INTERNATIONAL: Hong Kong hires B-M with brief to lure US investment

HONG KONG: The city of Hong Kong has hired Burson-Marsteller to lead a PR campaign aimed at attracting US business investment, with an immediate remit to help tackle issues arising from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.

B-M's brief, worth £320,000 over two years, tasks the agency with continuing the city's long-running programme aimed at portraying Hong Kong as the most independent and business-friendly of Chinese cities - the 'New York and London of Asia'.

By reassuring American investors of the city's independence from the Chinese socialist system, Hong Kong hopes to position itself as the gateway to doing business in the region.

But B-M in New York said the campaign strategy had been affected by the emergence of SARS in the region.

B-M director of public affairs Richard Mintz said it would be hard to communicate other messages until the SARS matter is resolved: 'First, we want to help the city communicate through this crisis.'

He added that the agency will seek to reassure Americans that Hong Kong is working closely with the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control, while stressing that the city is also home to some of the world's best doctors.

Hill & Knowlton most recently held the business, but chose not to repitch after the contract expired in February.

The account has turned over every two years since it was held by Ogilvy in the early 1990s.

Ketchum and Edelman have both held it in the interim.

Sources within those firms suggest a lack of funds available for the campaign is a reason for the high turnover of agencies.

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