· Other

From 1948 to 1989, Czechoslovakia was part of the Eastern Bloc and then split into two sovereign countries on 1 January, 1993 i.e. Czech Republic and Slovakia.

At that time, I was 18 months into my PR career at a local firm in Hong Kong with the work confined to more or less team support.

Wasn't pure PR as such. I'd done the book distribution for a well-known local writer and newspaper columnist. This included negotiation with local bookshops to stock the book, invoicing, accounting, and, worse, hand delivering the books all over Hong Kong. Loading boxes of hardbacks onto a trolley and taking them to booksellers in the height of summer was hard but an experience nonetheless. After that I helped publish a book on the Matilda Hospital, sold advertising for travel trade publications involving presentations to ad agencies; me being Mr Green PR Man thought this was normal.

Although I found out later that book distribution, publishing, selling advertising were not standard practices in other PR firms, it did add to my experience.

In around June 1993, my boss told me that I would be responsible for the PR, advertising and promoting of the Czech Republic's first trade fair to Hong Kong. The firm was going through another bout of turnover and there weren't many people to service the accounts in any case.

It was very much a case of just getting on with it with regular updates = by fax! - to the client who was hardly in Hong Kong.

There was no one to assist me at all; only in the week before when my colleague had translated (as a favour!!) the media invite and press release I'd written. Oh, and the ad/direct mailer.

Thrown in at the deep end, I learnt how to book and place ads in top English and Chinese newspapers, handled all the design, production and placements. I fixed up with the HK Trade Development Council for the Trade Minister (I think it was this guy) to give a talk about potential trade opportunities between Czech Republic and Hong Kong. This was all new to me.

I wrote and had printed 20,000 direct mailers delivered to businesses all over Hong Kong. I organised a press conference attended by over 50 media to hear the world's newest Trade Minister talk about the importance of Hong Kong and China in relation to Czech Republic.

My biggest regret was not being able to attend because the staff on reception wanted to experience their first press conference and I thought, in my exhausted state, that was a good idea. So I ended up outside, doing media registration!!!

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I had a chance to walk the trade floor populated by dozens of exhibitors and seeing, with surprise, a whole rack of guns on display. When I'd been asked to contact the HK Police for a license a few weeks before the event, I'd been told such paperwork would take many months. Yet, here was a whole booth of guns (made safe).

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It was a mega event. 200 HKTDC members paid to hear the Trade Minister speak. The press conference generated broad media coverage for a country that was less than a year old. The advertising and direct mail campaign helped raise the event profile and generate traffic.

It's amazing to me now that a country that had been an Eastern Bloc country for so many years, then split into two countries and, in the same year, made the decision to embark on a trade show in Hong Kong. And that I did it!

That was in 1993 and it's only this year that I'll be visiting the country and capital for the first time ever. One memory I have is visiting a booth at the trade show and sampling some herbal-based alcoholic drinks. I must try again to see if my palate is more accepting this time around.