Jared Carneson, Regional Director and Head of Social and Innovation at FleishmanHillard talks to TMN about his new role and the communications industry in the Middle East…
Name: Jared Carneson
From: Johannesburg, South Africa
Current job title: Regional Director and Head of Social and Innovation Middle East
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I am fresh off the plane having only arrived this April 2017
Where did you work prior?
I previously worked in South Africa with Gillian Gamsy International from 2009 – 2011, and with The Sunflower Fund from 2011 – 2012. I later joined FleishmanHillard South Africa as Senior Account Manager and moved on to take several positions including Account Director, Digital Lead, Associate Director, Head of Creative Strategy, and most recently Director of Global Social Innovation Lead.
What were your first impressions of the communications industry in the Middle East?
I am still forming those impressions. Digital has however made the world incredibly small so the Middle East much like everywhere else is continuously navigating an environment under the influence of change. Communications today are vastly different from what communications will be tomorrow, regardless of where you are.
Tell us about your current role…
My role locally, is focused on building out and bolstering the FleishmanHillard Middle East, social and innovation offering on our founding pillars of social art, social science, social amplification and innovation. While on a global level, my role focuses on unlocking what is next through experimentation labs and thought leadership.
What challenges do you face?
Every challenge is an opportunity to create something new. I think the biggest opportunity lies in the readiness of clients to adopt new ways of working or to step into an environment that may be new or different from what they are used to.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The relationships you build with people behind some of the biggest brands, companies and entities has always been the most rewarding part of the job, it’s the partnerships that are created from those relationships, that allow us to work together to deliver some of the best work of our lives.
How would you rather be contacted at work?
Email almost anytime.
Has the role of communications professionals changed in today’s digital community?
Tremendously, but at the same time not at all. The role of a communication professional remains the same in that we are there to tell client’s stories – digital has just changed the way and the where of how we tell those stories.
How has consumer behaviour in today’s digital community influenced PR today?
It has increased the importance of transparent, always on, and always prepared reputation management for brands. It has shifted a one-way conversation to two-way conversation. Consumers are no longer audiences they are communities and with that, it no longer matters what you say about your brand or company, it is what they say that counts.
Is user-generated content taking over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the Middle East?
The term user generated content (USG)is so broad. We are all publishers, so in some ways, thanks to the advent of social, USG has taken over the world. When it comes to users publishing brand related content, there is a lot of merit and value to that, but with paid super influencers endorsing a brand or product, we are seeing the content move to a place where it is less authentic, more sales lead and less subtle, which may lead to the complete disillusion of the value we see in organic USG.
How has social media in the region evolved over the years to become an integrated part of the PR industry?
It has become increasingly visual in how brands tell stories, but it’s also humanised them. How brands and companies use social has changed, I think a lot of brands have realised that they don’t own their presence in that space, they are merely members of a community.
What role does social media play in building a brand’s reputation today?
Today, social is central to managing building and protecting a brand’s reputation. Issues today are not measured in hours and minutes, but by tweets.
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
What is your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print)?
Digital! It’s fast and thanks to perceptive media, I get what I want, when I want it, none of the noise.
How do you see the PR industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?
Storytelling is an innate human characteristic, we are born with the need to tell and listen to stories – that will never change. The delivery mechanism for those stories will continuously evolve and with it, PR will continue to adapt to the changes new channels bring. I think we can look forward to an increasingly visual and automated world in the next few years.