Creating a Voice: Communications Capacity Building in the Middle East by Mohamed Al-Ayed


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ICCO Summit 2013 Presentation by Mohamed Al-Ayed, CEO of TRACCS, the biggest independent communications group in the Middle East and North Africa. The presentation was delivered on 11th October 2013.

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  • Global perceptions are determined by media coverage of various regions, which either create empathies or reduce a region to easily communicated stereotypes. This is what we mean by the limits of empathy.
  • For example, whereas the media has historically presented a holistic picture of the developed world portraying these societies in human terms that elicit empathy…This is obviously accomplished not only through news coverage but through Hollywood movies, television, global marketing strategies, and now through social media…
  • …the media have traditionally presented the Middle East (and other “undeveloped” or “developing” regions) through Catastrophe Coverage – natural disasters, riots, assassinations, revolutions, plagues, famines, etc., casting people as either villains or victims. And again, movies and television reinforce these stereotypes…Middle East governments didn’t make things easy…
  • The turning point was the first Gulf War.
  • Over the last decade, due to brilliant marketing strategies, the picture is beginning to change…This is not because the media was suddenly more receptive but because the people of the region were becoming more acutely aware of the importance of image in a globalizing world.
  • Outsiders still tend to see the region in monolithic terms but it is actually incredibly diverse!
  • 9/11 changed the world and the Arab world in particular. One effect was that Arab countries began to seriously consider the role of image.Oil revenues still ruled but governments began to seriously consider diversification.The population explosion through the 1980s and ‘90s had changed the demographics and economics of the region.A DRAMATIC RISE IN UNEMPLOYMENTAt that time most corporate maps would show concentrations of activity in the Americas, Europe and Asia with the Middle East and Africa a blank except for, perhaps a dot or two in Dubai and Johannesburg. From 2005 the Dubai experiment (which had been going on for 20 years) coincided with a unprecedented continued rise in oil revenues precipitating a regional development boom valued at $2 trillion just before the crash in 2008. Countries that had been introverted were now developing tourism sectors and developing their global images. Hundreds of television and radio channels appeared.Countries launched nationalization programsSocial media revolution kicked in about the same time as the recessionAll the above factors contributed to the Arab Spring.
  • This is largely because global PR companies are set up as “money machines that do PR”. They don’t have the time or remit for capacity-building.
  • Creating a Voice: Communications Capacity Building in the Middle East by Mohamed Al-Ayed

    1. 1. CREATING A VOICE Communications Capacity Building in the Middle East Mohamed A. Al Ayed President & CEO –TRACCS Paris – Oct 11, 2013
    2. 2. The Reality Exploding Young Population Image is Internally Driven Eyes on the Middle East
    3. 3. The Hard Truth They Are Young They Are Ambitious They Are Ambivalent They Aspire To Be…
    4. 4. Extending The Limits of Empathy
    5. 5. The Full Picture The Developed World
    6. 6. Stereotypes The Middle East Victims, Villains, Catastrophes
    7. 7. Until 1990 Communications in the Arab World were… • State controlled • Propaganda-oriented • Censored • Limited • Closed to the outside world
    8. 8. The Turning Point • 1990 CNN the first international satellite allowed into the region • From that point on satellite dishes proliferated • 1991 Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC) founded • 1993 Arab Radio and Television Network (ART) founded • 1994 Orbit Satellite Channel launched • 1996 Al Jazeera Network founded • 1999-2000 Saudi Arabia and Iraq the last Arab countries to provide public internet access • And everything changed…
    10. 10. For the first time we began to see the region in its diversity • Every region within MENA is strikingly different. • Every country within each region is unique. • Common Ground: • • • • • • Language Religion Family values Music Development aspirations Enormous youth population – 60% under 30 • Highest unemployment in the world: 24%* • Differences: • • • • • Dialects Religious interpretations Political systems Economies Social cultures * UNITED NATIONS EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON ADOLESCENTS, YOUTH AND DEVELOPMENT 2011
    11. 11. Much of this change has come from COMMUNICATIONS
    12. 12. Today in the Arab world there are… • Over 700 satellite channels • Of 658 fully operational FTA satellite TV channels targeting the Arab World 68% (448 channels) have an online presence.* • Over 200 independent newspapers • Hundreds of radio stations • Arabic is the fastest-growing language on the internet, • Arabic-speaking internet users increased 2,298 % from 2000-2009** • 70 million on the Internet • 43 million on Facebook • 1.4 million on Twitter *Arab Advisors Group examined ** Internet World Statistics Report
    13. 13. Developments in the Middle East 2001-2005 2005-Present • 9/11 • The Dubai experiment & DEVELOPMENT BOOM ($2 trillion of projects in 2008) • Countries began positioning process • Oil revenues ruled • Population explosion • Rise in unemployment • MENA still perceived as a backwater • Huge revenues, hyper-inflation • Proliferation of broadcast media • GLOBAL RECESSION • Nationalization programs • The social media revolution • THE ARAB SPRING
    14. 14. Communications Then & Now 2001-2008 2008-Present • Advertising was king • Global recession forced companies to reassess communications strategies • PR seen as a promotional press release service • Boom drove growth of PR business • Rise of CSR • Gradual government uptake of PR • PR taken more seriously • Crisis communications • Issues management • Two-way communications • MENA seen as important emerging market • The social media revolution • Institutionalization of CSR • PR becomes government mandated
    15. 15. The Growth of PR • Between 2003-2013 – 5,000 PR practitioners joined the profession in the region • Rise in the volume of business (average of 30% across the board) • Rise in the number of government RFPs (50 RFPs in Saudi Arabia alone) • Government agencies realized the importance of PR (education, investment, healthcare and housing) • Average of 35% growth annually since 2010 with some growth in markets hitting 50% • 2013 has been a fantastic year for PR in the region despite political challenges
    16. 16. Public Relations & the Five Critical Phases of Development Innovation Trust Development Realization Exploration
    17. 17. The New Influencers Salman Alodah Ahmad Shugairi Ahlam Al Shamsi Faris Awadh Religious scholar 3,682,267 followers Media 4,483,916 followers Singer 2,613,291 followers Football Commentator 774,423 followers Oula Al Faris Muna AbuSulayman Fahad Albutairi Wael Ghunaim Media 1,189,194 followers Activist 144,409 followers Comedian 1,096,698 followers Internet activist 1,252,506 followers
    18. 18. Challenges • Polarization • Shortage of feeder streams • Training within • No concerted effort to nurture Arab talent • Serious shortage of skilled and highly trained Arab PR professionals • Because of this the profession has remained shallow and the workforce transitory
    19. 19. Exist or Perish • The PR profession needs to be liberated • For public relations to become a sustainable profession in the Arab world, there needs to be a revolutionary approach to building talent • The industry can only mature if it is led by seasoned professionals from the region who understand the language, the culture, the religious and social landscapes of each country • This means that companies need to stop looking solely at the bottom line and invest in the region • It should be the role of experienced foreign professionals to nurture talented local practitioners • The PR industry should reach out to universities and other educational institutions to provide knowledge transfers
    20. 20. The Capacity Building Triangle • Know How • Industry Drivers Agencies The PR Imperative • Regulation • Credibility • Feeder Streams • Scientific Approach Government Universities
    21. 21. Driver’s Seat by TRACCS Program Driver Seat Workshop Details: One day workshop to educate university students about the importance of Public Relations, its evolution and engage with them through exercises and interactive sessions Key Component: Creating a Virtual Company with a PR Function Launched in: June 2010 Partner Universities: • King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia • Prince Sultan University Targets: Mass Media & Marketing Students Results: • Over 200 students trained • 50 students to be placed in PR jobs in 2014