The move comes as the Army’s attempts to meet recruitment targets – already reduced for 2004/05 – have been hampered by negative reports about the Army’s experiences in Iraq and the revelation that it imposed unofficial quotas on black and Asian soldiers in the 1970s.
The Army’s total recruitment target has fallen from 15,000 in 2002/03 to under 11,500 in 2004/05. It is aiming to hire 3.4 per cent of new recruits from ethnic minority groups, compared to last year’s intake of 2.8 per cent.
It has come under pressure to ensure its staffing reflects the cultural diversity of the UK.
Defence Publicity Army communications manager Jonathan French said the Army’s PR activity focuses on improving the knowledge and understanding of the Army among the general public, through proactive campaigns, and is not directly involved in handling media criticism. Public responses to operational issues such as the prisoner abuse scandal, is handled by the Ministry of Defence press office.
Six PR and marketing agencies from the COI’s black and ethnic minority roster have been shortlisted and the pitch will take place this month.
The plans do not threaten Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster’s hold on the Army’s £250,000 PR account for general recruitment, which it won last year (PRWeek, 13 May 2004).
Biss Lancaster corporate practice group MD Belinda Taylor said the agency, which also handles the Army’s corporate and consumer PR, is currently working on campaigns to drive recruitment for medical services and the intelligence unit.
The Army Recruitment Group was unavailable for comment on the pitch.