SHENZHEN — Huawei has concluded its global reputation review, the Holmes Report can reveal, selecting Burson Cohn & Wolfe and Edelman to handle PR duties as it continues to navigate geopolitical opposition to its rapid worldwide expansion.

The Chinese technology giant made the decision following a lengthy review that involved incumbents Burson-Marsteller, FleishmanHillard and Ogilvy, confirmed international media affairs VP Joe Kelly, who called the process "comprehensive".

The overall assignment is understood to be worth at least $1m, focusing specifically on communications support for Huawei's PACD unit, which oversees the company's global corporate reputation from its Shenzhen HQ.

The decision to bring in Edelman marks a new relationship for Huawei, while BCW benefits from this year's merger of Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller. Ogilvy, furthermore, will continue to play a role as part of the BCW team.

However, the selection decision means that Huawei's PACD unit parts ways with FleishmanHillard following a lengthy relationship with the firm, although the Omnicom agency continues to handle PR business for the company's consumer division, which also works with H+K Strategies and Racepoint Global in various markets around the world.

Corporate PR duties have been split fairly evenly between the two agencies. Edelman takes the lead on strategic planning, influencer marketing, media engagement and market insight while BCW will oversee media monitoring, content creation, skills development and media training. The two firms will also contend for lucrative project duties as they arise.

The review came as the world's largest telecommunications equipment supplier continues to expand, despite coming to a standstill in the US — where mobile network operator AT&T walked away from a deal to distribute Huawei’s smartphones because of “political pressure” over security worries. 

A source familiar with the process noted that Huawei is particularly concerned about facing similar sanctions in other countries, amid the news that US intelligence agencies are advising allies to shun the company's telecoms equipment. Huawei has been excluded from building Australia’s 5G infrastructure, amid reports that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was briefed on US concerns.

Despite the US setbacks, Huawei's rapid growth continues; the company is targeting 2018 revenue of more than US$100 billion this year, up from an estimated $93.7 billion in 2017, after outstripping Apple as the world's second largest smartphone brand in the past two quarters. 

With that in mind, the company is keen to build a global public relations capability that matches the needs of a $100 billion business, in particular focusing on corporate reputation, awareness and geopolitical issues management. 

The focus of the corporate PR remit is understood to be global; Huawei currently operates three global media hubs, with London and Washington DC/San Francisco joining Shenzhen as the key locations. The company's London corporate communications team has already retained BCW, while San Francisco is working with Racepoint. In addition, local PACD teams continue to work with their own local agencies. 

The review, which started in April, was led by global media and communications president Joy Tan, supported by Guo Fulin, a company veteran who took on a senior international media affairs position earlier this year. Other key executives include VPs Joe Kelly and Glenn Schloss.

"Our teams here in Hong Kong and Shenzhen are extremely excited to have the privilege of working with Huawei," said Edelman Hong Kong MD Adrian Warr.