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Public Relations for Public Policy

Public policy affects all citizens in Hong Kong. However, many people may not fully understand what new policies are about or what impact they will have.

This is where AdVB Public Affairs Consulting plays an important role. The consultancy focuses on communication about public policy issues, and how they relate to different stakeholders in society.

AdVB’s clients are mainly companies that operate in areas related to public affairs, or whose businesses are a completely new concept for the public. The firm works to proactively engage policymakers, stakeholders and opinion leaders during the policy formulation process.

It also educates the public about policies relating to its clients’ businesses, acting to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between public perception and reality.

“Usually, public policies are hard for ordinary people to understand because they consist of too many specialized spectrums of knowledge,” said Simon Lee, Principle Consultant at AdVB. “We are here to turn an abstract and complex concept into an idea that everyone understands.”

Before establishing this company, Lee worked in a non-profit sector related to public policy for more than 10 years, giving him extensive knowledge in the area.

Like all PR companies, AdVB strives to get the attention of the public in order to increase the impact for its clients. In the past, before widespread penetration of mobile and internet, organizing seminars and publishing articles were the key ways of getting policy ideas across.

Today, the company can also use social media to broaden its potential audience and deepen its impact - thereby creating more exposure for its clients. “Now, it is easier to find potential consumers, and build connections with them,” Lee said.

However, social media can be a double-edged sword. While it is true that it is easier for your voice to be heard, many others are raising their voices as well.

“Now we are in a very ‘noisy’ environment. Everyone can speak out and express their opinions on social media,” he explained. “The good thing is that people are more aware of the importance of public policy and have started paying more attention to it.”

Although the competition for attention from the huge amount of information now available is creating new challenges, Lee said that at AdVB they see this as an incentive to work faster and better, to ensure they deliver the best service.

Super trio

As a small firm with just three people, the team has to work very efficiently to handle complicated issues with limited time and resources. Lee is Principle Consultant, but said: “I would not consider myself as a boss. Rather, I think of us as a team and we work together.”

As Principle Consultant, he has the experience to understand new concepts quickly, and to make decisions and lead the team in the right direction. Being able to quickly digest and understand the often complicated policy issues being discussed is a key advantage.

“In this ever-changing environment, how fast you can learn dictates how competitive you are,” Lee said.

In addition, companies in the public policy space are often up against tight deadlines. Sometimes clients only give them one week to get the job done, Lee explained. “Therefore, being able to learn and adapt to new things fast is the most important ability you need.”

He described AdVB’s method of doing business as being like “fine dining,” where the solutions are tailor-made for clients. While many successful small firms are eager to attract new talent and expand the size of the company, Lee said that he enjoys the “super trio” working style.

“Although it may not be the most profitable way, I believe it works best for our clients and myself,” he said.

Lee said one of the most rewarding experiences for the team to date was when they worked on issues relating to the sharing economy in the 2017. To help the public understand this concept, Lee set up the Sharing Economy Alliance, and later published a white paper called “Innovation, Market Regulation, and the Sharing Economy.” In his role as Convenor of the Sharing Economy Alliance, Lee also held a seminar at HKGCC to help raise awareness of this topic.

“We really got everyone’s attention,” Lee said, “and this led to a large-scale public discussion which was favorable to our client.”

Wider reach

Lee is always looking for new ideas for the business, and is interested in moving beyond working for clients.

“Instead of expanding the size of our company, we aim to change our business model into something new,” he said.

“We are trying to change our identity from a public policy consultancy to a public advocate. In the past, our focus was presenting the materials that were provided by our clients.”

In the future, AdVB hopes to apply its substantial knowledge and experience of policy matters for broader good use.

“Now, we will find out what the public wants to know, and will provide the information and education they need. For those who are interested, we hope they will subscribe and pay for the content.”

Lee said he hopes that this broadening of the company’s focus means that the team’s impact will be deeper and more widespread in the future. “We work for the public,” he said.

Company : AdvB Public Affairs Consulting Limited

HKGCC Membership No. : HKA0830

Established : 2011

Website :