Opportunity In Crisis
Interview with Alumnus Lo Bing Chung
(The article was published in The BUddy Post of Alumni Affairs Office)
Having worked as a newspaper reporter and served as head of the public relations (PR) department of various corporate enterprises, Lo Bing Chung (BC) is branded the “Top PR Man” in the profession. Throughout his career, he had solved all sorts of problems and had helped avert various crises for the companies he served. BC has been held in high esteem as the “bomb disposal expert” in the PR field.
From Reporter to Expert in the PR Field
When he was young, BC wished to become a reporter to expand his horizons. So he applied for admission to the Department of Communication in HKBU. During the selection interview, Mr. Ray Wong, the then Head of the Department of Communication, questioned why he did not read newspapers on a regular basis. Coming from a grassroots family, BC said resignedly that to raise $2,000 for tuition fee was already a daunting task, and he could ill afford any extra expenses, even for newspapers. He frankly relayed his difficulty to Mr. Wong and stressed that he had a burning desire to become a journalist, to vigorously seek the truth and fearlessly expose to the readers’ social injustice and inequality. In the end, he succeeded in gaining admission to the Department of Communication. BC is of the view that one has to constantly look out for opportunities and grasp them when they come.
Upon graduation, BC became a reporter, a job that he stayed on for eight years. “In view of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong after 1997, I foresee that the media, by then, would have to make adjustment. Coupled with the fact that the remuneration package of reporters was by no means attractive, I decided to move to the PR sector in 1984,” shared BC. He regards that the PR sector and the commercial sector are two closely intertwined industries, however the PR sector offers more opportunities for development than the media sector.
The PR Portfolio: Networking and Crisis Management
In 1985, BC joined the Coca-Cola Company. At that time, the company has yet, in terms of the Greater China market share, to do well. BC had the task of helping the company capture a larger market share there. For this, he often had to travel to the Mainland to promote the company products. In so doing, he vigorously helped the company build up its connections with Mainland media partners such as organizing social gatherings with them media. “By so doing, my media friends will remind me from time to time on what could be done and what should not be done in China. By networking with the media, we can also gather updated information regarding business dealings in China. Otherwise the company may occasionally stumble into blind spots.” BC is skillful in building up networks to help the company make advances in business in Mainland China. BC proudly said, “By the time I left Coca-Cola in 2001, Mainland China has become the fifth largest market in the world. This result is made possible only in 15 years’ time.”
To perform well in the field of public relations, crisis management is important as well. A veteran in the PR field, BC admitted that there were times where he was losing ground. He recalled that years ago, there was a green organisation that collected samples of soybean beverages in the Hong Kong market for analysis. At that time Coca-Cola has expanded its product line into soybean beverages. BC explained, “Our soybean beverages are the only ones that are not made from genetically modified beans amongst the samples. However, the green organization claimed that the test samples were damaged during transportation and therefore our “positive” result cannot be reported.” BC continued, “Coming to think of it, I should have commissioned an independent laboratory to do this test so that we would not have missed out this opportunity to build a position image for our product.”
Career Opportunities in the PR Field
On the future development of the PR industry, BC opines that to get into the industry is not difficult. Where there are commercial activities, there is always the need for PR professionals. In an era flooded with various types of social media, the role of PR professionals has never been more important. “However, if you confine yourself to the work of public relations, you will soon be marginalised. It is because the PR department is not a revenue generating unit for the company. As a PR professional, you will be in a better position only if you can add value to, and provide timely advice for, the company.” He even characterised PR as an “arms dealer”, and said, “when there is no war, there will not be any business for the arms dealer. The PR business will often blossom and thrive in chaotic times. The PR department will then get more resources, whereas in peaceful times, downsizing could be an option.”
As regards the prerequisites for a successful PR professional, BC frankly admitted that the expectations of a PR professional are much higher these days. It is because nowadays, a lot of PR work involves politics. Being a professional in the field, he thinks that one should have the mindset of forever helping his company to deal with a ferocious opponent. “Having the right attitude is more important than having the PR techniques,” he added. His words of wisdom: “Being a PR professional, you must have curiosity and the initiative to learn, and get prepared for crises that are likely to confront the company you serve. Whenever you find others unwilling to take up a project or come across some difficult tasks, you should have no hesitation in taking them up. Your efforts will not go unnoticed. In the end, you will become a specialist in the field.” Another piece of advice he would like to share with our young people is that never give up and one day, your efforts will be appreciated.
A Fulfilling Retirement Life: Helping Others to Realise Their Wishes
BC has now stepped down from the front line. However, he still leads an active life in retirement. He founded the “Brothers and Sisters in Christ Foundation Limited” (BASIC) in 2014, to help those elderly who are facing life-threatening medical conditions to fulfil their wishes, and in so doing, bring hope, strength and peace to them, their families as well as friends. The idea of setting up the BASIC sprang from the time when he was working in Disneyland. Whilst there, he came to know about the “Make-A-Wish”, which is an organization that aims at serving children aged between 3 and 17 who suffered from terminal disease to fulfil their wishes. Under the Project Amen of BASIC, BC and his team of volunteers have helped more than 30 elderly to realise their deathbed wishes, which is, to him, a very meaningful endeavor.
Alumnus Lo Bing Chung
BC and his classmates
BC receives the Distinguished Communication Alumni Award (2018) from the School.
BC answers questions from the press.