With global business travel grounded during Hong Kong’s reporting season, Hill+Knowlton Strategies has been helping some of the region’s leading companies ensure its business as usual with virtual meetings with shareholders and stakeholders. This local experience has yielded useful lessons – and led to a new, global offering designed to help clients all over the world navigate our current period of uncertainty.
The success of this unfamiliar approach depends on H+K’s belief that every company has its own voice and its own rationale for making a difficult but necessary decision, which is why we were engaged to develop bespoke contingency plans and action plans for virtual events. H+K tailored each plan for the specific needs of the client, but each was built upon the same framework that included the following top-level elements.
Starting from Chinese New Year at the end of January to the end of reporting season in April, H+K updated prominent clients such as Ping An, PICC and CNOOC daily about COVID-19 in Hong Kong, ensuring our clients in mainland China knew immediately if the Hong Kong government changed its response to the virus. The updates included information on travel restrictions, border closures, quarantine rules, limits on group gatherings, etc.
Adapt and inform
Results reporting is not only about announcing how you did and answering questions. It’s also about building relationships, establishing trust and demonstrating transparency through face-to-face meetings and events with investors and journalists. When in-person events became impossible, H+K considered all the options to reach as many investors and stakeholders as possible and advised clients on the pros and cons of different types of virtual events — only voice call, only live webcast, voice call + live webcast, or voice call + live video webcast. We carried out due diligence and competitor analysis, allowing us to regularly inform our clients about what their peers were doing.
Lead the way
H+K recommended positioning senior management front and center at the virtual events to show that they did not have COVID-19 and were fit to answer questions, a tactic that helped ease investors’ concerns.
Restriction of movement
The virus restricted movement across mainland China and Hong Kong, forcing senior executives to join virtual events from different locations, complicating their ability to communicate with each other and answer questions from analysts, not to mention H+K’s ability to work as closely with our clients as normal. To resolve this problem, we stress-tested the equipment beforehand with different local, regional and global teams to ensure the events ran smoothly. We also made plans for H+K team members to coordinate with each other and our clients during the calls.
Local Expertise + Global Insights
Building on what we learned through this experience, H+K has developed a full service for our clients — COVID-19 Intelligence + Advisory Communications Team (I-ACT) — that is designed to mitigate risk, build reputation and accelerate growth, providing clients with the intelligence and integrated communication services necessary to navigate this new business operating environment.
We recognize that businesses now need to understand and respond to challenges in different ways and use communications as a tool to help them successfully adapt in this new, COVID-19 landscape. With our support, Hong Kong-listed companies avoided any reputational damage and showed they can adapt and respond to adverse changes. As we all adapt on the fly to the evolving consequences of the pandemic, our learnings from Hong Kong’s reporting season have put H+K in greater stead to assist clients wherever they are in the world.