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Betty Lee: Public relations guru in the right place at the right time

A love for work and community can fuel a positive and glamorous career, writes Marie Incles

 

Betty Lee Ching-wan's well-known public relations, marketing and corporate communications career has spanned more than 35 years. Yet, across the varied industries that Lee's society-defining campaigns have worked to promote, she's never once applied for a job. Rather, it's her energy and need to represent the community that has seen her successfully evolve.

"I have enjoyed every part of my career, which has always been a part of my own personal development," she says. "Each stage of my career has been involved with community work. As such, I feel I've been involved with every major stage of Hong Kong's development."

Even during her famed tenure as the head of public relations and publicity at TVB and her involvement with the Miss Hong Kong Pageant during the 1980s, it was Lee who developed the contestants' image with local designers and who started the Miss International Good Will Award - effectively using glamour, fashion design and TV to promote the Hong Kong image abroad.

Prior to this, she worked for the Family Planning Association at a time, during the 1970s, when couples commonly had four or five children.

As head of promotion, she worked on the "Two is Enough" campaign that successfully encouraged parents to assume responsibility and changed mindsets so that a man could still feel "macho" with fewer children.

Fast forward to the hedonistic TV evolution in the 1990s and it was Lee who was behind the campaign that helped shift Hongkongers' attitudes towards paying for their programmes.

"I've always been at the right place at the right time, but more importantly I'm not afraid to go into something I don't know. I am always willing to learn - every day is a learning process," she says.

Lee "retired" at 60 and yet the notion of not working seems lost on someone with so much passion for everything she does.

She says she still feels 30 and wants to defy ageing, "not because I'm afraid, but I don't want to give up just because I am 60".

Last year, Lee founded LeeMak International Network, a global enterprise engaged in the promotion of green life and green technologies. She works to promote the use of waste products in renewable energy. "I didn't pursue this, but felt it was something I needed to do. We have a very compact unit that can be used by institutions such as a hospital, schools, theme parks, hotels [and] malls that will turn their waste into energy."

At the end of 2010, Lee was invited to join L plus H Fashion, a community interest company established to revive the "Made in Hong Kong" brand.

She provides her services on a pro-bono basis, initially handling the marketing and merchandising of the L plus H luxury knitwear collection and later on the leather handbags collection at their store in Central.

Lee's enthusiasm is ignited again as she explains how "Made in Hong Kong" is important for the large number of local skilled workers left behind when factories moved to China, Cambodia or Bangladesh.

"We want to keep these skills in Hong Kong to pass on to the next generation," Lee says.

Has being a woman helped her along the way? "Being male or female doesn't matter," she beams. "It's about how you present yourself."

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