"Nowadays we are seeing more competition from local agencies in China; however as an international PR firm, we are still ahead of the curve in servicing MNCs," boasts Ye Yu, executive vice president, APAC and Chairman, China as Hill+Knowlton Strategies marked the 30th anniversary of its operation in China.
Good old days
H+K Strategies opened its first China office in Beijing in 1984 during the very early phase of economic reforms and its PR campaigns have kept pace with the economic transformation that has taken place since.
(centre): Ron Cromie, the first general manager of H+K in China with colleagues, 1984
The work H+K now does for its technology clients today in China, for instance, is vastly different than what it did for its very first client, IBM, back in those days when it orchestrated a photo moment in front of the famous Mao poster in Tiananmen. "Fast forward to today, we strategize and execute sophisticated digital and integrated communications with exciting on and offline award-winning campaigns for clients such as Dell, Canon and OPPO," Chenni Shu, the Beijing based consultant for H+K Strategies told PRWeek.
In the early days, H+K helped KFC and Pizza Hut open their first outlets in China, and held the first launch event by the Forbidden City for Cadillac. It claims to have spearheaded the concept of corporate and social responsibility in China, and has since worked with many multinationals to incorporate socially responsible and sustainable business practices into their market entry strategies.
"In the past 30 years, we have seen that more and more Chinese companies are recognizing the value of PR and brand building. The client-agency working relationship is also becoming smoother as both sides are learning from one another. Certainly as PR service providers we want to incorporate the technology trends and new media solutions into our offerings," said Yu.
The firm has launched new offerings specific to the Chinese market such as the mother and child practice and ACCESS – a dedicated Africa-China business service.
More recently, the WPP agency was involved in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo 2010. Its China team has a client roster that includes many Fortune 500 companies, and its services cross all sectors, including automotive, government, technology, fashion and luxury, tourism and leisure, manufacturing, consumer goods and services and energy, power and utilities.