SunilJ | June 25th, 2012

As everyone in the communications industry knows, we do most of our work far from the spotlight – developing strategies and solutions for our clients that will make them shine.

Precisely because we are perennial background guys, we love winning awards. Those are the rare opportunities we have to stand up in front of any audience of our peers and receive formal acknowledgement for our hard work and commitment.

This kind of recognition is especially important for Public Relations consultancies. While our industry continues to experience sustained growth – especially in the MENA region – a number of people, here and worldwide, are unclear about exactly what PR firms do. The most frequent source of confusion, of course, is the difference between advertising and PR.

That’s another reason why awards are important to our industry: they represent a key opportunity to highlight to the wider public the innovative and impactful work being produced by Public Relations agencies – educating audiences, in the process, about the sector as a whole.

The Dubai Lynx Awards, which took place in March, and the Cannes Lions, which were held very recently in France, are among the highest-profile accolades offered by the communications industry. These festivals, dominated by advertising, have recently introduced PR awards categories. I am concerned, however, that these events do not do full justice to the PR profession.

Look closely at the shortlist and winners of the 2012 Dubai Lynx PR Awards: that roster of names is impressive, but they are nearly all advertising agencies. Look harder at the teams behind the award-winning work: you’ll see dozens of creative directors, art directors and designers. And the key ingredient in the majority of the winning work is the ubiquitous advertising tool: the TVC. The development of television commercials is not, of course, a core service of PR agencies.

I have the highest respect for the advertising industry, and have many friends who are creative directors, art directors and designers.

Not one of them works for me, of course, since I run a PR consultancy, not an ad agency.

When I read recently in Campaign Middle East about the appointment of the members of the PR jury for the Cannes Lions, I experienced a similarly sinking feeling. Although I was proud to note that, for the first time in history, our region will be represented by two jurors, the title of the PR juror caught my notice. “Chief Creative Officer.”

I have absolutely no reason to doubt the skills of this particular individual – who has been described by his own firm as “having worked on some of the most iconic advertising to come out of the region.” However, I question why we select advertising industry professionals to judge the work of PR firms.

All of this surely explains the peculiar geographic mix of regional entries for PR Awards at the 2012 Cannes Lions. Just five entries were submitted this year from the UAE, the Middle East’s PR hub, while 18 were submitted from Lebanon, a country where the PR sector is still somewhat nascent.

This isn’t about sour grapes, not by a long shot. I’m delighted to see hardworking individuals and smart agencies recognised for their achievements – but only when they are judged for their work as Public Relations professionals, ideally by Public Relations professionals.

In the PR business, which mostly operates below the radar, we will continue to face the challenge of distinguishing our profession from the more publicly recognized work of advertising agencies. That’s a fact.

Industry awards should help bridge that knowledge gap, not create further confusion in the market. Until they truly do so, our industry will have little reason to celebrate – or even enter these awards.

(This appeared in Campaign Middle East )

AbhaM | June 23rd, 2012

I recently had the privilege to listen to someone who I would justifiably call a genius of our age – Amit Singhal, the person in charge of coding Google’s search algorithms.
A fascinating subject, Singhal explained the basics of data on the internet and what Google is doing to turn the information we receive through search, [...]

Yesterday we announced the results of our 4th Annual Arab Youth Survey. We conduct this survey every year to provide evidence-based insights into the evolving hopes, concerns and aspirations of Arab youth – providing governments, the private sector and civil society institutions with critical information and analysis to inform decision-making and [...]

Over three days in March, Public Relations as an industry came of age in the Middle East.
Held in Dubai between March 13-15th, the 20th Public Relations Word Congress was a landmark event, and not only because this was the first time this prestigious summit was held in the region. The relevance of the Congress’s theme, [...]

SunilJ | January 11th, 2012

(As appeared in December 2011 issue of Gulf Business)
If public relations is the art of reputation management, then it seems clear that the industry needs to take its own PR a lot more seriously. Like the proverbial cobbler’s children who go without shoes, public relations firms – worldwide and especially here in the Middle East [...]

‘Working Together: Saving Tomorrow Today’ is the theme of the climate change talks that started in South Africa on Tuesday. But that’s wishful thinking if newspaper reports are anything to go by. The chances of the Kyoto protocol being meaningfully extended beyond 2012 appear slim, with a host of countries saying they are reluctant to [...]

NicholasN | November 22nd, 2011

Having read Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Steve Jobs, I’m not sure whether to think a lot more or a lot less highly of the man who founded Apple, got thrown out of his own company, then transformed it into one of the world’s most valuable brands.
Jobs was a narcissist and a visionary; he was [...]

AshrafAS | March 17th, 2011

“Look East Young Man” was the title of my last year’s blog post on the 2nd ASDA’A B-M Arab Youth Survey. At that time I was impressed to learn that the findings of the Survey indicated that young Arab people are admiring of and inspired by the progressive societies in the eastern part of this planet, such as India and China.

YousefS | March 17th, 2011

As an Arab youth brought up in Bethlehem, Palestine, growing up was hard. I grew up in a complex community, where you have to be either a decision maker, or join the audience to watch a very nice action movie happening live, but in that movie the hero almost always dies.
The behaviour of Palestinian youth [...]

AbhaM | March 15th, 2011

Great interview of our CEO Sunil John on CNBC talking about our 3rd Annual Arab Youth Survey we just unveiled. Click on image to watch the interview in full.

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