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Policy address: Could PR have helped?

Hong Kong – Forbes called it “feeble”, Reuters said it was an “uphill battle” – CY Leung’s maiden policy address yesterday has drawn vibrant – and much of it negative – press coverage.

From a marketing point of view, is there anything public relations could have helped or is it entirely up to the actual substance of the policy address?

Rachel Catanach, managing director, SVP and senior partner of Fleishman-Hillard Hong Kong, said one thing that could have been done was to condition the public on the likely substance of Leung’s policy address in advance of delivery.

In reality, however, Catanach said Leung’s challenge is to start demonstrating to Hong Kong people that he truly has their best interests at heart.

And Catanach was not the only one who felt the policy address was “all talk no walk”.

On Apple Daily‘s Facebook page, hundreds of netizens wrote they were disappointed and frustrated by Leung’s plans, describing them as “empty” and “action-lacking”.

The South China Morning Post also ran an editorial titled “More questions than answers in CY Leung’s policy address”, putting together netizens’ questions after hearing Leung’s proposed measures.

“If he wants to win hearts and minds, CY needs to understand the flashpoints for Hong Kong and put a much more comprehensive plan in place to address them,” Catanach said.

BlueCurrent Hong Kong’s vice president James Hacking added a popular mantra in communications in recent years “content is king” could very well describe the situation.

“Some politicians are more popular than others, some deliver better presentations than others and some have slicker slogans and marketing teams behind them, but it is whether the substance of their policies stand up to public scrutiny and whether they address the pressing concerns of the day.

“If they don’t focus on getting the ‘content’ right, and testing this ‘content’ thoroughly before they take to the podium, then no amount of PR and communications can help them in the long-run,” Hacking said.

Since taking office in July, Leung’s popularity has slid amid scandals such as illegally renovating his luxury properties after his opponent Henry Tang was caught doing the same prior the chief executive appointment.

Mass protests demanding Leung to step down have become more heated and frequent, most recently on New Year’s Day when thousands took to the streets saying Leung could not be trusted and demanded the right to vote for their leader.

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