim that it means his previous company has fallen on hard times. While this may be true, to me what is more compelling is how badly Lei Jun wants him. That is a whopper of a salary here and Lei had to see something he liked. Due to Chinese laws all websites must police their own content and messages as well. If anything that is deemed harmful to the communist party sits on a website for too much time, the company is punished. Which is why you hire a guy like Chen Consider him the ‘bad news remover’.

Based on Xiaomi’s press lately, this is just what they need. Governments in Vietnam, Taiwan and India are considering barring Xiaomi kit in certain sectors due to security concerns. This is not the type of news that Xiaomi and potentially the communist party want to get out. It harms the company and the ‘feelings of the Chinese people’, Beijing often says.

One can see what a score it is to have a guy like Chen on board. Due to his longevity with Sina, especially in dealing with news in China, he must have deep contacts and knows who to praise. This skill set is even in greater demand with Xi Jinping in office and his move to staunch all non-state approved news reportage.

We can see how Xiaomi scored the triumverate: a man with good governmental contacts who is accustomed to culling news which curries party favor and a person who is a pretty good spin doctor. With all the negative press Xiaomi has been receiving, Chen will have his hands full.


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