Sources close to the recruitment process say Tory bosses have drawn up a shortlist of candidates for the top PR role, with Kevin Bell, managing director of Fleishman-Hillard-owned agency GPC, understood to be among those being considered.
Speculation suggests that the party is keen to bring recruitment to a close and one source said the Tories were down 'to the last few' preferred candidates.
It is understood the Tories are looking for a PR chief with a strong commercial background, possibly with marketing experience.
Bell is known to already provide ad hoc communications advice to the party and is a close ally of a number of leading Conservatives, including former chairman David Davis and MP Michael Portillo, both of whom stood unsuccessfully in last year's leadership race.
Bell declined to comment on the Tory role, except to say: 'I'm very happy where I currently am.'
While Bell is understood to be a front-runner for the job, friends close to the GPC chief claim he is not interested in taking the role, left vacant following the departure of former comms director Amanda Platell over a year ago.
The Tories are currently facing one of their worst ever comms crises, heightened by Iain Duncan Smith's recent 'unite or die' speech, which fuelled press speculation over dissent within the party.
And last weekend an ICM/ Sunday Telegraph poll revealed that just 25 per cent of all voters believe he is doing an effective job.
It has also been widely speculated that some of the party's image problems stem from the delay in appointing a comms chief.
- Charlie Whelan, p8.