August 22, 2008 / 9:48 PM / 11 years ago

IMF hires PR companies to help spread its message

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund has hired two big-name PR agencies to help spread the fund’s message throughout the developing world, a move that also comes as it seeks to buff up its image.

Spokesman Masood Ahmed said the IMF awarded one-year contracts to Hill & Knowlton to take on the fund’s communications in the Middle East and Asia, and Amo/Euro RSCG to cover Africa and Latin America.

Paris-based Euro RSCG managed public relations for Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance, as he campaigned to become head of the IMF last year following the unexpected resignation of former IMF Managing Director Rodrigo Rato.

Ahmed said the two contracts combined are worth between $1.5 million and $2 million and comes as the IMF is trying to cut costs by outsourcing work.

The IMF has sought $100 million in savings a year amid falling income, which has been sharply cut because fewer countries are requesting its loans. It has also offered staff buyouts to shed about 380 jobs.

The IMF has struggled to repair its reputation in many developing countries, including in Asia where its image is still tarnished 10 years after the region’s financial crisis.

Ahmed said it was more cost-effective to hire private-sector PR agencies who already have networks in place than for the IMF to expand its operations.

“This cost is more than covered by savings we’re making within our external relations work,” Ahmed said, “So, our overall spending on external relations is going down.”

He said the agencies were selected by a staff committee and is in response to IMF surveys that showed the fund needs to step up its outreach and target its efforts better.

“We are committed to trying to improve the way in which we can reach out and respond to concerns and criticisms about the fund and explain what we do,” Ahmed said.

“We recognize that to do this we have to reach out well beyond Washington and ... we think the most cost-effective and effective way is to bring in expertise from the private sector of firms that already have a global reputation,” he added.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton. Editing by Diane Craft

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