Hong Kong Begged 8 Global PR Firms To Help Rebrand Amid Protests; They All Said No

As months of violent protests continue to grip Hong Kong, a new document published by The Guardian reveals that city leaders reached out to eight global public-relations firms to help them "rebrand" amid the chaos. 

Four of them "immediately declined because it would be a detriment to their reputation," and the other four declined after mulling it over for a bit. 

"The quotation exercise lapsed as no bid was received by the close of the quotation period," according to the document. 

During a Tuesday press briefing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam admitted to approaching the PR firms, but had been advised that "the time is not right" for Hong Kong to rebrand.

"But Hong Kong’s fundamentals remain very strong ... the time will come for us to launch a major campaign to restore some of the damage done to Hong Kong’s reputation," she added. 

The government said it “has no immediate plan to conduct a procurement exercise of a similar nature.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Lam confirmed the government had approached PR companies but had been advised that “the time is not right” to rebuild the image of Hong Kong. “But Hong Kong’s fundamentals remain very strong ... the time will come for us to launch a major campaign to restore some of the damage done to Hong Kong’s reputation.”

She also said she disagreed with credit rating agency Moody’s downgrade of its outlook on Hong Kong from stable to negative this week but said “violent acts” in the ongoing protests would “inevitably undermine and affect the international perception of Hong Kong’s business environment”.

According to a copy of the government brief carried by the Holmes Report, a PR trade publication, the government was aware that the ongoing protests have raised concerns over Hong Kong’s reputation “as a global business and financial hub with a stable environment underpinned by the rule of law” and the safety for business travellers and tourists. -The Guardian

According to the document, Hong Kong authorities have been seeking advice on how 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." 

They also wanted to know how to "bring out the success of ‘one country, two systems’" policy in place since its handover of sovereignty from Britain in 1997. 

Hong Kong leaders wanted "an initial assessment of Hong Kong’s image overseas" after a wave of protests hit in June, as well as a solid PR strategy to mitigate damage to their reputation. The campaign would have targeted "business persons, investors, entrepreneurs, politicians and high-income leisure and business travellers" from Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. 

Out of the three international PR firms contacted by the Guardian that reportedly turned down the government, Ogilvy said in an email it had decided not to proceed “after an assessment regarding the availability of our internal resources to meet required timelines as stated in the RFP (Request for Proposal)”. Another firm declined to comment.

Public relations experts told the Guardian they were not surprised that the government was turned down because it is widely reviled by large numbers of Hong Kong citizens for its response to the protests. -The Guardian

Protests in the city reached their 100th day this week after yet another violence-filled weekend