In The Hot Seat – Victor King
Team TMN chat with Victor King, Founder and CEO, Absolute Communications Group, who talks about his current role and offers his thoughts on the PR industry in the Middle East.
Name: Victor King
Current job title: Founder and CEO of Absolute Communications Group
When did you first arrive in Dubai? 1999
Where did you work prior? I was working as a PR Account Director with a boutique PR firm based out of DMC. Along with that, I was also working as an independent PR and Communications consultant with a few Dubai based organisations.
What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East?
When I came to Dubai, my first observation about the PR industry was that the benefits of using a PR agency’s services were only accessible to the large organisations and the much deserving SME sector was utterly neglected and left out as they perceived it to be an expensive affair to have a PR agency onboard. This is where I saw a window of opportunity and founded Absolute Communications to help small and medium-sized companies, and startups to get their share of PR and Communications advisory, without burning a hole in their pockets.
Moreover, I also noticed that the agencies were asked to majorly focus on increasing the number of media clippings for the enterprises, and the consulting element was completely missing from the whole equation.
Has your opinion changed much?
The PR industry has evolved substantially in the last few years. With the financial crisis resulting in a lot of publications and media outlets shutting shop or moving away from tradition, towards digital platforms, those agencies which were solely focused on a single vertical or those who only sustained their business due to the number of media clips materialised by them were rendered defunct.
This has presented an opportunity for small and medium sized agencies to prove their potential and prompted the larger agencies to evolve into fluid communication strategies than just focusing on media relations.
Tell us about your current role…
My current role is to focus on the overall growth of Absolute Communications Group in the UAE as well as in international markets. I also focus on creating new service offerings to our clients and developing new product and service modules, which can facilitate the growth of Absolute Communications and help our existing and new clients with integrated marketing and communications solutions.
In 2016, along with rebranding Absolute Communications, we also opened our first international office in India. What started out as a one-person operation out of a living room in 2011, now has offices in Dubai and India, with a plan to open two more offices in India already in the pipeline. This will enable us to establish our footprint in the Indian subcontinent.
Around the same time, we also launched Absolute Digital, a vertical offering digital and social media services to our clients which has now expanded even further to provide web and app development services as well.
What challenges do you face?
Cash flow remains one of the major challenges that we face till date. Even the financial system is not on our side as it is designed to help SMEs that are product driven, making it more difficult for service driven startups like ours. Moreover, the policies only allow financial assistance to companies with over 5million turnover, which, for a consulting business is very difficult to achieve especially when we are just about seven years old.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing our clients grow and seeing the kind of trust they place in ACG team; seeing the team enjoying their work while they deliver excellence, and seeing the industry grow together as a whole.
How have clients’ expectations in today’s digital community influenced PR and marketing in the UAE?
Thanks to the digital revolution, clients are more informed and have a much clearer vision of what they want to achieve as a part of their corporate objectives. This has helped PR and MarCom professionals understand and plan their strategies and align them with these objectives in a more efficient way.
However, this has also created a need for the agencies and the industry professionals to continuously learn and evolve in their operations, service offerings and integration plans.
Clients expect much more than just media relations and messaging strategies from agencies, they expect the agencies to play an advisory role, which can contribute towards their long-term growth.
How has social media in the region evolved to become an integrated part of the PR industry?
Social Media was always a part of the PR industry, it was just positioned separately because of the traditional media relations centric approach.
Over last few years, both agencies and clients alike, are looking at a more communications-centric approach and social media comes in as an integral part of digital communications as it works effectively with traditional and digital PR and communications plans.
What do you think of PR ethics in the industry today?
That’s a sensitive one. The best answer I can think of comes from the core belief system of Absolute Communications. Every member of Absolute is made to understand the same thing, “Align yourself with the growth of the client, have a proactive approach and deliver excellent results.” This in return will drive the growth of both the client and the agency.
In today’s fickle-minded ways of working, agencies who have strong ethics and value ecosystems are the ones who are able to retain clients and acquire new ones. These agencies not just sustain themselves, but even manage to grow in a difficult financial climate, like the one businesses have been witnessing in the region since the last 12-18 months.
Describe yourself in five words
Inspire, learn, communicate, empathize and lead by example are a few words that define me
Who inspires you?
Happiness and growth
What’s your most overused saying?
You grow, I grow
Five things you can’t live without?
My wife and kids, Absolute Family, Single Malts, Cigars and the smiles all these bring to me
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I would be backpacking somewhere in the Far East. My earlier travels to the region have only left me yearning to go back and explore more.
What’s your favorite form of media?
What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in PR in the UAE?
Remember the conventional basics – please remember that PR stands for Public Relations and not Press Releases, and in Public Relations, always remember to keep “Relations” before all other things while developing or executing a PR and Communications plan – traditional and digital alike.
This industry is all about networking and relationships, for the relationships you build will take you a long way and make people want to keep coming back to you. Your PR career will not be anything more than ordinary if the content and strategies you create are not held tightly in place by the relationships you forge and nurture.