HONG KONG: Weber Shandwick was hired by The International AIDS Society (IAS) to manage a global media relations campaign for the XV International AIDS Conference (IAC). The theme for this year's conference is "Access for All."
The conference, jointly hosted by the IAS and the Thai Ministry of Public Health, will take place July 11-16 in Bangkok, Thailand, and will include speakers Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, and Richard Gere.
The IAS put out an RFP last year, according to Laura Schoen, president of Weber Shandwick's global healthcare practice.
"Every [RFP] that deals with the UN and public funds is always a complicated and competitive process," Schoen said.
The focus for Weber Shandwick will be on making sure the media and organizations can attend, and providing them with interesting stories and broad access so they focus on the conference's message.
"An event like this can be polarized, you can get media coverage on everything but what is the focus of the meeting," Schoen said, citing the potential for the IAS' message getting lost in the noise surrounding the Thai government's policies or issues related to China.
The firm plans to dedicate Weber Shandwick personnel across the world to publicize and ensure media attendance. Schoen said 40 to 50 people would be involved on the campaign, with roles varying depending on location. Jill Mortensen, Weber Shandwick's Asia Pacific healthcare director, will lead the campaign.
"We have noticed a very strong media attendance so far and very large interest from pharmaceutical companies and patient organizations," Schoen said.
The conference's sponsors include AbbottVirology, BMS Virology, Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, and Pfizer.
Schoen cited Weber Shandwick's strong AIDS experience and its broad network as a benefit to the conference. Weber Shandwick chairman Jack Leslie is part of President Bush's commission for addressing AIDS in Africa as a director for the African Development Foundation.
"With its global campaign experience, understanding of HIV/AIDS issues and communications expertise, we are confident that Weber Shandwick will help deliver our messages to audiences throughout the world," Mats Ahnlund, conference director of the XV International AIDS Conference, said in a statement.
In 2002, the IAS held the conference in Barcelona with the theme "Knowledge and Commitment." The first conference held by the society was held in Atlanta in 1985.