Moscow calling: Kremlin seeks top PR agencies to salvage its image in the world

14:49 Sep. 15, 2016

Kremlin seeks top PR agencies to salvage its image in the world

Russian President Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov during the annual press conference on December 17, 2015 in Moscow, Russia (Getty Images)

Moscow is ready to spend millions of dollars to mitigate its aggression in the world

The Russian government renewed its, seeking assistance from the Western PR agencies to improve its image abroad, PRWeek outlet has learned. A spokesman, who asked to remain anonymous, said the Russian government is looking to hire three or four leading Western PR agencies as early as at the end of this year.

Moscow is ready to spend around USD 30-50 million per year for its image-rebuilding plan, Russia's minister of communications Nikolay Nikiforov claimed. Although negotiations with several top PR companies are ongoing, no comprehensive deal has been signed yet, PRWeek also reports.

Amid Russia's increased aggression since 2014, its image in the world deteriorated significantly, according to several international opinion polls. Figures by Pew Research Centre show that only 26% of Europeans, 37% of Asians and 29% of Latin Americans had the positive attitude towards Russia in August 2015. In particular, 67% of the U.S. population is absolutely unfavourable towards Moscow, as well as 80% of the Poles, 70% of the Germans and the French, 72% of the Ukrainians, 74% of the Israelis, 73% of Japanese and 62% of the Australians.  

Opinion of Russia Largely Unfavorable

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Russia's annexation of Crimea, its intervention in Donbas and the Syrian war, imposing threats on the Baltic and Eastern Europe countries caused Moscow's largely unfavourable view in the world.

This latest attempt to mobilise a top Western PR actor was not first in line for Kremlin. In 2006, amid Russia's significant economic surge, the Ketchum, a New York-based PR agency, was hired by government officials to help Moscow improve its global investment image and promote its influence in the world media and politics.

"Our task seemed quite easy to us: explaining Russians how the Western media work and persuade them to follow the best methods of establishing and supporting ties between the government and media", Angus Roxburgh, a former BBC journalist and top Russian adviser at Ketchum, wrote in his book titled The Strongman.

Along with its Brussels-based GPlus partner, Ketchum took charge of Kremlin media activities and monitoring world press concerning Russia. It was exactly Ketchum who took the brunt of geopolitical quakes after the Russo-Georgian war in 2008 and further so-called "gas conflicts" between the Gazprom and Ukraine. Both Russian government and Gazprom's monopoly paid up to USD 1 million monthly for PR support.

"The Russian partners constantly demanded from Ketchum "to use their technologies" to improve the sound of commentaries in the media. In our turn we wanted them to engage technologies like press conferences similar to those held daily in a special White House room. But we've never seen this", Roxburgh wrote.

By 2014 Ketchum PR assistance to Russian government went faint and eventually stopped. For its services, it was paid over USD 40 million in 2006-2012. Kremlin's administration overall PR expenses exceed USD 115 million since 2000, the PRWeek also claims.

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Amid recent alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential race, Aleppo bombardments, continuing Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine and the Olympic athlete doping scandal, Kremlin's image in the world was brought down to it's lowest ever level, which makes Russia seek PR assistance again.

Dmitry Peskov, a press secretary to president Vladimir Putin, confirmed that the government is considering several candidates to succeed Ketchum in promoting the country's interests on the global stage. Several potential bidders expressed interest to such a contract, and a new Kremlin PR partner will be selected via open tenders, he also stressed to PRWeek.

"We have already made attempts to attract someone smaller than Ketchum. There have been two attempts to attract other foreign companies. However, their work has not satisfied us. Still, there is a possibility that Ketchum's replacement might be found by the end of the year", Peskov claimed.

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