Lang Xiao is a London-based arts PR and arts consultant specialising in cross-cultural communications campaigns and projects in China and the UK.
Lang is the founder of ARTouch Consulting (est. 2013), the writer of PwC Global Media and Entertainment Outlook Annual Book (Chinese market), a contributor to Vogue China (most recently the 2018 October Issue), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Charted Institute of Public Relations.
Lang and her team have organised a number of successful museum and gallery exhibitions, and engaged with art fairs, international festivals and art consulting projects, including organising British modern painter L.S. Lowry’s first ever overseas museum exhibition in China and the China Now exhibition to promote young Chinese artists in the UK. They have achieved media coverage in the BBC, BBC Chinese, Financial Times, The Telegraph, ITV, China Daily, Chinese Weekly, European Times, Dezeen, Vogue China, The Art Newspaper, Londonist, Bazaar Art, Blouin Artinfo and Randian.
Lang and her team have introduced clients to museum-level collectors, curators and art institutions. In 2016, the Asian Department of the V&A museum purchased an artwork from a client through ARTouch Consulting.
The agency has worked with E&Y, Burberry, The British Museum, The Lowry, Henry Moore Foundation, AXA, The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, The Lowry, Crane Kalman Gallery, V&A Museum, The Art Museum of Nanjing University of China, British Council, China-Britain Business Council, The Royal College of Art, University of the Arts London, Fringe, Rui Xu Studio, Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, City Academy London, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Southbank Centre and many more.
Lang became a mum to a pair of gorgeous twins in March 2017.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
Made in China, Global Export
How did you get into PR?
I studied communications in China and the UK, but ended up as analyst in a consulting firm, which is good for someone keen on data and technology. But it’s NOT for me. I prefer a more dynamic and bubbly working environment. I quit my job and founded my own art PR company.
What do you love about your job?
Art PR, at least superficially, is fun and bubbly. I don’t have to work with the same people all the time. I meet interesting and creative people. The work covers various categories. Every project feels fresh and new.
What are you most proud of?
For PR projects this year, I’m proud of myself for getting my client covered by the Daily Telegraph just six days into our working relationship. For non-PR, I’m proud of my 20-month old boy and girl twins. They are amazing!!!
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
It is great if you can handle all types of clients or people, but it is okay to admit that you can’t work for everyone. Some clients are just not good, I don’t mean they are not good as clients, but I mean they are not very nice people. I have to learn to refuse people, particularly those who show no respect to others. Also, do not promise what you cannot give.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Fenella Barber. She was the Director at the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), and now the founder of Bao Advisory. I like her because she is a long-term thinker, open and sharing. Particularly for a small-scale PR company or individual PR advisor, it’s very tempting to be narrow-minded and over-protective of your own ‘resources’ or ‘contacts’. Building more friends means you might have more opportunities.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Good listening skills!!!! Listen to your clients and your audience.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram: Image speak louder, particular in the art world.
Chinese WeChat is also very useful as it creates a relatively private/ selected circle, within which you can spread your message or build your personal brand/image with more impact. Personal communication is very crucial for a small PR company.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Jackie Wullschlager, FT Art. I like her because she writes with independent thinking. I bumped into her at the press morning at Hauser & Wirth Zeng Fangzhi exhibition in London, arranged by Sutton PR. Though Hauser & Wirth is a big advertiser for FT, and Zeng Fanzhi is also a very well-established Chinese artist, Jackie’s report and comments in the FT on the exhibition were very honest and critical, not flattering at all.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
When you desperately want to introduce yourself to someone (whom you think is a VIP), you better make sure he or she wants to know you too, if not even more! (I think it is originally from Sir David Tang). Having the business card of some VIP does NOT mean anything.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2018?
Fail: Dolce & Gabbana
Dolce & Gabbana’s high-profile catwalk show in Shanghai was cancelled by Chinese government following an outcry over what many in China perceived to be a racist marketing campaign. A video posted on Weibo of a Chinese model attempting to eat Italian food with chopsticks was taken down after less than 24 hours, but widely shared on both Chinese social media platforms and Instagram. The social media storm was made worse by comments attributed to Stefano Gabbana and Dolce & Gabbana’s official Instagram accounts on the show day. This marks the second high-profile outcry over racist messaging from Dolce & Gabbana in only 18 months. A previous #DGLovesChina campaign depicting Beijing in a way that Chinese internet users felt looked backwards and underdeveloped. Stefano Gabbana and Dolce & Gabbana claimed insults about China posted from his personal Instagram were from a hacking.
Yay: Zhihu for Spacety
Zhihu, Chinese question-and-answer website where all kinds of questions are created, answered, edited and organised by the community of its users, promoted Spacety, one of the first commercial aerospace companies in China, by calling its users to raise questions to aliens and sending the questions to outer space. Zhihu selected 33 questions, and Spacety laser printed them onto their branded satellite. The satellite was sent to space and was broadcast nationally. Clever way to build credibility and it’s also fun and inviting. Low-cost for the campaign itself.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
There are very few Chinese (not born or bred in the UK) in the arts PR world in the UK, due to the obvious language and culture difference. It would be great to be connected within ourselves, and to become stronger. As a whole, we can reach more local PR practitioners and make us visible.
Lang is one of 18 mentors for the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme 2019.