Interview with Rachel Catanach by Telum Media

Rachel Catanach

Telum Media recently interviewed FleishmanHillard Hong Kong’s Managing Director Rachel Catanach on the launch of FleishmanHillard’s Shared Impact Lab, her outlook on the PR and communications industry in Hong Kong and growth areas for FleishmanHillard and BlueCurrent Hong Kong.

Here is the Q&A:

1. Can you give us an overview of FleishmanHillard Hong Kong, its history and current set-up?

FleishmanHillard’s Hong Kong office was established in 1997, the same year as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The firm’s Asia Pacific regional headquarters, our focus is on strategic and creative communications for regional and global clients, particularly Asian companies wanting to go global and Western multi-nationals keen to extend and consolidate their footprint in Greater China and the region.  We have around 70 employees from multiple nationalities, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong. In 2011, we launched a second brand, BlueCurrent Group, which focuses on digital and creative campaigns for leading brands.

2. You recently launched the Shared Impact Lab. Can you tell us what this is and what it will mean for your business in Hong Kong?

Society’s expectations of corporations have changed dramatically. Being a socially responsible, ethical organisation is now demanded. A shared value approach recognises that companies can achieve a higher purpose while delivering higher performance. Beyond philanthropy, beyond CSR, it is based on the premise that progressive organisations deliver both social benefit and economic value as an intrinsic part of their business model.

FleishmanHillard’s Shared Impact Lab is our point of view and approach to helping companies unlock the benefits of Shared Value initiatives. Communications is vital part of the shared value innovation cycle, helping to create uncommon alliances, build community trust, public recognition and customer loyalty, and create opportunity for internal innovation. We believe Shared Impact Lab will become a key offering for us in Hong Kong as there is an increasing recognition that ‘doing well by doing good’ isn’t just for big companies, but a path to sustainable business for companies of all sizes.

3. What is your outlook for the Hong Kong communications landscape? What are the opportunities and challenges facing you and your clients?

I am extremely positive. Despite the slowdown in China, Hong Kong continues to be in a prime position, offering a good environment for business in a strategic location within the region. Initiatives such as the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect reinforce Hong Kong’s role as a world financial centre and help to foster the financial ecosystem in Hong Kong. In addition, it’s never been a more exciting time to be in public relations. The power of communications to amplify, scale, change behaviours and impact the bottom line gives us the opportunity to make an impact – and be recognised for this – as never before. The biggest challenge for us is an internal one. We need to challenge ourselves to be creative, to develop long ideas, and see ourselves as architects of change, rather than the function at the end of the campaign line.

4. What’s next for Fleishman Hong Kong? What sectors and disciplines are you looking to for growth opportunities?

FleishmanHillard Hong Kong has more than tripled in size in the last seven years and in 2016 we see this strong growth trajectory continuing. There is increasing demand for internal communications as companies recognise that their employees hold the key to innovation, improved productivity and sustained growth. In addition, digital and brand communications, content marketing, change communications, crisis and supply chain communications are all strong growth areas for us.

5. You also serve as Chairman of Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong. How has this organisation benefitted the PR industry in Hong Kong?

I have just passed the Chairman’s reins to Robert Grieves of Hamilton Advisors after two years in the role. The Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong was established as a cohesive voice for the PR industry in Hong Kong and a vehicle to promote the adoption of best practices and consistently high standards within the industry. The organisation holds numerous events that help to promote best practice and new ideas – most recently one was held on measurement. It also recognises and supports young PR professionals through its annual Young Professionals competition and conducts a regular benchmark survey of the industry in Hong Kong.

6. What is the most memorable PR campaign or project you’ve been involved with?

I have been involved in some wonderfully diverse PR projects from developing the brand strategy for APEC on behalf of the Hong Kong Government to managing a potential constitutional crisis created by a large company pulling out of a significant infrastructure project. Great campaigns or projects are often those where there is a real creative or corporate challenge and process of getting to a solution is through a true partnership with the client. The energy and the dynamism that comes from a collective approach based on mutual appreciation is hard to beat, and that’s when the magic often happens as well.

7. Where do you get your news from?

Twitter, Bloomberg, and I also try to read some actual papers every day – SCMP, Wall Street Journal and FT.  As a former Journalist, I’m still very interested in the editorial process and this is best reflected in print editions where editorial influence and direction is most keenly felt.