What Can PR Agencies in Japan do for Foreign Brands

From Traditional to Digital-First PR Strategy

Japanese mainstream media holds great influence and many foreign brands rely on traditional PR agency methods such as newspapers, magazines, and TV to get their message across. The complexity of the press system results in the majority of non-Japanese businesses relying on help to get the right coverage.

The easiest way to achieve this is to work with a good PR company here. While Japanese PR has a successful market entry strategy, Japanese public relations as an industry and a profession has grown over the years.

With global trends heading toward digital-first content marketing, this has evolved with Japanese traditional media

In this article, you will see how foreign brands understand the Japanese PR scene and decide what should be put in their PR component for their marketing initiatives in Japan.

Japanese PR Developments

PR or public relations has played an essential role for successful Japanese brands. This includes government bodies and NGOs as well as corporations, and professional/trade union, groups. PR is a vital way to communicate with the Japanese public and be seen publicly.

In Japan, TV, newspapers, and radio are still part of people’s daily lives. According to Statista, people watch over two hours of traditional tv per day in Japan along with consuming a huge amount of media from other sources. Competition can be intense. Companies would pay a lot of money to have commercial time, even if it’s for 15 seconds. Besides this, the other way and most important role of PR agencies in Japan for your press release to get noticed are to build relationships within each sector and have face-to-face meetings and/or follow calls.

While this might be different from how PR works in other countries, the second important thing is to understand Japan’s press system.

When delivering information to Japan’s major news and broadcasting networks, there are specific rules and procedures when submitting your information. Only those with experience can easily navigate the area of Japanese PR.

Over the past years, traditional PR has evolved with the changing landscape of digital marketing and increasing amount for more accurate performance tracking. Here are a few takeaways:

Platforms offering digital PR services have grown with popularity and sales of PR times from 2016-2021.

Many PR firms are launching and improving new services to give their clients more than PR such as content creation and digital marketing.

Whether it’s through conventional means of press contacts or digital advertising and marketing channels, there is more and more crossover between traditional and online activities to amplify the reach to as many people as possible.

While traditional face-to-face interaction between Japanese press officers and editors in PR agencies has decreased, this has people find new ways to develop relationships virtually.

Now, PR is no longer considered a one-way relationship. It is not about getting your message out to the greatest amount of readers/viewers. Successful companies and agencies see that they need to attract their new audience by engaging and interacting with brands.

Japan has a complex press system with specific procedures for how and when you submit your information
What Services are Offered by Japanese PR

A survey by The Public Relations Society of Japan (PRSJ) shows a snapshot of the different kinds of services that PR agencies in Japan are offering. As you read below, you can see the way the market is shifting towards multidisciplinary communication strategies.

Service Offering

Percentage of Agencies that Offer Service

Publicity planning and execution


Mass media relations


PR consultancy services on retainer


Press conferences/PR event planning and management


Monitoring and clipping


Information gathering and analysis


Sponsored editorial content


Measurement of PR effectiveness


Marketing consulting services


Social media communications using influencers


Source: The Public Relations Society of Japan (PRSJ)


It’s quite obvious that social media influencer marketing is one of the fastest-growing areas of Japanese PR. And so, many agencies are offering sponsored editorial content that has a decent amount of in-house content creation capabilities.

What is your Digital PR Strategy to Enter the Japanese Market

Many global companies entering Japan have treated public relations as a separate and self-contained entity. Today, however, PR, advertising, and digital marketing being separately viewed are no longer practical.

While companies understand that good publicity is well worth striving for, there is more demand for measuring the results in PR. Even if you are a small brand, you should know what you are getting for with your money. Agencies need to use more and different avenues to your brand message out in front of their target audience and provide results. With that, digital campaigns can provide ways to track and measure these results and have precise reporting to see what else can be added to your campaign.

With an increase in a more digitally connected community, digital PR strategists will use websites, blogs, social media placements, and others to have real-time results. All of this is not mutually exclusive from traditional PR and Japanese newspaper or TV channels.

In theory, they should work holistically across your marketing strategy and in the context of your sales funnels. This is what your brand content puts out and should be part of the customer experience.

With an increase in a more digitally connected community, digital PR strategists will use websites, blogs, social media placements, and others to have real-time results.

If you have a larger advertising budget, then you might be able to use a more traditional PR brand awareness route. The goal here is to get your name out to as many Japanese people as possible and be seen in the nation’s most popular publications.

Even if you have a strong finical supporter, entering a new market with strong domestic established brands you will need a strategic approach and local support to have you use the right channels effectively.


One of the biggest reasons that PR is still essential to succeed in Japan is because it plays an essential part to improve online traffic and SEO performance. One of the best ways to succeed online with to gain backlinks through the creation and distribution of content with digital PR.

Obtaining links from relevant influential and authoritative websites will play a crucial part to improve organic search engine rankings. Also by publishing high-quality and interesting articles that will link back to your site, digital PR can generate stable traffic from a qualified audience while boosting your ranking on search engine pages.

What to Ask Prospective PR Agencies in Japan

When looking and reviewing PR agencies in Japan, here are some questions you might want to ask them to ensure they have the right services to support you.

Under traditional PR this includes event planning, crisis communication, and press release distribution as well as sponsored editorial and social media PR. These have different ways of measuring results. So when consulting with an agency, make sure you check how your campaigns will be tracked. PR agencies that have experience with digital PR should hold themselves accountable and justify their contribution to the bottom line through diligent reporting.

PR automation can be from planning and media outreach to measuring and reporting. However, not everything should be automated. While it’s easy to deliver related to many different publications with a click of a button, the best way is to find and target a niche publication and audience with personalized and targeted messages.

Some feel that PR automation is the opposite of what PR can offer which is to build strong relationships with people. Automation can indeed be used to handle the “busy work” that is part of the PR profession.

As a result, it is always important to check how much of the process is automated and what is being handled by people with experience and relationships in the Japanese PR world.

Having newsworthy content is important for any PR industry around the world. However, having something worth sharing is crucial to gaining traction in Japan.

You need to find ways to create interest and engage with users. Finding a way to do this is one of the most important things since you are going to pay a PR agency to do this. So make sure this is a priority and consider these questions:

  • How will you create original content for our audience to care about?
  • How will you adapt the message, reach, and/or content to be more relevant in the local market?
  • How will you create “fresh” content and not a simple translation?

Rather than taking what you have and distributing it, there is an increasing need for PR agencies in Japan to create content. When working collaboratively, they should support content creation activities that result in having something that the Japanese audience can find interesting.

What Japanese consumers find interesting can be quite different, so they can easily see if your past content was marketed toward a Western audience. Things such as visuals, data sets, facts, and the way you write your press release should be different to an extent for the Japanese audience.

Try to determine how well your agency understands this. What kind of creative and content capability do they have already? Also, be aware to not heavily rely on campaigns/content that have performed well in other markets — Japan often requires its approach.