Arun Sudhaman 22 Apr 2016 // 8:33AM GMT
BEIJING — Beijing has reportedly held talks with five global PR firms as it attempts to revive an international reputation that continues to falter in the eyes of the Western media.
The presentations, first reported by Reuters, took place in February, with each firm taking part in separate meetings to provide ideas on how to address China's key reputation issues. It is understood that Ogilvy PR, FleishmanHillard, Edelman, H+K Strategies and Ketchum were involved.
Sources familiar with the situation told the Holmes Report that officials wanted "outside views" from Western PR firms on continuing mistrust of China, particularly in terms of its international economic activities, and a domestic crackdown on dissent.
No RFP has been issued and budgets have not been discussed.
"They care about their image," said one source. "They care about how they are being portrayed and are doing due diligence. They are soliciting ideas."
Another source described the discusions as "premature," noting that China has held talks of this nature before. In 2008, for example, Beijing began an ultimately fruitless search for PR counsel in the run-up to its Olympics that year.
Global PR firms have worked on specific assignments for the Chinese government in the past, notably for its Olympics and for other state ministries. Yet an assignment of this nature — focusing on its global reputation — would mark a shift in China's PR approach.
China President Xi Jinping has attempted to improve China's global messaging since taking power in 2012, but challenges persist — particularly regarding Chinese companies' acquisitions of international targets, and the country's overall communication with financial markets.