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The Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong  (CPRFHK) hosted a panel discussion of leading crisis communications experts, moderated by Robert Grieves, CEO of Hamilton Advisors and Deputy Chair of the CPRFHK at the Shelter Lounge, New Street, Sheung Wan, on 16 October 2014.

The panelists included:

  • Richard Sharpe, Senior Associate at Clifford Chance;
  • Tara Joseph, Executive Producer – Asia at Thompson Reuters;
  • Violet Ho, Senior Managing Director of Kroll (Investigations & Disputes);
  • Lorna Lennon, Managing Director of Bailiwick, a crisis PR firm.

The panel discussed the melanine milk scandal, the McDonald’s meat supply crisis, the Lehman bonds crisis, Occupy Central, the dockworkers’ strike against Wharf, the Malaysian Airlines crises, and the neighborhood dislocations anticipated by construction of the proposed Hopewell project in Wan Chai.

The panel’s major conclusions included the following:

Hong Kong companies, in general, are not prepared for a crisis.

Hong Kong companies do not regularly communicate with their stakeholders.

Companies located in Hong Kong do not generally have crisis preparedness plans or adequate provision for crisis management in place.

Branches of multinational companies located in Hong Kong, under pressure during crises, often refer inquiries to their home offices in time zones far from Hong Kong.

Consumer companies located in Hong Kong do not adequately provision for crisis preparedness to defend themselves against compromised supply chains that originate in Mainland China or elsewhere.

Managing the media is not a skill at which the Hong Kong government excels in a time of crisis, such as Occupy Central, nor is it something in which private companies such as Wharf excelled during the recent dockworkers’ strike.

The major takeaway from the panel discussion is that companies in Hong Kong need more crisis and media training, as well as developed crisis preparedness plans that address their particular needs and circumstances.

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