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Multiple PR agencies shoot down HK government request for assistance

Multiple PR agencies shoot down HK government request for assistance

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Although the Hong Kong government has withdrawn its controversial extradition bill, citywide protests continue against a host of other issues that have been drawn attention to. It has been reported that in the wake of a massive reputation nadir, the Hong Kong government invited several global PR agencies to take on the task of rebuilding Hong Kong’s reputation, but those cries for assistance have so far been in vain.

An audio recording obtained by Reuters, is alleged to present Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam admitting to several business leaders that though eight global PR firms were approached to salvage Hong Kong’s global reputation, four immediately turned the proposal down with two more also declining after talks.

The release of this recording has been followed by further investigation by The Holmes Report. The PR publication has gained what it claims is a copy of the brief the Information Services Department (ISD) of the Hong Kong government circulated as part of its quotation exercise.

It also reported that three agencies had attended an in-person briefing with the ISD, including Brunswick, Ogilvy, and Ruder Finn, but said that none of them had chosen to bid for the contract. An agency source was even cited as saying that the Hong Kong government “had completely misjudged” the proposed campaign, as it was inviting “RFP while the streets are on fire”.

Marketing reached out to a contact at Ogilvy who confirmed it had attended a meeting but stated that its decision to decline the bid was balanced and based on its merits.

The contact stated, "The only reason we chose not to proceed was after an assessment regarding the availability of our internal resources to meet required timelines as stated in the RFP."

They added that there was, "Zero political agenda on this one from us - purely a business decision on our capacity."

In the quotation exercise sourced by The Holmes Report, the Hong Kong government stated: “Protests in Hong Kong have attracted widespread attention over the past two months. The HKSAR’s image has been affected locally and abroad.” While the ongoing protests have “raised concerns about Hong Kong’s positioning as a global business and financial hub with a stable environment underpinned by the rule of law”.

The objectives of the campaign would be to “address negative perceptions in key markets overseas to maintain confidence in Hong Kong”, and to “underscore the strengths and attributes that differentiate Hong Kong from other cities in the region and highlight positive elements of ‘one country, two systems’."

Targeting people living outside Hong Kong aged 25 to 45,  with business persons, investors, and professionals as some of the preferred professions, the winner of the pitch would need to assess Hong Kong’s image overseas. It would need to handle the fallout of the extradition bill controversy, and its subsequent protests and conflicts, and devise strategies to overcome these problems.

The key markets of this campaign include APAC (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia); North America (US cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Boston, and Washington DC); Canadian cities of Toronto, and Vancouver, including the Hong Kong Chinese communities living there); and European countries such as the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Nordics.

Marketing has also approached Ruder Finn and Brunswick for comment, but they have yet to respond.

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