Can PR Save Bahrain's Monarchy?

Bahrian's Sunni-led monarchy has hired the Washington, D.C. PR firm Qorvis Communications at a rate of $40,000/month to help improve its image after the Bahraini government, struggling to suppress a Shia-led protest movement, attacked the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders (DWB).

The group offers medical care to injured protesters who are too afraid to go to Bahrian's government-run hospitals out of fear that they will be arrested or detained. A severely injured protester sought help at the Doctors Without Borders office in Bahrain's capitol city of Manama. Due to the severity of his injuries, the DWB called an ambulance and the protester was taken to the hospital. Afterwards, government authorities raided DWB's office, seized their medicines, furniture and patient files and arrested their local driver. After the attack, the government hired Quorvis Communications to try to salvage its image. Qorvis issued a statement to American journalists which said that Doctors Without Borders "was operating an unlicensed medical center in a residential apartment building." Huffington Post reported earlier this year that a number of Quorvis executives had left the firm because, as one of them put it, "I just have trouble working with despotic dictators killing their own people." Qorvis had previously worked for Bahrain before through another firm, and has also done work for the Saudi monarchy.


Here's an interesting go at saving the reputation of reputation-saving, from the chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. This quote stands out:

In trying to improve tyrants’ images and reputations, these firms are damaging America’s international reputation. And with the S&P downgrade, the U.S. can ill afford another reputational hit."

She talks about ethics and makes some good points, but image-polishing for tyrants commensurate with a dented credit rating as a "reputational hit" to America? Hmm.