Grayling appoints new Design Director

Global communications firm, Grayling has appointed Sajid Shafique to the role of Design Director. With over 20 years of experience in brand strategy, identity design and brand touchpoint design, Sajid worked with brands such as Fitch, Brand Union and Landor Associates before starting his own consultancy, BrandNew. In his new role, he will work closely with the team to create a new brand identity design for the Dubai Show Jumping Championship and develop as well as identify new business opportunities to expand the GCreative portfolio while directing the client services teams on branding, design and digital projects.

“We have been able to significantly expand our client base in 2017 and deliver a number of inspiring campaigns for our clients,” says Arian Hashemi, Managing Director, GCreative. “With the addition of Sajid to our all-star team, I am confident that we will continue to position ourselves ahead of the curve, despite the region’s dynamic and ever-changing landscape. We look forward to accelerating GCreative’s growth strategy in 2018 and the years to come.”

Grayling Welcomes New Account Director

Global communications firm, Grayling UAE, has appointed Lauren Ramey to the role of Account Director. With over five years of experience in strategic communications planning, international media relations and issues management, Lauren previously worked as Director of Communications Planning in the Office of the Premier of Ontario in Canada before moving to the GCC and most recently worked as the Communications Advisor to the Ministry of Finance in Saudi Arabia. In her new role, she will work towards delivering strong guidance to the clientele of Grayling across the Middle East.

“With Grayling, I share a real passion for inventive and integrated communications solutions, which have a long-lasting positive impact on organisational goals,” says Lauren. “I look forward to working closely with this dynamic team to realise our passion through delivering strategic counsel and powerful content to the firm’s impressive and growing client list across the region.”

Grayling makes key leadership appointments

Grayling’s Middle East creative arm, GCreative has appointed Arian Hashemi to the role of Creative Director and Khalid AlAtrash to the role of Client Service Director. With 15 years of experience, Arian previously worked with All About Brands as Design Director before establishing his agency, Arian Hashemi and working across clients such as Yas Marina Circuit and Abu Dhabi Media. In his new role, he will work on building innovative strategies to develop the agency’s projects, branding and production activities across the region.

Khalid also joins the team with ten years of experience, having previously worked with M&C Saatchi as Senior Account Manager and most recently with You:Experience as Account Director, where he managed clients such as Etihad Airways and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. In his new role, he will work on building strong client relationships to drive GCreative’s vision and growth across the region.

“Arian’s innovative and strategic experience in executing award winning projects, branding and production, coupled with Khalid’s expertise in building strong client relationships will drive GCreative’s vision forward,” says Loretta Ahmed, CEO, Grayling MEA.

Brazen makes two new promotions

Dubai-based PR agency, Brazen has promoted Jennifer Love to the role of Account Director and Charlie Madison to the role of Account Manager. With experience in the PR industry, Jennifer previously worked with Grayling Dubai and most recently held the role of Account Manager at Brazen. Charlie also brings with him experience in the industry having worked with Toh PR and most recently with Brazen as Senior Account Executive. In their new role, they will work across Brazen’s portfolio of clients including The Walt Disney Company, Atlantis and Wendy’s to generate results.

“I’m very proud of Jennifer and Charlie – their hard work, dedication and achievements,” says Louise Jacobson, Managing Partner, Brazen. “They are already relishing their new roles and I’m hugely excited for the next chapter in their careers and for Brazen.

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.

Speakers announced for inaugural Let’s Talk event

Fekra Communications reveals speakers for the upcoming event, ‘Let’s Talk: Crisis Communications.’ Under the patronage of Sheikh Juma bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, the event is set to take place from March 8-9, 2017 at The Address Hotel Dubai Mall.

The panel of speakers will include:

  • Samer Costantini, Advisor at UAE Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Authority
  • Mazen Nahawi, Chief Executive Officer at CARMA
  • Saada Hammad, Regional PR Director at Ogilvy PR
  • Hassan Fattah, Partner at Brunswick Group
  • Moustafa Hamwi, Author and Speaker
  • Fakher Daghestani, Communications Regional Director at Boeing
  • Ahmed Naguib, Founder and CEO at El Masna3
  • Hicham El Amrani, Managing Director at ACG Communication & Training Consulting
  • Alexander McNabb, Digital Media & Communications Consultant
  • Maya Hojeij, Senior Bulletin Editor & Presenter at Dubai Media Incorporated
  • Rasha Kashkoush, Head of Communications MENA at Facebook
  • Saad Al Rubaiaan, Government Communication Advisor
  • Leila Hatoum, Senior Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Newsweek ME
  • Angus MacCormick, Vice President of Emerging Markets at vArmour
  • Mamoon Sbeih, Managing Director – Arab Region at APCO Worldwide
  • Fadl El Tarzi, Chief Executive Officer at Socialeyez
  • Brandy Scott, Presenter at Dubai Eye
  • Jonathan Shillington, Managing Director at Grayling Middle East
  • Khaled Abdulla, Head of Corporate Communication at Barclays MENA
  • Mohamed Al Nuaimi, Chief Executive Officer at Mawarid Finance
  • Khaled Hassan, Digital Marketing Director at IBM
  • Fadi Salem, Research Fellow at Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government.

Disney makes new appointment

The Walt Disney Company has appointed Helen Pickerill to the role of Senior Communications Manager. With 10 years of experience in PR and communications, Helen was previously Account Director at Grayling Middle East. In her new role, she will oversee PR and communications activities for all of Disney’s lines of business in the MENA region, which includes studio, retail and channel activities.

“The Walt Disney Company is the world’s most powerful brand, yet uniquely remains one of the most beloved,” says Helen. “I’m proud to be joining the Disney team here in MENA in what’s set to be an exciting year for the company across the region.”


With the launch of the new industry event series, ‘Let’s Talk!’, TMN sits down with Mohammed El-Batta, Managing Director, Fekra Communications to find out more about what the industry can expect from the upcoming events…

Tell us a bit about Fekra Communications and your new event series.

Fekra Communications is a marketing communications consultancy offering communications and creative services to clients across the Middle East.

We’re launching a series of industry related events across the region under the title ‘Let’s Talk!’ that aims to bring together top communications and media experts, senior officials and policy makers to shed light on the hottest topics in the industry.

‘Let’s Talk!’ is designed to present today’s professionals with an expert perspective and learning opportunities on the latest trends. From preeminent thinkers whose work has defined the industry, to the rising stars who will redefine the way we think about business. It will provide a platform for the industry’s leading minds to share insights and best practices on how to protect an organisation’s reputation.

What inspired you to launch this new event series in the Middle East?

The Middle East is a highly diversified region where culture, media practices and expectations vary to a large degree. While the region hosts a growing number of talented professionals and experts with invaluable experience, unfortunately, this type of experience often goes undocumented. For that reason, we were inspired to launch this new franchise out of the need to connect the dots and fill in the gaps.

We believe that the best knowledge in any field is the knowledge accumulated first hand. One can read so many books, but we tend to learn better in an interactive environment. Learning also happens when one shares experiences and listens to different perspectives, via conversation.

We do not claim that our events focus on educating the media industry. Rather, we feel that there is a wealth of experience untapped and we’re stepping in to highlight it for everyone’s benefit. We learn from each other.

What will be the topic of discussion of the first series of events?

There will be an industry-specific topic for each event. The first series of events will focus on crisis communications. With the continuing evolution of communication platforms, news and word of mouth spread faster and even wilder than it used to a decade ago.

Today we live in a world where both government and corporate reputations are more fragile and where crises seem to be occurring more frequently. One of the biggest challenges for communication professionals is the early recognition of crises and how to successfully manage it using effective communication techniques.

‘Let’s Talk: Crisis Communications’ will bring together top communications and media experts, senior officials and policy makers to shed light on the right steps to take in a crisis and how to turn them into opportunities for exposure, marketing and enhancing corporate image. The conference will also be held in Cairo, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this year.

Can you give us details about your target market and audience?

Our target market is the UAE, the GCC region as well as Egypt and Levant. The targeted audience are communication professionals, whether in the government or corporate world. The event should bring together PR agencies, government officials, journalists, social media strategists and bloggers which makes an interesting mix for fruitful and invaluable discussions.

When and where will the first event of the series take place?

The first event will take place from March 8 – 9 in Dubai, The Address Hotel Dubai Mall. Registration is now open online through our website. We have two registration options: Day one conference only and two days conference + workshop training.

Please tell us about the speakers and presenters that will participate in ‘Let’s Talk!’?

We have a wide array of expert speakers from the corporate world, government, PR & digital agencies and consultants in addition to media.

Our list of speakers currently includes names from Boeing International, Facebook, Brunswick Group, Ogilvy PR, Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Authority, Grayling, Dubai TV, Newsweek ME, Dubai Eye, APCO Worldwide, Carma, Social Eyez, vArmour, DarkMatter, ACG Communication & Training Consulting, El Masna3, in addition to renowned government advisors and digital consultants.

We are constantly updating this list and still in the process of adding more speakers!

Can industry professionals of the region participate as speakers or presenters at the event?

Yes, of course, we welcome professionals from the region to come on board as speakers or presenters. You can email us and and tell us a bit about yourself and what you would like to speak about. Someone from the organising team will get in touch with you as soon as we receive the expression of interest.

Did you face any challenges while launching the event across four countries?

Not really, thanks to Fekra’s extensive network and partners, launching the event across the four countries has not been difficult. We look forward to seeing the events come to life one after another this year and the years to follow.

What is the reaction you expect by hosting these events?

We expect valuable sharing of knowledge, experience and best practices, intensive networking to take place, probably leading to the emerging of new business partnerships or cooperation between the attendees and most importantly, enhancing the experience of communications professionals and making an impact on the collective performance of the industry.

What does the future hold for ‘Let’s Talk!’?

Depending on the right market, topic and demand, we may consider other markets in the future.