The Maldivian government has concluded its contract with international public relations firm Ruder Finn, according to industry publication PR Week.
Head of the agency Nick Leonard told PR Week that the account had concluded upon reaching the end of its time frame.
Ruder Finn was selected in April by the new government to improve the Maldives’ international image, following widespread negative media coverage of February 7’s controversial transfer of power, at a reported cost of £93,000 per month (US$150,000).
Rumours in August that the contract had ended after six months were unconfirmed. Ruder Finn’s Senior Vice President and Ethics Officer Emmanuel Tchividjian at the time referred Minivan News to the government, “as we do not comment publicly on contracts that we have with our clients.”
In July, a small group of protesters gathered outside the PR firm’s London offices to mark Maldives Independence Day, including President Mohamed Waheed’s brother, Naushad Waheed Hassan.
The protest saw placards bearing slogans ‘Islamophobes and dictators’, ‘Ruder Finn: no client too toxic’ and ‘Gold medallists of spin: Ruder Finn’, according to PR Week.
Former International Spokesperson for the President’s Office, Paul Roberts, told Minivan News that a source inside Ruder Finn had revealed that the agency considered President Waheed “a lost cause from a PR point of view”.
“They said that the senior people in Ruder Finn worried that representing the Maldives government had damaged the company’s brand,” Roberts said.
Ruder Finn’s previous work includes the Philip Morris campaign disputing the health hazards of smoking, and publicising the release of the anti-Islamic film ‘Fitna’.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad confirmed that Ruder Finn had ceased working with the Maldivian government, but did not elaborate on the reason.
Journalist and climate activist Mark Lynas, formerly Nasheed’s climate advisor, has previously argued that the appointment of a such a large PR agency was counterproductive as it made journalists “doubly suspicious”.
The original request for proposals (RFP) document issued by the MMPRC on April 9 stated that the successful agency would be required to target stakeholders in the UK, USA, Commonwealth countries, “all relevant EU institutions”, academic institutions and NGOs, “arrange 1:1 meetings with influential and open minded potential champions”, and “arrange briefings to build links at various levels with the UK, US, Commonwealth and major European governments.”
The agency will “feed in academic arguments to those identified”, and “determine champions who are willing to speak publicly on Maldives”, in a bid to “Rally an alliance of support for the Maldives”.
Locally, the chosen company will be required to “assist with the roll out of policy and other announcements to media, parliamentarians,government, NGOs and others.”
Minivan News also sought clarification from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) head Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, but he had not responded at time of press.