Conscious that increasing pollution, poor air quality and a pervading general shabbiness mar its international image, the city of Hong Kong has appointed the world's largest public-relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, to manage a year-long $1.2 million makeover. Burson’s task is to discover what overseas politicians and business leaders think of the city, then counter any adverse perceptions.

Kerry McGlynn, deputy director of HK's Information Services Department, wants the city to be mentioned in the same breath as New York and London. "Hong Kong is a great brand name”, he insists. “Everyone knows our strengths - a dynamic economy, a financial and trading center, a cosmopolitan city that attracts tourists and business-people. And a non-interventionist government with low taxes that keeps out of the way and leaves business to the businessmen."

Young & Rubicam-owned Burson has acquired a reputation for what it calls "perception management" - putting the best face on countries and cities. But its plans to refurbish Hong Kong’s shabby image remain firmly and inscrutably under the wraps.

News source: Wall Street Journal