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How Edelman is proposing the Saudis boost their image- POLITICO | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp


With Daniel Lippman 

‘SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST ASIA?’ HOW EDELMAN PITCHED THE SAUDIS: “Saudi Arabia has an image problem. To solve it, one of the biggest public relations firms in the business proposed an out-of-the-box idea,” our Hailey Fuchs reports.

— “What if the kingdom hosted an entire week of ‘The Daily Show’ from different locations in the country; or if the Hollywood elite came to the kingdom for a Golden Globes-like show rather than staying put in Beverly Hills; or the Saudis created some sort of partnership with the Coachella musical festival that draws the L.A. influencer crowd every year?”

— “Trevor Noah will not be providing a Moment of Zen from Jeddah, at least any time soon. But the prospect of it happening was just one of many proposals prepared by U.S.-based PR giant Edelman as part of a larger attempt to help the Saudis market the kingdom as a new, modern-minded tourism and culture destination,” according to a “previously unreported 109-slide proposal filed” with the FARA unit that proposed a “five-year-long ‘Search Beyond’ campaign.”

— “The proposal, which was made in Arabic and professionally translated for POLITICO, illustrates the lengths to which the Saudis have been willing to go to cast off the ‘pariah’ status that President Joe Biden and others gave to them in the wake of the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence has said Saudi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, approved the murder. Biden visited Saudi Arabia on Friday, during which he met with the crown prince and exchanged a fist bump.”

— Edelman’s pitch to the Saudis would be just the latest vehicle through which the kingdom has sought to improve its international standing — a strategy that has included less of an explicit focus on the nation’s capital. The Saudis have made a splash more recently by funding the professional LIV Golf Series, “which will host events at clubs owned by, among others, former President Donald Trump. The tour was derided as ‘sportswashing,’ or the use of athletics to mend reputation, and raised eyebrows for enticing Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others to participate with its sizable prizes.”

— On Sunday, families of 9/11 victims urged the former president to cancel a tournament set to take place at his Bedminster, N.J., resort later this month, calling it “incomprehensible … that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain.”

— Meanwhile, Hailey notes, the Saudis’ sovereign wealth fund, “with others, also purchased the United Kingdom-based soccer team Newcastle United last year, over objections.”

— “It’s not uncommon for firms to help connect influencers and foreign governments. Lawyer and P.R. professional Lanny Davis recalled one foreign government asking for the Clinton White House alum to connect it with his friend and actor, Rob Reiner, who also had ties to Hillary Clinton.” And ahead of the winter Olympics in Beijing earlier this year, China deployed a legion of social media influencers with the help of the consulting firm Vippi Media to promote the games amid human rights controversies.

— “Bryan Lanza, a partner at Mercury and former communications director for President Donald Trump’s transition team, said these kinds of partnerships between governments and celebrities are becoming more and more frequent. ‘You can’t ignore the money,’ Lanza said. ‘Celebrities will make more money pitching a foreign government than making a film these days.’”

Good afternoon and welcome to PI. What’s going on out there? My inbox is wide open for your hot tips, gossip and more: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.


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