Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s beleaguered $500 billion vanity project, Neom, has had little success outside the construction of an airport and palaces for the kingdom’s royalty – but it has certainly employed a lot of public relations partners.
The latest company taken on by Neom to bolster its public image is PR firm Edelman, which is being paid $75,000 per month by the project.
Edelman is one of several PR firms that have signed up to help Neom this year. BCW had already joined the project to take on PR in the United States, leading a campaign to raise awareness of the project in the US. It was paid $1 million for a period of six months.
Ruder Finn was awarded a $1.7 million contact to run PR relating to sustainability, while Teneo has taken on cementing relationships with potential partners in the US, UK, China, Hong Kong and China.
Neom’s focus on signing up new PR partners could be seen as an at of desperation. Neom so far has little to boast about. Global investors have generally avoided working with the project, fearing for the return on their investments and being tainted by associating with one of the world’s best-know abusers of human rights. The coronavirus crisis has also slowed construction of Neom, as has the falling price of oil – the source of Saudi wealth.
Despite the wild promises of robot servants and glow-in-the-dark beaches in a futuristic megacity, little has yet materialised. The confidence of MBS that his pet project will come to fruition has so far proved hollow. And as the world becomes more aware of Saudi Arabia’s policy of forced displacement of the Huwaitat tribespeople to make way for the mega-project, it would seem that Saudi Arabia’s current focus is fighting back using PR professionals against the global tide of opposition to Neom and the Saudi regime in general.