The firm's UK head of public affairs Steven Bartholomew is overseeing the process, which is still in the early stages. Agencies have until 24 August to submit an RFI (Request for Information).
In a statement, Bartholomew said: 'O2 is looking for strategic counsel and assistance with delivery for its UK public affairs and public policy programme.'
Bartholomew has invited Bell Pottinger to repitch for the work and the agency is believed to be keen to hang on to the account. Over the past 18 months, Bell Pottinger has lost high-profile clients including McDonald's, HSBC, eBay and Asda's national account. But it has also recently won briefs with clients including National Express Group, National Grid Property and Alstom.
O2 is using Oystercatchers consultancy to manage the pitch process. Oystercatchers was used last year by McDonald's as the fast-food company put its public affairs account out to pitch. On that occasion, the pitch led to Bell Pottinger Public Affairs being dropped to make way for Portland.
The news comes days after Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle was embroiled in a public spat with the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes (PRWeek, 7 August).
The spat resulted from the news that Bell Pottinger had cancelled its champagne reception at the Conservative Party conference.