Five things businesses can learn from the Hong Kong chief executive election

By Robyn Joseph

From Campaign Asia

Robyn Joseph, Partner, Kreab Gavin Anderson

Six days before the Hong Kong chief executive election, with the relationship between politicians, bureaucrats, the media and the public shifting, Robyn Joseph, partner of Kreab & Gavin Anderson, shares the implications for communication to mass audiences in the future.

1. The weight of public opinion

Hong Kong has spoken. Ethics, honesty and transparency are qualities that it values in its leaders, both government and business. Possessing power and wealth no longer exclude leaders from these standards. Therefore, businesses in Hong Kong would be well advised to review and prepare risk-mitigation and change-management strategies if necessary, because if they are found lacking they will be held accountable.

2. Social change and business decision-making

There are three candidates in the chief executive race, one from the pan-democratic camp and two from the pro-establishment camp. Interestingly, the real competition is between the two pro- establishment representatives. This tells us that even within the pro-establishment camp, there are individuals who are not satisfied with the status quo.

Most significantly, public opinion polls demonstrate that the Hong Kong people are not satisfied with the status quo. Therefore social change is afoot.

While it is still early days, the lesson for business is that it should not be making decisions based on the ‘old standards’. Business should be listening very carefully to the community to understand what it is that Hong Kong aspires to. Business’ future success will to some extent be based on its ability to deliver the changes that Hong Kong wants.

3. Social media: is anyone listening?

The traditional media has delivered a beating to each of the two pro-establishment candidates throughout the campaign. But neither has any excuses for not having been warned.

The social media was buzzing with the next juicy story before it was released by the traditional media online. And following each shocking revelation, the social media buzzed with opinion as to how the candidates should handle themselves.

While the reticence to engage with the social media is understandable, business and government should, at the very least, be using it to listen. Never before have they had such an efficient, real-time method to gather opinion.

4. Social versus traditional media

Everyone has got an opinion, but not every opinion is well considered. Business could never hope to reach everyone with an opinion, but it should spend some time identifying the most influential bloggers and tweeters, just as it does for the traditional media. It’s not hard to do. The tools are available.

5. Level Hong Kong’s playing field

One of the biggest observations during the election campaign is Hong Kong’s outrage at the extravagance of its leaders. As Hong Kong’s middle class begins to struggle to manage basics like  housing, education and health, the community expects its civil servants to act. This is likely to lead to more regulation. So business would be well advised to keep an eye on the agenda in LegCo.

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