23 March 2019
China hired Hill+Knowlton to promote the Beijing Olympics. Photo: internet
China hired Hill+Knowlton to promote the Beijing Olympics. Photo: internet

Global firms pitch Beijing for new PR campaign

Five global public relations firms have made pitches to the Chinese government for a potential new campaign, as Beijing tries to communicate more effectively with the West, Reuters reported Friday, citing four unnamed sources.

The competition by the leading western PR firms comes amid intensifying scrutiny of Chinese companies abroad, a crackdown on dissent at home and rising tensions in the South China Sea.

The State Council Information Office (SCIO), the government’s information and propaganda arm, has heard presentations from Hill+Knowlton, Ketchum and Ogilvy Public Relations, the report said.

FleishmanHillard and Edelman also took part in the audition, one source said.

The presentations were preliminary, and no contracts have been awarded. 

President Xi Jinping, who has called for Beijing to take a bigger role in a global governance system, has cranked up the state machinery to project China’s “soft power” and better communicate China’s message to the world.

China’s leadership recognizes it needs to communicate more effectively to western audiences, an executive at one of the agencies that made presentations said.

“They feel they’re being unfairly treated by foreign media,” the executive said.

The SCIO asked the PR firms to give presentations, in separate meetings, on China’s most pressing image problems and demonstrate their expertise on managing new forms of media, the report said.

This isn’t the first time the Chinese government has turned to western PR firms to burnish its image.

Beijing hired Hill+Knowlton to promote the 2008 Summer Olympics amid an international outcry over China’s handling of an uprising in Tibet.

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