Saudi Arabia is launching public relation hubs in Europe and Asia in an effort to combat bad press and promote the kingdom's "changing face."
The global PR push could see offices set up in London, Berlin, Paris, and Moscow as early as this month, according to documents seen and reported by Financial Times. Next year, the initiative may expand to other major cities such as Mumbai, Beijing, and Tokyo.
According to the documents, Riyadh's goal is "to promote the changing face of KSA to the rest of the world and to improve international perception of the kingdom."
The kingdom is addressing women's rights
Saudi Arabia often faces international criticism for human rights abuses and its treatment of women in society. However, the traditional kingdom has been making major strides in improving the conditions of Saudi women in recent years.
While women are still not allowed to drive in the kingdom, they have gained the right to vote and run for political office, restrictive male guardianship rules have been partially removed, and more and more Saudi women are attending universities and joining the workforce. Saudi women have even been taking over numerous top financial and management roles throughout the kingdom.
Under the kingdom's ambitious Vision 2030, championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, expanding opportunities for women is an important facet of the overall plan.
Vision 2030 aims to transform society
Under Vision 2030, Riyadh is also taking significant steps to open up the kingdom and remove some of the conservative restrictions in society.
For the first time in many years, Riyadh and Jeddah have begun hosting public concerts this year. Major mixed-gender entertainment events were also held in the kingdom, including Saudi Comic-Con and a large YouTube FanFest.
In August, Riyadh even held a public film screening for families, hailed as a first-ever event and a significant break with tradition. Similarly, Jeddah hosted screenings of family-oriented international films in July. Plans have also been openly discussed to launch cinemas throughout the kingdom.
Additionally, the kingdom aims to be more open to tourists, branching out beyond religious tourism centering around Hajj and Umrah. Throughout Saudi Arabia, there are many fascinating and unique historic sites the kingdom hopes will draw international tourists in the coming years.
At the beginning of August, it was revealed that the kingdom also aims to transform its Red Sea coast into a major tourist resort. The area will be "semi-autonomous" and will be governed by "independent laws," suggesting alcohol will be available and tourists won't be required to abide by the kingdom's dress code.
Riyadh wants to share the "Saudi perspective"
While there may still be things to criticize, as is the case with any country, Saudi Arabia is definitely showing it is serious about modernizing and transforming its society.
The PR hubs will work to send this message to the world, responding to the plethora of negative coverage the kingdom readily receives.
These offices will publish social media content, produce press releases and invite influencers to visit Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the PR offices will promote the kingdom's culture through art exhibitions and religious dialogue.
Essentially, Riyadh aims to use public relations firms to "distribute the Saudi perspective on global developments in response to negative/inaccurate publications about the kingdom," the document reported by FT says.
As young Saudis look to the future, the PR campaign aims to share a different perspective with the world.