Under fire from President Trump for its botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization has reached out to a high powered PR firm with the mission to find celebrity influencers who can sing the praises of the embattled United Nations agency and boost its public image.
The WHO signed a $135,000 contract on May 1 with Hill + Knowlton Strategies to reach out to influencers of all stripes, including celebrities with more than 1 million followers on social media, according to documents filed this week to the Justice Department.
Hill + Knowlton outlined a plan of action in its proposal that was included in the filing.
“There has been criticism and assertions leveled against the World Health Organization (WHO) and media coverage that could undermine WHO as a trusted and critical information source on global public health issues,” the PR firm wrote. The objective is to “ensure there is trust in the WHO’s advice and that public health guidance is followed.”
In addition to celebrity influencers, Hill + Knowlton said that it will identify “microinfluencers” who have smaller, niche followings, as well as lesser known people such as health experts who appear on news programs.
The firm’s work was set to take place between May 1 and June 15, though there’s a possibility of future consulting.
Hill+Knowlton filed documents to the Justice Department this week in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires the disclosure of lobbying and PR work by U.S. companies working for foreign entities.
The WHO has come under heavy criticism for downplaying the seriousness of the Chinese coronavirus in its early days. The agency has also developed close ties with China’s Communist dictatorship and has even parroted the CCP’s talking points about the virus.
In response, President Donald Trump first suspended U.S. funding of the WHO and then officially withdrew from the organization on July 7. The U.S. has been the largest funder of the WHO, with American taxpayers giving $400 million to $500 million to the organization each year.
The WHO already has a slew of celebrity allies, some of whom participated in a benefit concert in April to raise money for the organization as well as coronavirus relief around the world. Stars who took part in the virtual concert included Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Elton John, and late-night comedy hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert.