Name: Emma Procter
Current job title: Co-Founder, Blowfish Media
When did you arrive in the UAE? At the end of 2008 just as the property market here crashed. I refuse to be blamed for this though.
Where did you work prior?
For several years I was a freelance journalist and marketing professional in London, mainly working with health and fitness publications. Before that I worked at the Messenger local newspaper in Manchester, part of Newsquest Group.
What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Chaotic, but full of potential. Coming from such an established media scene in England, I was amazed at all these brand new magazines, newspapers and radio stations popping up overnight. There was a feeling of too much too fast with bonkers publications covering everything from dentistry to sewage works, but there was money to be made and it was kind of fun. There was an overall lack of quality journalism though, but it seemed not to matter.
Have these impressions changed much?
Yes, the industry has matured as the country has gone through a few growing pains and I think media firms have had to adapt to a more discerning audience. The only thing that surprises me is still just how bad some journalism here can be, but that might take more time. Online media is showing some encouraging signs, but I’d like to see more quirky, independent sites.
Tell us about your new company Blowfish Media…
I decided to launch a full service media agency with a very talented German photographer Sebastian Tontsch because we kept hearing complaints from businesses about a lack of professionalism in copywriting, photography and public relations. It is actually quite surprising what a skill shortage there is in these areas in the UAE. So we brought together some top class people from a range of disciplines – including graphic design and translation – and we are trying to raise the bar.
What challenges do you face?
Trying to educate some clients about the value of doing things in the right way and, of course, dealing with the ups and downs of starting a new enterprise. You have to learn things as you go and focus on the bigger picture.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
That fantastic moment when a client realises you really do care about their product or brand and when they see the results, whether it’s a campaign or just a photoshoot, and are blown away. We have had some very nice emails.
What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
Some of our photos have gone viral in the fine art photography scene and have been nominated for awards. Plus, one of our public relations clients is now being considered for her very own BBC documentary because of our promotional work – I can’t say who yet, though.
What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
Right now it’s a mixed bag. Newspapers like 7Days for me are doing it right in terms of tone, content and pushing the boundaries a little. Some of the well-established titles have become editorially lazy in my opinion and I’d like to see them being given a run for their money. I never buy glossy magazines here, which I guess says a lot. Although I’m a sucker for OK! Middle East.
What sets you apart from other media professionals?
I’m a writer first and a media person second. I agonise over the quality of written English in everything we do because nothing destroys a brand more than sloppy language – and I have seen some mind blowing mistakes on huge projects here. And when I think about the budgets they must have had…
Work calls via landline, mobile or both? Both. We are a wonderfully approachable unless you’re selling credit cards.
What’s your most overused saying? “You create your own reality” – it’s true though.
Five things you can’t live without? My dogs, my phone, my friends, my books, and Jamie Oliver’s recipe website.
If you weren’t with Blowfish Media, what would you be doing? Living on a Greek island in an old, whitewashed villa writing my masterpiece and tending to my dogs, chickens and vegetable garden.