Saudi government hires media veteran Nicolla Hewitt as a consultant

22 February 2022 3 min. read

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media has hired industry veteran Nicolla Hewitt, adding her to its list of consultants that help the office with public relations. In the role, Hewitt will perform general public relations and media outreach services, including outreach to broadcast, print, and social media.

With volatility surrounding oil prices having jeopardised economic growth across the Middle East, many of the region’s leading economies have undertaken diversification strategies in recent years. None have quite matched the ambition, or scale of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans though.

So far, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – one of the leaders of the Kingdom’s autocratic government – has overseen a raft of development projects. These range from standard infrastructure updates, to alleged World Cup bids, and mega projects such as Neom and the Red Sea Project.

Nicolla Hewitt, Strategic Advisor, Qorvis

However, for all the ruler’s attempts to paint the nation as an innovative and modern economy, its reputation still needs quite some polishing, with many criticising Saudi Arabia for its lack of political freedom or legal and social equality.

According to Amnesty International, the Saudi regime continues to suppress public criticism of its policies – with those arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and or jailed in recent years including women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, relatives of activists, journalists, members of the Shi’a minority, and migrant workers.

As Saudi Arabia attempts to shift public focus from these matters, and instead place greater prominence on the ‘progress’ it is making under the 2030 plans, it is committing to a new media offensive. As part of this, the Kingdom has hired a senior public relations executive from the US to work as a media-relations consultant.

‘Outreach broadcast’

Joining the ranks of Western influencers already working for the Kingdom, Nicolla Hewitt has run her own communications firm for over a decade. As reported by CNBC, a disclosure filed with the Department of Justice states she will be conducting work for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media, which according to the Kingdom’s government website, “supervises all means of visual, audio and written communication content in the Kingdom.”

Hewitt has nearly 30 years of experience in US media, working for some of the best known companies in the world including ABC, CBS, NBC and Yahoo – during which time she covered and reported extensively from Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank.

Hewitt is no stranger to working with world leaders, either. She has served as an adviser to Prince Charles for his Turquoise Mountain foundation for the preservation of Islamic art and economic empowerment in Afghanistan; and the Vital Voices Global Partnership founded by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which helps women in over 130 countries around the world.

Her duties as noted in the filing include “general public relations and media outreach services, including outreach to broadcast, print and social media about the changing way of life in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, prior to the filing, Hewitt was reportedly actively working for the Saudi government’s media agency throughout last year, through a company called Thiqah Business Services. According to the business magazine Eye of Riyadh, Thiqah Business Services is a “100% government company owned by Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers and Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants.”