We consider Asia/Pacific to be the world's fastest growing commercial region -- and Hong Kong is its center."
"The Asian market is perhaps the world's most dynamic for the communications service industry."
"Across Asia, public relation is growing fast. The current region-wide growth is about 25%. And this pace looks set to continue in the future. "
These are just three of the upbeat quotes this reporter gathered from public relations executives during a recent trip to Hong Kong. Despite fears that the 1997 takeover by the People's Republic of China will signify an end to the British colony's position as the business capital of Asia, the role of public relations is expected to grow.
Public relations executives from local and international firms operating in Hong Kong reported that business growth in the region has been brisk. (See sidebar, page 22.) They described Hong Kong as a global communications center that serves as a hub for most of their regional business. Another positive sign, they noted, is that clients based there continue to operate in a business-as-usual fashion and remain committed to Hong Kong, despite the imminent 1997 takeover.
These executives stressed, however, that they are keeping a close watch on political developments that might impact their operations as the 1997 deadline nears. Although the 1985 agreement between China and England calls for Hong Kong to operate as a capitalist market for 50 years, there remains an air of uncertainty as to how the communists will govern this thriving business center.
"Nobody really knows what will happen," said Jeffrey Sharlach, executive vice president, The Rowland Co., New York. "It's so unpredictable. We're taking a wait-and-see approach."
Right now, however, one need only spend two weeks in Hong Kong to sense the vibrancy and dynamism of this bustling financial center on the southeast coast of China. Its vital signs are strong: the pace of business is accelerating, construction projects are under way on every plot of available land, business executives continue to travel to Hong Kong in record numbers, and tourism is strong.
In addition, China and Britain recently reached an accord on a proposed multi-billion-dollar airport project in Hong Kong. Sir David Wilson, governor of Hong Kong, told The Wall Street Journal that the airport would allow Hong Kong to remain competitive in Asia.
When it comes to public relations opportunities, however, Hong Kong's claim to fame might be its strategic location. Hong Kong is more than a single market. It is, instead, emerging as the hub of public relations activities in Asia.
"Hong Kong is the center of a vast geographic, cultural, political and economic region," said Alan Mole, chief executive, Shandwick Asia/Pacific. "And it is increasingly becoming the center of choice for international PR covering the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, and, in some cases, even Australia."
Market forces fuel growth
The explosition of public relations opportunities in Asia is being fueled by market forces that have increased the demand for more sophisticated services. Tactical services such as publicity and special events, the cornerstones of public relations here in the past, are now taking a backseat to strategic communications, according to Steve Lyons, regional director, Ogilvy & Mather Public Relations/Asia, and vice chairman of O&M PR Worldwide.
The establishment and development of stock markets throughout Asia, the privatization of government-run companies, and the increasing number of Asian firms seeking business and capital in international markets, for example, have driven the need for corporate positioning, financial communications and investor relations programs.
"Hundreds of Asian companies are graduating into …