Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Southeast Asia has appointed Ogilvy Malaysia as its PR partner in Malaysia for three years following a pitch held in early 2020. HKTB will rely on Ogilvy's expertise in destination PR to develop strategic communications campaigns reinforcing Hong Kong’s position as the travel destination of choice in Asia. The incumbent on the account is essence Burson-Marsteller.
Led by its PR and Influence team, Ogilvy Malaysia will work closely with HKTB’s regional and market teams based in Singapore and Malaysia. Ogilvy’s immediate efforts will be to support HKTB’s strategic recovery plan unveiled last month.
HKTB announced an allocation of about HK$400 million for a three-phase plan to reinvigorate Hong Kong tourism and support the trade by building on Hong Kong’s resilience, its recovery starting with locals and the relaunch of mega-events and a new tourism brand campaign later in the year. Separately, the tourism board recently launched its global communications campaign - #MissYouToo - which aims to reinforce Hong Kong’s brand image and reconnect with the consumers.
HKTB's regional director of Southeast Asia, Raymond Chan, said the Ogilvy team demonstrated deep understanding of Hong Kong’s unique situation and its expertise was evident in its strategic and integrated approach to inspire Malaysians to make Hong Kong their next travel destination. "We look forward to work with Ogilvy to aggressively drive our communications plans in the Malaysia market," Chan said.
He added that Malaysians can look forward to mega events and new campaigns such as "Jelajah Hong Kong" which is dedicated to Muslim travellers. Working with Hong Kong trade partners, "Jelajah Hong Kong" introduces the many diverse attraction, including Muslim-friendly offerings and facilities.
Ogilvy's head of PR and influence, Sunita Kanapathy, said it is honoured to be entrusted by HKTB to bring to life their communications plans in Malaysia. "Based on the brief, the team prevailed upon our approach to modern marketing by developing integrated plans to make Hong Kong matter as a premier travel destination. Looking at current consumer sentiment around travel, we have our work cut out for us," she said.
Kanapathy explained that Ogilvy’s strong foundation in reputation management and building influence will be critical in campaign development and amplification of trade partnerships, events and consumer promotions to reintroduce Hong Kong to Malaysian travellers.
Separately, the Hong Kong Public Relations and Communication Professional Union (HKPRU) recently criticised the Hong Kong government for inviting PR agencies to participate in its "Relaunch Hong Kong" campaign, calling it "a desperate attempt to restore its international image through public relations and publicity efforts".
According to the tender posted on HKPRU’s Facebook page, one of the objectives of the campaign was to ensure that target global audiences are aware of Hong Kong’s economic recovery and responses to issues of international concern or interest, including the facts surrounding Hong Kong’s efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis, and that Hong Kong remains always welcoming and “open for business”. Some of the target audiences the government is targeting via this campaign includes key influencers internationally in the public and private sectors, industry leaders and practitioners and think tanks.
"HKPRU is of the view that the government has never genuinely looked at the crux of the matter as it continues to indulge itself in its world of make-believe that 'everyone misunderstands the Hong Kong Government'. The view that Hong Kong’s deep-rooted, longstanding socio-political crisis could be defused and resolved by the means of public relations is evidently impractical and naïve," the union said in a statement.
HKPRU explained that prior to this renewed invitation of bids, the quotation exercise of the Information Services Department to procure such services already failed once in September 2019 as eight global public relations companies turned down the opportunity following briefings.
“It has almost been a full year into the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement and the Hongkongers’ vocalisation of the ‘Five demands, not one les’” has remained strong and clear. Despite so, the government continues to harbour police brutalities, turn a deaf ear to the populace’s demands, and even to level up its suppression on dissent,” the union added.
It explained that the renewed invitation of bids also illustrates the government’s perception of the pandemic “as an opportunity to turn the tide in terms of its negative international perceptions”, and to revitalise Hong Kong’s business environment without having to respond to and deal with the socio-political crisis.