16 February 2019
Sandra Mak (second from left) has been a key strategist for Carrie Lam in the CE election campaign. The text alongside the picture shows some feedback from reporters on Lam's PR team. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook
Sandra Mak (second from left) has been a key strategist for Carrie Lam in the CE election campaign. The text alongside the picture shows some feedback from reporters on Lam's PR team. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook

Carrie Lam needs all the help she can get after PR blunders

If Carrie Lam wins Sunday’s CE election, she will have a lookalike assisting her for the next three months or so before she officially takes up her duties. 

We are talking about Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei, the newly appointed head of the Office of the Chief Executive-elect.

Ting, whose task is to ensure a smooth government transition, looks somewhat like a younger sister of Lam, with similar face, hairstyle, and eyeglasses – and also smile.

The former postmaster general will have her hands full as she provides support to the CE-elect and help the incoming leader prepare a policy roadmap to enable fulfillment of campaign pledges. 

Ting’s appointment to the freshly-created office gives rise to this tangential thought: Why do quite a few senior administrative officers have more than a passing resemblance to Lam?

For instance, Pamela Tan Kam Mi-wah, former director of Home Affairs, who also looks like a Lam clone, although she is a year older.

If Madam Ting or Madam Tan were to sit in the Office of the Chief Executive-elect, one can imagine the possibilities that government staff will have for spot-the-difference games in reference to Lam.

Now, with Ting making it to the post, we suspect Lam — assuming that she will emerge as the new CE — will be grateful for the expected hand-holding in the run-up to July when she will formally take office. 

The former chief secretary could do with all the help as she prepares for the top job, especially given the shortcomings of her current team.

Lam’s election campaign has been marred by quite a few blunders and PR disasters, pointing to the need for her to rope in new talent.  

In the latest incident, Lam’s team has faced flak after it failed to ensure the attendance of their boss at a planned gathering with grassroots concern groups in Tin Shui Wai on Saturday.

Saying Lam would be resting rather than come for the promised meeting in the “far away” town, the campaign team didn’t exactly help their boss.

Following the embarrassing no-show, people have raised this question: How can a CE hopeful who keeps talking about her concern for society, especially the underprivileged, feel Tin Shui Wai is a bit out of the way?

The explanation offered by the PR team was stupid, really. Why couldn’t they come up with a better excuse, like, say, that Lam was feeling unwell? This is what many netizens said in online forums. 

Meanwhile, there are also reports that Sandra Mak, the core strategist at Lam’s campaign office, has made a misstep and caused annoyance to media personnel in a WhatsApp group.

Mak, a university contemporary of Lam, sent a message to the reporters in Chinese which roughly translates like this: “Morning media friends, two months into our campaign, we apologize if there is anything where we have not met your expectation. We will continue to work hard for the remaining period. Let’s stay in touch after the election. Thank you!”

Well, the text was OK, with the tone humble and signaling a friendly approach. Still, many of the message recipients did not take it kindly.

What’s the reason?

Well, the communication was sent in Simplified Chinese, rather than in Traditional Chinese which most Hong Kong people follow. 

Media personnel are wondering if Mak is interested in catering more to mainland reporters rather than the local Hong Kong journalists.

Mak later claimed that it was a technical error, and implored reporters to be not too sensitive.

Whatever be the truth, some people are now wondering if Mak sought the help of a mainland subordinate to draft the message for reporters.

Overall, there’s no denying the fact that Lam’s campaign staff have been found wanting in relation to some aspects of their work. 

Reporters, for instance, have complained that Lam’s team is tardy in providing information and responding to simple queries such as “Where will Ms Lam be today?”

The shortcomings of the campaign staff and PR team is one reason why Lam trails badly on the popularity front when compared to her chief CE election rival, John Tsang.

Lam herself seems to be aware that she needs to spruce up her team.  

During an election debate last week, she openly praised Julian Law Wing-chung, a Tsang aide who has been instrumental in ensuring good PR for his boss.

Lam may have the blessings of the movers and shakers in the city, but she has fallen short when it comes to having a capable and young PR team that can keep her connected with the general public.

Once the election is over and she indeed gets anointed to the top post, she will no doubt be hoping that Madam Ting can help smooth things out during the crucial transition period. 

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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