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GCC Comms Uncovered

Posted on November 27, 2014 by Andy West

Coming into Dubai for the first time as a Westerner with experience in Europe and the US, it’s fair to say that I was unsure about what to expect when visiting Active, our partner in the UAE. But now having spent four very productive and enjoyable days drinking in the culture, philosophy and approach of this vibrant agency, I can say I leave with a very real sense of excitement as to what can be achieved through great PR across this very diverse region.

Active handles a range of clients in several market categories and deals with both English language and Arabic media across countries that include the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain to name but a few. The team is truly multi-national with native Arabic speakers from Syria, the Lebanon and Jordan sitting alongside ex-pat specialists from Russia, Romania, France, India and Pakistan.

This team operates in a communications environment that has its own special characteristics. One big difference is the sense of being at arm’s length from the client. In many cases, Active’s direct client contact is based either in Europe or in the US. Interaction is limited at best to regular phone calls with in-person visits being something of a rarity. And in a business where relationships and client agency chemistry is so important, this presents its own challenge. What’s more, the local office of many Active clients operate purely as sales outposts. So PR for the local representative is often an after-thought, to be addressed with sales quotas and lead generation being the priority.

This dynamic encourages a sense of empowerment. Successful agencies like Active must be capable of using their initiative and being self-driven. They have to otherwise the work dries up. But it is also a limiting factor in the adoption of more creative communication techniques. From talking to the Active team, it’s evident that they have mastered the art of delivery and of managing clients in far flung time zones. But it’s also clear that more local involvement and direction would be welcomed.

When you add this to the media landscape, you begin to truly appreciate how resourceful communications practitioners in the region have to be. With certain sections of Gulf society and large swathes of industry still to embrace social media, the media hold great influence. Publications both on and offline operate an extremely commercial model which still sees the issue of editorial placements being influenced by advertising spend. As a consequence, editorial relationships are still important, particularly it seems in Dubai where the publishing houses are clustered in (not unsurprisingly) Media City.

None of this detracts from the fact that there is a very real appetite to push the boundaries (so far as is possible in a strictly controlled region) of communications. Having presented the Hotwire range of services and solutions, I can sense that the appetite to embrace new thinking and to try new techniques is very real. Communications in the region might still be very media oriented and dare I say it ‘conventional’, but with agencies like Active pushing boundaries and advocating new approaches, we’ll see change in the next few years.

Next week Dubai celebrates the 43rd anniversary of its formation. In that time it has built what could be argued is one of the world’s most dynamic and vibrant cities. My view is that in the next five years, communications in Dubai and to a certain extent the wider GCC region will undertake its own dramatic growth. Not only will global companies operating in the region expect it, but agencies like Active will have grown on providing high quality counsel and delivering award winning campaigns that deliver true business benefits in this exciting and still fast growing region.


The key ingredients to PR

Posted on November 19, 2014 by Active

Many of us have this theory that Public Relations is all about being a press releases factory. In fact, Public Relations is all about structures and systems that can help to nail the job and provide an added value to the client.

Simple and straightforward, Public Relations is the core value for every client’s success and brand awareness in the market.

To create a PR plan that is relevant and insightful to your client, you first need to love your profession, be passionate, creative, proactive, and think outside the box.

PR is similar to baking a delicious cake, or cooking a scrumptious meal – you need to have all the right ingredients, in the right quantity, at the right time – with the right spirit and passion.

In order to have a successful outcome in the field of PR, one must source the correct ingredients for the PR mix. So, what are these ingredients? In-depth research, knowing your Client, market knowledge, knowing the client’s business objectives, key messages, and future outlook.

Sourcing the right key target media relevant to the client, overcoming challenges and most importantly, adding value to the client’s business is essential for a successful strategy.

Last but not least, timing is key! No matter how important or well reputed the brand is, if you do not seize the right opportunities, the results yielded will be ineffective.

In conclusion, to succeed with your strategic plans for your clients, you must be well prepared with all the right resources and tools – with a creative mind to steer the campaign in the right direction. In order to deliver the best to your client and to yourself as a PR practitioner, you must be on top of everything and ten steps ahead – proactive as opposed to reactive.



Posted on November 12, 2014 by Lovelyn Rodrigues

Experiences come to us in many ways.  It could be from those we accumulate  during our school days or through the career path we take or the kind of people we  choose to be with. They are all connected in some way or the other and tend to have a long lasting impact on our lives.

During this journey  we may face many  obstacles, many disappointments. However, we must look upon these roadblocks as part of our self development. Overcoming them will only make us stronger and more capable to do the things we want to continue doing. Our success truly depends on what we gain from them.

Every experience is determined by the choice we make at every step of our lives. One is a good choice and the other is a better one. Both lead to growth and with time we discover new strengths we possess. Circumstances mold and shape us in different ways, sometimes developing within us the ability to understand better and we continue to learn.

There are times, based on the experiences we have had that we have made a choice which looks very difficult and find ourselves surrounded by obstacles. Nothing seems to have helped make things better and we encounter the same problems over and over again.  Whether we know it or not, our consciousness stores this unfamiliar feeling and we tend to clench to it. It is good to learn from the situation and take it as a lesson learned. This is what I’d call a good experience.

From my perspective, the better experience I had is coming from a different education background but then stepping into the PR world. It’s been over two years and the journey so far has only made me a more confident person. From the work environment to the clients and – not to forget the most important people of my day to day life – the media, it is a platform to help me grow stronger and develop my people handling skills. This experience will definitely be useful in every area of life. Working with people from different parts of the world has given me a chance to know their culture and has inspired me to discover new things. Encountering difficulties and obstacles such as clients who do not understand the importance of PR, gave me the platform to understand Public Relations better and help people understand the value of investing in the same.

As it is truly said “Nothing can substitute experience”. Keep the ball rolling and enjoy every bit of it.


The Psychology of Public Relations

Posted on November 6, 2014 by Swaleha Calafato

They say people either have right brain dominance (the creative side) or left brain dominance (the analytic side). After countless Psychology electives in university, I found myself conflicted about which hemisphere of my brain was more developed. As a student majoring in Public Relations, I always believed PR practitioners have the responsibility of developing both.

The main goal of any public relations practitioner is to communicate information to an audience in a precise way – this requires the ability to convince and persuade in an effective and motivating manner. So, how do we do this? The technique we choose is a reflection of our abilities to choose an apt medium of expression and communication.

Public Relations is strongly intertwined with psychology in the sense that it is essential to gauge  which words can be used  to convey certain messages, as well as understanding how people react to different stimuli. In order to be successful, one must factor in how the human brain works.

It’s all in the details. Everything from the color used in an advertisement, to the process of how a specific message is communicated, to what one wears during a presentation or potential pitch to a client – all these elements play a role in the success factor.

I studied Public Relations because of my passion for writing and communicating. However, I have to say psychology was the tool that enabled me to strengthen my research skills, exercise my mind analytically, and understand my audience better.

What better way than Public Relations to directly communicate with people? At the same time, to be successful at it, one must understand the inner-workings of PR. It’s like riding a horse – you can’t just climb on and expect it to work for you – it is imperative to understand the dynamics of how the process works, and what triggers the horse to get moving.

We have a medium here that needs to be carefully understood. Psychology is the apparatus that eases the transition to get from point A to point B, and kick-starts the journey.



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