A Perspective from the Middle East
Louay Al Samarrai, MCIPR, Managing Director Active Public Relations & Marketing Communications Consultancy, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai, April 2013 – Active PR is a business to business consultancy and primarily the public relations sector is still very “generalist” in its structure and approach unlike more developed markets where PR has tended towards specializations like Healthcare, Financial and Analyst Relations as well as Public Affairs.
As a regional PR consultant rather than one confined to just the UAE for example the issues that face the PR industry today vary widely across the different markets and can range from the very basic level in some of the key markets to an evolving sophistication in others.
The common oversight that people have when working with this region or entering it is to see the UAE and specifically Dubai as the “typical” environment for PR as a practice and as a marketing tool and that what works here and in Europe or the US will work in Saudi or Kuwait or Lebanon.
In addition whilst the education on the region in markets like Europe and the US is improving it is still seen as one homogenous area called the Middle East rather than a diverse range of different countries and markets with widely differing views and cultures and thus methods of communicating
The media landscape is also varied and in some cases a little different to Europe and parts of the US – in the Middle East media breaks down to Pan Arab media (that have a footprint that covers multiple countries and this covers TV, Print and obviously online media in both English and Arabic) and specific in-country media which typically means dailies and local TV stations.
The media on the whole are both professional and ethical however there are some areas within the region where this is not the case and where, when contacting some media outlets, one ends up speaking to the advertising team…not unusual in other parts of the world as we all know! Some of the most challenging markets are Egypt and Saudi Arabia when dealing with media but again experience and regular contact can help to achieve results for Clients. At Active PR we have been talking to these media for over ten years and this does help along with having presence on the ground there too.
Social media is still growing and is seen as effective in areas like consumer/fashion and lifestyle PR but is still sorely lacking in the business to business arena especially in technology and finance but we are confident that this will slowly evolve and we do see many Clients starting to allocate small amounts of their budgets to this element of the PR and marketing toolkit.
In conclusion the Middle East region is “buzzing” once again and the signs of recovery and stronger economic growth make this region a lucrative set of markets for companies and organizations to focus on. This means that for us in the PR industry and at Active PR specifically the signs are healthy and good. From my personal perspective this region is exciting, challenging, diverse and sometimes frustrating but it’s rewarding and I have learnt so much that is useful especially when dealing with other regions, cultures and mentalities and that’s a credit to the extremely cosmopolitan nature of the region, of the United Arab Emirates and of Dubai itself and I would not change it for the world.