WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. military leaders in Baghdad are seeking proposals for a two-year $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media and an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq. The contract will seek a firm to provide “strategic communication management services” to the office of Multinational Forces Iraq in Baghdad.
The contract calls for the creation of a database of stories from “Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international, and US national and regional markets media in both Arabic and English,” on a range of issues such as security, reconstruction, “high profile” coalition force activities, and events in which Iraqi security forces are “in the lead.”
Those stories will then be assessed on criteria “including, but not limited to tone (positive, neutral, negative) and scope of media coverage.” in order to help coalition forces understand “the communications environment.”
Eventually, the data gathered will be used to develop “develop communication strategies and tactics, identify opportunities, and execute events… to effectively communicate Iraqi government and coalition’s goals and build support among our strategic audiences in achieving these goals,” according to the statement of work that accompanies the request for proposal.
The selected firm would also provide strategic communications advice and media training and update websites, including an Arabic language website currently being developed by the Washington, D.C.-based Rendon Group. Previous contracts have been awarded to specialist firms such as Rendon or Lincoln Group, which was responsible for last year’s controversial program of paying for favorable coverage in Iraq, rather than to mainstream strategic communications firms.
This request comes at a time when Bush administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have criticized U.S. media for emphasizing the bad news out of Iraq, although a recent report by the Pentagon itself indicated that violence in Iraq continues to escalate and suggested that conditions for the country to slide into civil war.
The new public relations contract will not be issued until funding is made available, and the value of the contract could be anywhere from $1 million and $20 million.