Embattled Chinese smartphone maker Huawei capped another week full of a steady stream of negative headlines targeting the company by continuing a massive, weeks-long PR campaign — an effort that included running prominent advertisements in several major US newspapers essentially offering Huawei’s side of its story and speaking directly to consumers.
Huawei took out prominent and full-page ad space in publications ranging from The Washington Post to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, as well as Politico and The Los Angeles Times. Readers who came across the ads were encouraged not to take for granted that “everything you hear” about the company is correct and that “We would like the US public to get to know us better.”
It’s a bit of a defensive move from the company that eventually is hoping to box out Samsung as the top smartphone maker in the world, an ascension that’s made a bit difficult given the open hostility against the company from US officials who believe it’s essentially a de facto arm of the repressive Chinese government. US officials have also levied a number of criminal charges against the tech giant.
To counter that, Huawei has been executing a multi-faceted charm initiative that included a rare, nearly half-hour-long interview with Huawei’s billionaire founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei that aired recently on state-controlled China Central Television. The executive also participated in interviews with UK and American reporters, another rarity.
As Bloomberg notes in a piece today, Zhengfei in the CCTV interview tried to appear unrattled by all the negative scrutiny his company has garnered in recent months. Smiling, he acknowledged that Huawei’s public relations department asked him to do this and that “I must make our clients understand us, make our 180,000 employees understand us, come together and get through this tough time.”
In the US newspaper ads that ran in recent days, Huawei spotlights a variety of humanitarian efforts the company pursues like disaster relief in countries such as Indonesia. Again, as a pushback against US-led opposition that includes messaging that criticizes the security of Huawei products in addition to a series of criminal charges leveled in January against the company related in part to US sanctions against Iran.
Huawei is also apparently reaching out to select US journalists offering an all-expenses-paid trip to the company’s facilities in China:
INBOX: #Huawei is inviting me on an all-expenses-paid junket to China? That's gonna be a hard pass. Any American journalist who takes Huawei money should be ashamed and shamed. pic.twitter.com/F6ihsSXObk
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) March 1, 2019
For its part, Huawei is at the same time trying to put on an air of business as usual in spite of developments like these and the arrest of its CFO in Canada in December — who the US is attempting to get extradited here. Huawei, for example, put on a high-profile showing at Mobile World Congress in recent days, including an eyes-only unveiling of its impressive-looking Mate X smartphone.