HONG KONG—The government of Hong Kong has hired Burson-Marsteller to help it recover from the negative coverage resulting from an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 200 people in the former colony, and sickened 1,600 more.
As a result of the SARS outbreak, the Hong Kong government placed restrictions on overseas travel for its own citizens, and saw a dramatic decline and both business and tourism travel. Now it plans to spend more than $160,000 for B-M to draw up a strategy. Burson previously worked with Hong Kong to position that city as “Asia’s World City.”
Speaking after the first meeting of the Economic Relaunch Strategy Group last week, financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung told members, “This PR firm has a lot of experience in crisis management around the world and we hope that the communication can be improved.”
Leung said consumers have recently started to spend again as the number of reported SARS cases has decreased. The number of new infections per day has dropped into single digits, with the government reporting six new cases Friday.
Meanwhile, Edelman has been retained to help the city of Toronto with its recovery efforts. The firm has been retained to help the city draw up a recovery plan, although there is no word on whether the firm will also handle execution of the communications plan, which could ultimately have an advertising and PR budget of $25 million.
“Right now, the real battlefront is on the PR side of things,” Brad Ross, chief spokesperson for the City of Toronto, told reporters last week. “We’re trying to get the message out that Toronto is safe and healthy.”