Review of key Qatari brand-builder comes as country wrestles with global reputation issues ahead of 2022 World Cup.
DOHA—The Qatar Foundation is reviewing its multimillion-dollar global PR mandate, amid continued concerns over the country's global reputation.
The Foundation, described as Qatar's 'anchor PR client' by one executive familiar with the situation, currently splits the bulk of its PR duties between Grayling and Brown Lloyd James (BLJ) following its last review three years ago.
That tender, in 2011, placed the value of the account at upwards of $2m, although the current process is not thought to include the many organisations that sit under the Qatar Foundation umbrella.
Instead, it focuses on the 'master' PR contract, for which Grayling oversees strategic communication and digital, while BLJ handles the press office. The assignment is a multi-market one, aimed at positioning Qatar as a political, economic and cultural leader on the global stage.
The Foundation, which has a broad range of interests across education, science and community development, hopes to help transform Qatar into a knowledge-based economy by 2030. In the process, the PR brief involves challenging current perceptions of the country as being overly reliant on oil and gas revenues.
Accordingly, however, the mandate is affected by Qatar's global reputation concerns, such as the ongoing labour issues ahead of the 2022 World Cup. 'It’s a shadow on what they are trying to do, which they have to deal with very sensitively,' said the source. 'They have the challenges of Qatar to contend with.'
Currently, a lengthy roster of PR firms — including Grayling, BLJ, Forbes Associates, H+K Strategies, Ketchum Raad and Weber Shandwick — handles individual assignments across the Qatar Foundation portfolio, which includes Qatar Academy, the World Innovation Summit for Education, Qatar National Research Fund, Reach out to Asia, and numerous other projects.
While these assignments are not under review, it is understood that the master contract is viewed as a potential gateway to the various entities. In addition to its education and science initiatives, the Qatar Foundation also has sporting links via its partnership with FC Barcelona.
Qatar Foundation representatives did not respond to request for comment as this story went live.