PR firm sought for Saudi megacity Neom

Neom is being developed in northwest Saudi Arabia.

Neom CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr (Image via Twitter)
Neom CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr (Image via Twitter)

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: The Saudi Arabian megacity development, Neom, is searching for a PR agency, according to an RFP seen by PRWeek.  

The development is planning to hire a PR firm to carry out the second phase of its communications strategy after articulating the project’s goals, value proposition and selecting the economic sectors on which it will focus.

The firm will work to articulate Neom’s strategy for 16 economic sectors, including livability, media, culture and fashion. The agency will handle events, social media content, communities and channels to engage influencers and thought leaders and develop communications for its eight regional hubs, such as Neom Bay.

Bidders were invited to develop a technology platform that can extract and house conversation data, providing metrics for share of voice, comparability and other areas. 

Budget information about the account was not disclosed. Neom representatives did not respond to requests seeking comment. 

Unveiled in 2017, Neom is part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's plan to modernize the Saudi economy. Proceeds from the Saudi Aramco IPO, which netted about $25.6 billion for the government, will reportedly flow into projects including Neom. Under development in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea, portions of the project are set for completion in the next decade.

Last summer, Neom retained Marc Mathieu, former U.S. CMO for Samsung. Mathieu said via email that Neom was “one of several short-term consulting engagements, which ended months ago and I therefore do not have anything to comment.” He joined Salesforce in a business development role late last year. 

After Mathieu left, Neom brought on Teneo in mid-2019 for a $2.1 million contract to counsel CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr and develop the project’s positioning. Teneo later expanded its remit with a six-month contract worth more than $800,000, according to documents filed with the Department of Justice. It is currently managing and staffing Neom’s PR department, reporting to recently hired COO Simon Ainslie, who was chief operating officer for Central and Eastern Europe at Microsoft.

Steven Sullivan, CFO of Teneo, who signed the contract according to documents in the Foreign Agents Registration Act database, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Previously, Neom worked with Gladstone Place Partners, which resigned the account following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in late 2018. Khashoggi’s murder prompted a global outcry that alienated potential Neom investors and scuttled some Saudi relationships with PR and lobbying firms. However, other agencies picked up work with Saudi entities as a result.

Gladstone’s client was the Public Investment Fund. Last January, Saudi Arabia created a closed joint-stock company, Neom, to run the city project, allowing it to create its economic sectors, according to CNBC. The company is owned by the Public Investment Fund, which is represented by KARV Communications.

Andrew Frank, founder and president of KARV, confirmed his agency is representing PIF.

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