HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government has revealed the messaging developed by Consulum for its US$5.7m campaign to rebuild the city's global reputation, which is "tentatively scheduled" to launch next year. 

The campaign details come after Consulum ended its one-year assignment with the government last month. Initially budgeted at $6.3m, Home Affairs secretary Caspar Tsui yesterday disclosed that Consulum was eventually paid $5.7m as the firm "was no longer required to monitor and conduct an impact assessment of the campaign."

Tsui was responding to a question from Legco member Regina Ip, asking for details of the Relaunch Hong Kong campaign, which is yet to launch despite being planned for more than two years by the government's Information Services Department (ISD). 

Tsui blamed "lingering uncertainties about the COVID-19 situation" for the campaign delays, adding that a "business confidence campaign" will launch internationally later this year "to reinforce Hong Kong's image as the best place in Asia to live, work and invest in." After that, the Relaunch Hong Kong campaign is "tentatively scheduled for next year."

"The actual implementation timeline, scope and scale of the 'Relaunch Hong Kong' campaign will largely hinge on the global COVID-19 development and the recovery of business activities," he said.

The core message that Consulum has developed for the Relaunch Hong Kong campaign, added Tsui, is that "Hong Kong is the only city in the world that offers a secure, dynamic environment for business, an exciting, cosmopolitan lifestyle and direct access to the Mainland market."

That message will be supported by four others: "Hong Kong is a safe, growing market with considerable potential"; "Hong Kong is the ideal springboard to the Mainland and Asian markets"; "Hong Kong has a reputation for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit"; and "Hong Kong's cosmopolitan character and cultural richness makes it a great place to live in".

The messaging was developed by Consulum after researching and testing with local and international stakeholders. "The research found varying degrees of receptiveness to positive messages about Hong Kong in selected target markets," said Tsui. "Market responses were favourable towards Brand Hong Kong attributes such as cosmopolitan, diverse, dynamic and connected."

"The research showed that Hong Kong had unique advantages over other competing cities in Asia," added Tsui. "Hong Kong was the only Asian city that possessed three important attributes, namely, access to markets in Mainland China and Asia; provision of a sophisticated and secure pro-business platform; and a cosmopolitan lifestyle."

Expanding on comments made by the ISD to PRovoke last month, Tsui noted that Consulum had met the contract's required deliverables, "including devising the overall strategy, publicity plans, a messaging book, media list in target markets, a crisis management plan, a marketing and media buying plan and creative designs."

However, in keeping with the ISD response to PRovoke Media last month, Tsui declined to break down the estimated expenditure, citing "commercially-sensitive price information." The ISD reiterated, furthermore, that there are "no plans at this stage to engage new public relations consultancy services."

Consulum was hired by the ISD in June 2020, following the Hong Kong government's long and eventful search for a PR agency. An initial attempt during the summer of 2019 collapsed after being rebuffed by eight major agencies amid widespread social unrest in the city.

A second effort to secure public relations support began in early 2020, again finding considerable disinterest from major PR firms — concerned by local staff opposition, the high-stakes nature of the brief and, eventually, the National Security Law, which came into force at the same time Consulum was selected for the lucrative assignment. 

Best known for its continued work on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, Consulum's hire last June attracted considerable scrutiny. Since landing the brief, the firm has hired several senior executives to staff the business, including former government and police comms advisors Eamonn Fitzpatrick, Rob Shorthouse, Agnes Tsang and Maï-Linh Florentin.

The Relaunch Hong Kong assignment called for Consulum to provide issues and crisis management research, along with a PR campaign that addresses international critics and includes marketing and advertising of the city across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Target audiences included key influencers, investors, industry leaders, media and think tanks. 

At the 2020 World Economic Forum, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam blamed the city's "obsolete PR machinery" for the massive unrest that gripped the territory since she attempted to pass a controversial extradition treaty in 2019.