In The Hot Seat – Amy Brill

We catch up with Amy Brill, Head of PR at M&C Saatchi PR, who tells Team TMN about her new role and what she thinks of the PR industry in the Middle East…

Name: Amy Brill

From: London, UK

Current Job Title: Head of PR, M&C Saatchi PR

When did you first arrive in Dubai?

Just over two years ago in 2015, but I’ve been visiting family here for almost seven years.

Where did you work prior?

I previously worked at Grayling, where I’d been since 2012, working my way up from an Account Executive to Account Director. I  moved to the UAE with Grayling in 2015.

What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East?

I was surprised to find how traditional media relations dominated client requirements and was immediately excited at the prospect of integrating campaigns alongside social and digital impact, which was something I’d been used to in the UK.

Has your opinion changed much?

Even in a couple of years, there’s definitely been a huge step forward in terms of executing creative campaigns and utilising social and digital activations, but there’s always the opportunity to be even more innovative. Though I still can’t get my head around the fact you can sell a story into a newspaper for print coverage up until 2pm!

Tell us about your current role…

My current role is very exciting – I have the responsibility of growing the business and the team across our two offices in the UAE, working very closely with the London hub team and other international markets as well.

What challenges do you face?

As a new agency, our smaller team could be seen as a challenge. However, while we have flexibility to act as a start-up and boutique agency, we also have the luxury of taking advantage of the wider network and blending the right talent for our clients as and when needed – which is pretty special.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

So far, it’s been getting to know my talented colleagues within the M&C Saatchi PR family and understanding our agency’s unique proposition. Undoubtedly to come, it will be celebrating new client wins and consequently growing a happy, passionate team.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

Phone or email, either is fine. Messages sent via food delivery – also fine!

How has digital media changed the relationship between the PR and media industry?

Not so long ago, clients were only interested in print coverage and would dismiss online clippings or social activity. Now, we wouldn’t dream of creating a campaign which wouldn’t work digitally across paid, owned and earned channels, meaning we regard online and social as highly as offline. Digital media also allows journalists instant access to facts and viewpoints, meaning they can craft a story to the advantage, or detriment of your brand more quickly than ever.

How has consumer behaviour in today’s digital community influenced PR today? Nowadays, consumers are used to being able to communicate directly with brands and stakeholders, they are more demanding and are able to react instantly and across multiple platforms. PR professionals have to be prepared to engage in a two-way dialogue and to react quickly. Through social listening, we can gain insight into what our audiences want, allowing us to identify topical trends and insights to inform our campaigns.

Has user-generated content taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the Middle East?

We’re in a region which still allows brands to be overt in their promotion, but that doesn’t mean consumers’ attention spans or decisions to ignore marketing messages are any less. User-generated content gives brands an alternative way to influence, while being measurable, and I can only see the popularity of such content increasing.

How has social media in the region evolved over the years to become an integrated part of the PR industry?

When planning campaigns, social media no longer comes as the after-thought it did even a few years ago, it has become intrinsic to the digital world we live in today. For example, where before we would have hosted an event and issued a post release and imagery, we can now promote the event beforehand, broadcast live from that event and issue content following it. 

What role does social media play in building a brand’s reputation today?

A huge one, in both building it up and knocking it down even more quickly. We live in a world where the President of the United States tweets his musings daily – the role of social media is more powerful now than ever before.

How would you describe yourself at work?

Committed and tenacious, but it’s important to remember we spend a lot of time at work, so I like to have fun too.

Describe yourself in five words…

Sociable, creative, passionate, honest and positive. 

What inspires you?

My cousin, Tom. Tom was born with Down syndrome and growing up with him has taught me to see the opportunity in everything, to be positive and to love life.

What’s your most overused saying?

‘Are you joking?!’ and probably too often, I’d add a swear word in there as well.

Five things you can’t live without?

The obvious, family and friends, my mobile, holidays and hot sauce.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A vet, hairdresser, teacher – almost everything until a family friend organised work experience for me in a PR agency when I was 15 and I was sold!

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?

Something that involves a lot of organisation, perhaps wedding planning, I wish I could plan mine all over again.

What’s your most used social media platform?

Instagram and Facebook. It’d be much harder living away from home without those.

How do you see the PR industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years? Already, clients are relying on PR agencies for so much more than traditional media relations. That’s why our agency is made up of strategists, creatives and designers as well as experts in consumer, corporate and experiential. By blending the right talent, we are able to offer clients what they want and more. It’s an exciting time to be in PR.