Arun Sudhaman 12 Oct 2021 // 7:48AM GMT
SHENZHEN — Huawei has selected BCW and MSL to handle global PR, PRovoke Media can reveal, as the Chinese tech giant attempts to revive growth amid continued US opposition.
The decision follows a procurement-led review that began this summer and consolidates incumbent firm BCW's position as lead agency on the multimillion dollar assignment, a relationship that stretches back for more than a decade now. MSL is a new addition to Huawei's global PR roster, after a pitch that also featured two other agencies, per sources.
The assignment focuses specifically on communications support for Huawei's PACD unit, which oversees the company's global corporate reputation and geopolitical issues management from its Shenzhen HQ. These areas remain a crucial aspect of the company's global operations, given the American sanctions that have helped to slow Huawei's surging worldwide expansion.
Also included is PR support for Huawei's business groups, which includes integrated work across corporate, consumer, social and creative, along with project duties. The overall remit focuses on HQ support and local market coordination, but does not include local market assignments.
The latest review comes three years after Huawei selected BCW and Edelman for its global PR remit, before the latter firm bowed out shortly afterwards due to client conflict concerns. Ogilvy, which was previously part of BCW's Huawei offering, will still work on some aspects of the business, it is understood, although these are not covered by the current review.
The world's largest telecommunications equipment supplier has seen revenue drop for three straight quarters, falling to ninth place in the global smartphone market after reaching the top spot last year. US pressure has halted the spread of Huawei's 5G technology, while the company is also banned from obtaining parts and software made with American technology.
The US has accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and violating sanctions, charges that the company robustly denies, aided by a more proactive public relations strategy in recent years. Caught in the crosshairs of a global tech cold war, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was recently released after three years detention in Canada, where she contested extradition to the US for allegedly helping to breach sanctions against Iran.
Huawei's efforts to rebut US accusations include a significantly expanded PR and lobbying budget in the US and other markets. Last year, for example, the company brought on Ruder Finn to handle corporate communications in the USA, and also works with Racepoint Global and Grayling on consumer marketing efforts.
Regardless, after being deemed a national security threat by the US, the UK reversed its decision and excluded Huawei from the country’s 5G networks last year. Others, notably Canada, New Zealand and India, are following suit, undoing much of the progress that Huawei made from its previous efforts to build a stronger business case for its technology.
The moves have directly impacted Huawei's core telecommunications business, forcing the company to become more reliant on its domestic Chinese market, and to experiment with new business lines such as electric vehicles, software and coal-mining technology. Telecoms sales are expected to pick up as China's 5G rollout accelerates, while Huawei is also hoping that its considerable R&D budget will help it weather the downturn.
Representatives from BCW and MSL declined to comment, while Huawei did not respond to request for comment.