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Navigating Typhoon Season in Hong Kong: PR Lessons Learned On The Ground

A photo illustrating a storm like a typhoon

Press events are an important part of public relations and are crucial for businesses in Hong Kong to showcase their services and products to stakeholders, media and influencers. However, the unpredictable nature of Hong Kong's weather can disrupt even the most meticulously planned events. Typhoon Season runs from May until October, so it's a substantial part of the year, and the region almost shuts down for 12-24 hours during typhoons 8+. Public transport is suspended, and schools close, as do many workplaces. Typhoons can also affect Japan, Taiwan, and the southern coastline of mainland China along the Pearl River Delta.

Mandy Queen PR has arranged several press conferences during the Hong Kong typhoon season. Below are some of the mistakes we made early on and the subsequent learnings from three memorable occasions.

  1. Failure to Launch: I had high hopes for my first restaurant launch a few months after starting my PR agency in 2010. While the budget was small, I was excited about getting one of my first clients, a top restaurant group, and wanted to organise a brilliant event with lots of media. Everyone was lined up to attend, but there was also a looming typhoon threat. Undeterred (and annoyed) by the approaching storm, I decided to push ahead with the launch. The result? Only a handful of brave (and wet) journalists attended the event, leaving us with a meagre turnout (we still did follow-up media relations and got good coverage for the client, but it's not the same if journalists can't taste the menu). This experience taught me that everyone's safety is paramount, that I can't control the weather and that passion and hard work can't ward off the forces of nature. Sometimes, it's best to reschedule, no matter how much work goes into the prep.

  2. The Island Dilemma and the Virtual Round Table: I was living on an island just off Hong Kong island when another typhoon impacted our plans. This time, our press event was a round table with a global bank in the finance district, and the client wanted to proceed. My physical attendance was impossible as I lived on an island, and all ferries were cancelled. Several journalists were stuck in mainland China. So, the team and I used the then-available technology - a conference call—those who couldn't make it dialled in. Despite the distance for some of us, the event went exceptionally well. This incident emphasised the need to be adaptable and use technology. I also moved off the island.

  3. A Taste of Resilience: The anticipation was again evident for a premium tasting event just a few years ago. The effort invested in sourcing suitable venues, suppliers, partners, and participants was extensive. However, the unpredictable nature of typhoons struck once more, forcing a reschedule. This decision resulted in a considerable setback – redoing 75% of the work, losing some participants, and scrambling to invite new ones. Thankfully, all event partners involved were well-practised in typhoons and could quickly rearrange timings to guarantee the event went smoothly on a new date with no extra cost. The lesson here was clear: resilience is critical (and choose your partners wisely).

Key Takeaways and Conclusion: Hong Kong has a unique weather system, and you have to approach any event knowing that a typhoon may disrupt it. At Mandy Queen PR, we are prepared, and our experiences underscore the significance of:

  1. Flexibility: Being open to shifting events online or rescheduling, sometimes within hours if necessary.

  2. Technology: Embracing virtual alternatives like conference calls or video meetings ensures events proceed smoothly, even in adverse conditions.

  3. Resilience: Recognising the potential for setbacks and preparing accordingly, such as allocating additional budget and time just in case.

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