Prospect Presents Sam Turvey, Partner & Managing Director at Bell Pottinger Hong Kong

Q: What has surprised you about the Asian culture since touching down in Hong Kong? How does it compare to the UAE?

I’ve been asked this question a lot since arriving in Hong Kong. The two words I’d use to explain Hong Kong are dynamic and hectic. The UAE can certainly be both of these things but HK is on a different level. The people here have great energy and a strong work ethic. 

The food is very different too. I knew I’d be in for a culinary feast in Hong Kong, but I didn’t think I’d be munching on Sichuan style chili frog and pigeon soup so soon. I actually quite like the frog – it tastes like chicken.

Q: Since taking on the Hong Kong lead role, how much travel have you encountered? Which countries and cities have you visited and what have you liked about them?

Travel is certainly part of the job, and when I was based in Dubai I’d regularly travel to Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, Manama in Bahrain and Doha in Qatar. However, as I’m only five weeks into the role here, I’ve only made it down to Singapore so far, where we have an office and share some clients. 

Singapore is great though, and I particularly like the central Padang, where there’s a genuine sense of history mixing with the modern day city. I’ve also got trips to Shenzhen and Beijing in the pipeline, which I’m really looking forward to. 

Q: What have been the challenges adapting to life in Hong Kong?

From a domestic perspective, it’s got to be the relentless road noise. Hong Kong is a proper 24/7 city and the buildings are constructed really close to each other. It’s worth investing in some good ear plugs.  

From a work perspective, there’s all the usual market nuances to get familiar with, such as slightly different working hours – and of course I’m back to working Monday to Friday rather than Sunday to Thursday, which was the case in the Middle East.

 Q: Where can we find you during the weekends in HK? Any favourite hotspots?

There’s a little French bistro in Happy Valley that is rather nice for an afternoon glass of something cold and a bit of people watching. If I’m not there I’ll probably be running round the race track or being forced to visit Ikea (again) by my wife.

Q: How did you get the opportunity to come to Hong Kong and why was it attractive to you?

I’d been working for Bell Pottinger in Dubai for nearly four years, we’d done a great job growing the business there, and I was ready for a move into a new market. Asia as a place to live had always appealed to me, given it’s such an exciting and energetic part of the world, so when this internal vacancy popped up I threw my hat in the ring. 

Q: Bell Pottinger is a truly International company, what are the distinctive features and company culture that sets you apart from your competitors?

A big difference is our comfort level and experience operating and advising at the very top of a company or government department. We tend to have slightly more senior team structures as a result, but equally that means great exposure for our junior colleagues. 

We also have the resources available to execute the various plans we agree with senior management teams, which not all strategic PR consultancies can offer, but it means we can see something through from start to finish. 

Q: What do you absolutely love about your job?

In a PR agency it would be the variety. You can learn something new – about a company, sector, region or topic – all the time. 

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in corporate communications in Asia?

Holding onto quality, up and coming talent is a big one. Another would be constantly adapting to the needs of a fast-evolving PR market. From what I can see, the in-house communications teams are quite developed and self-sufficient here, so they’re looking for something very fresh, innovative or new from an agency. That’s good because it keeps us creatively challenged and we need to be nimble and commercially savvy in how we market ourselves.

Q: Where will you be in 5 years’ time?

In Asia, hopefully hiring great people to cater for all our new clients across the region. 

Q: What do you look for in a CV when making hires for BP in Hong Kong?

Someone’s CV isn’t all that important to me, if I’m honest. Sure, there are some fundamentals that we need to see on there – like experience working in communications or media, and we want people who have Chinese language skills for our office here in Hong Kong. But, I’m most interested in people with the right attitude. They should be confident, intuitive, a team player, eager to learn, and most importantly, keen to have some fun at work along the way. 

Q: What is the best piece of advice you can give to young PR professionals?

Follow the news closely, you’ll be much more confident and useful to clients and colleagues if you do.


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