Cracking great content in Dubai

Richard Boullemier, Producer, First and Ten Productions offers his thoughts on the content creation industry in the Middle East.

“The need to feed your social media platforms, market your business or product and keep fans and consumers coming back for more is vital for a successful business.”

Creating content is a lot like going to brunch. (Stay with me on this).

There are tonnes of brunches to choose from in the UAE. Some cheap and some, not so cheap. But ultimately, if you want a champagne product with a great experience, you get what your pay for.

Content has become the buzz word in marketing speak across the GCC, and with good reason. The need to feed your social media platforms, market your business or product and keep fans and consumers coming back for more is vital for a successful business.

Despite being an established production company, our daily battle revolves around clients claiming they have someone that will do it cheaper. Followed by the inevitable line… “Can you match this quote?”.

This used to make us question our prices, but quality content comes at a premium. “Pay cheap, pay twice” is a good rule of thumb. A lesson we have learned as a company is that if you don’t stick to your guns, you will end up working harder for less because you are too professional to hand-over a video that is not up to your usual standard.

If you want your brand to be heard in a competitive market, it’s important to invest in yourself.

My advice for forward-thinking business owners is to focus on the amount of deliverables that you can produce with the content, rather than looking at it as a one off transaction.

If we film for a day, two days or a week, that content SHOULD be used in numerous ways to drive greater awareness of your brand. Our job doesn’t end when we turn the cameras off. The edit suite is where the magic happens. Just ask our friends at Arabian Adventures – who have been our main clients for the last three years – and they constantly dip into the huge bank of content to continually wow their clients and market their services across the globe.

So build that bank of content. You never know when that light bulb idea will happen and you wish you had the footage that could be edited into something amazing.

Content works in numerous ways and has multiple forms, so make sure you’re creating content that is relevant to your source market.

By all means, smash that 199 Dirham brunch. But if you’re trying to impress someone – you’re gonna need to dust off the credit card. And don’t try to bring your own plates to reduce the price.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cheap and cheerful. But be prepared for a killer headache.

Marching into 2018 with the right PR mindset

Frederic Montin, CEO, Majlis PR & Events, touches on the PR/communications industry in 2018 and offers his thoughts on market trends…

It’s traditional to look to the New Year with hope and optimism, however, as communication and PR professionals, we cannot ignore the high tide we could encounter this year.

“The holidays are over and we are truly back to reality. With 2017 technically in the rearview mirror, I think this is a good time to sit down and share with you all the market trends, which could have the greatest impact on the PR Industry this year.”

Nothing is better than a good PR Story for your brand

Irrespective of the thousands of trends in our industry, to market and publicise your brand, a good PR story will always help one prevail long term. My intensive experience in this industry has helped me understand that a brand is best marketed through public relations. Your audience will know you and it will stay only through PR.

Finding new life in the fading press release is crucial

In the last few years, owing to the stiff competition from digital techniques, press releases have not been so effective in earning quality media share. This being said and with me being from the old-school PR generation, there’s always a way to bring new life to the ‘press release.’ As I say, “don’t give up, but reinvent.”

In 2018, video will stand as the most powerful tool of the year

Even in the last year, some of the most powerful PR campaigns have incorporated videos into them. The logic behind this is simple. Graphs, bars and numbers are not enough to grab the audience’s attention. People love to see, feel and understand the information you are sharing. It is important to help more clients understand the need for video content marketing.

Social message driven campaigns could kill the brand or make it stronger

Let’s be honest, there are tons of strong messages, groups and campaigns online covering intense, as well as worldly issues of climate change, immigration, child labour, etc. In the past several years, big brands have decided to take up multiples of these topics for use in corporate social responsibility (CSR) or simple sequence repeat (SSR) campaigns. Historically speaking, it would never be a good idea to be dragged into social-political drama, but today you cannot stay out of it. This has two sides to the coin, it can either backfire on your brand or help it increase the credibility of your brand. In the end, as navigators of communication, it is part of our job to help drive these issues in the right direction.

As the CEO of Majlis PR & Events based in this wonderful, historic city of Dubai, I have witnessed a variety of PR trends come and go in the MENA region. This only motivates me to say, ”take control of your communications plan. If we work hard now, we won’t merely be reacting to these trends, we could be the ones formulating them.”


The Road Ahead For AR And VR In Marketing

Sunil Kumar Singh, Managing Editor at Mediaquest Corp touches on the use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in the Middle East’s marketing industry…

“There’s a lot of noise on whether the disruptive digital technologies, namely Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are just another buzzword bandwagon or are they something marketers should actually be paying attention to.”

Before I go deeper into it, let’s get a quick overview of what exactly AR and VR are. In plain terms, VR is an immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality that offers consumers a 360-degree digital environment in a 3D world. This is most commonly experienced through specialised glasses or head-mounted displays.

AR, on the other hand, refers to the integration of the real-world environment that is augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated images or sensory input such as sound, video or graphics. While VR offers a more immersive experience, AR lets users experience the world around them and adds additional digital elements. A widely known example of this technology is the Pokémon GO application.

Improving customer journey

Many of the most valuable brands globally have created some form of virtual or augmented reality experience for their customers or employees. The AR/VR ecosystem is being used by brands to deploy new experiences and thus to improve the customer journey.

IKEA, for instance, has deployed AR technology in its marketing strategy by developing a table as part of its concept kitchen that suggests recipes based on the ingredients on the table.

Beauty specialist Sephora, leverages AR allowing customers to see what they might look like with different shades of lipsticks or types of eyelashes before they actually buy the product.

Some time back, Mercedes had deployed 360-degree VR in its marketing strategy by showing off its latest SL model with a virtual drive on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Many other automobile brands, such as Ford, Volvo, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Porsche, KIA, Lexus, Chevrolet and Honda too have been using these technologies not only in designing their cars, through these technologies, potential buyers can check out the latest models or test drive the cars.

Travel and tour operators to are applying VR to immerse potential travellers into destinations. Expedia for instance, is bringing the VR technology into the booking experience that will enable travellers to use VR to choose the right hotel room for them.

Enriching brand experience

Immersive technologies such as AR and VR can be the new gold standard for brand experiences. While the focus of VR is on experiences and emotional engagement, AR is more commonly used for product trial and utility. In both cases, they can create fully immersive environments as well as deeper brand associations in the minds of consumers.

In case of the retail sector for instance, AR and VR offer a number of solutions for customers. For one, they allow customers to make more informed buying decisions as they visit stores, which can increase the buyer conversion rate. AR/VR offer retailers many solutions such as pre-plan shopping trips, brand differentiation, information delivery, in-store engagement, product customisation, experiential product activation, group entertainment experiences, live streamed VR lectures and events, virtual stores and at-home try-on and training workshops, among others.

So far so good, It’s safer to conclude that both VR and AR have the potential to offer viable ways for brands to engage emotionally with consumers as well as to help brands increase ROI. While brands in many industries are gradually waking up to new opportunities, a full-scale mass adaptation of these technologies is still far away.

However, as consumer expectations are evolving, in order for brands to leverage such technologies for the fullest advantage, these technologies must be implemented strategically with pre-defined marketing objectives. The application of AR/VR must establish an emotional connection with consumers not only to enhance a consumer’s brand experience, but also strengthen brand loyalty and drive social media engagement. Or else, AR/VR risk ending up as a mere entertainment tool.

After all, staying relevant has always been harder for technologies!

Why mediocre content suggests a mediocre product or service

Alex Ionides, Managing Director at Silx, tells TMN what he thinks about mediocre content and why it suggests a mediocre product or service…

“Writing involves a lot of work. Getting your message across with the impact you want means lots of time researching, re-reading, tweaking, reordering, cutting – and sometimes starting over because, well, that idea just didn’t work.”

In the age of content marketing, where informative, journalistic content makes up the vast majority of your overall content production, it is important for you to know what makes for great writing – whether you personally contribute to the writing efforts or not.

There is a ton of digital marketing content out there that is pretty low in quality, partly due to the rush to get it out without having the infrastructure in place to do it properly. Many companies rely on senior staff to contribute articles alongside their regular job, with the result that a good deal of the content produced lacks focus and depth and reads like an afterthought that was knocked out in a hurry – which it often is.

This is a problem because the association between your content and your company offering is direct. If you’re producing content that is of mediocre quality, your audience may subconsciously come to the conclusion that your products and services must also be mediocre.

The converse, however, gives us plenty to smile about. Good content is good for your sales and for your personal reputation. So how can you make sure your digital marketing is delivering great content every time?

Here are five hallmarks of a great content that you have to keep in mind:

It is relevant to your audience

For B2B in particular, relevance comes from producing content that will help your audience do their job better, reduce costs for their company, increase revenue, improve efficiencies and so on. So to ensure your content is consistently relevant, you need to have the right frameworks in place for generating strong content ideas. At Silx we use a few different frameworks during our content idea generation workshops, including problem-solution, sales cycle and past content review.

It illuminates

There is a difference between simply passing on information and illuminating it in a way that readers understand. Good writers anticipate what information their readers want and what questions they are likely to ask. As you write, you introduce concepts that may prompt more questions ­— make sure you give that complete story by ensuring all the essential questions are answered.

It is well-researched

In the digital age we have incredible resources at our disposal, some of them more reliable than others. Once you become familiar with your subject area you will know which sources to trust and which to approach with caution. Whatever the length of the article, your work should be grounded in strong intelligence and data.

It is logical

A good piece of content presents its argument in a way that flows and builds. To ensure this logical flow, there is usually a lot of restructuring and cutting. Think about the order in which you present your concepts and the flow of logic from one point to the next. The entire article should move from title to last word in a manner that takes the reader on a clear journey.

It is a great read

This is something that is often overlooked. You can put all the facts, stats and logic into your piece but if it’s dull to read then it won’t hit home. The ability to hold an audience develops with practice but it is also governed by your attitude. Allow your personality to show through, offer personal insights and opinion, but always make sure that any claims are accurate.

It is a collective effort

While the writing process may seem like a one-person show, that is far from the truth when it comes to content marketing. Finding good writers who can cover your industry topics at an expert level is just the start. Add to that an infrastructure of content planners/strategists as well as editors who together ensure each piece is on message and contributes to your overall content marketing strategy.

Cutting corners on any part of the writing process will weaken the final article. Yes, it is a lot of work and sometimes underappreciated by others inside the company — but if your focus is on giving your audience the quality they deserve, your satisfaction will come directly from them in the form of positive feedback and the money they ultimately spend on your products and services.

Go digital or rest in print!

Leah Simpson, Senior Editor, POPSUGAR Middle East, talks with TeamTMN on why she thinks it’s time, now, more than ever to pave your way into online journalism and offers advice on how to make the transition.

Saying that it’s time to delve into a digital career is not something I imagined I would still be doing in 2017, after spending years working in the UK and US, and watching the markets embrace the necessary changes as consumption habits shifted towards the Internet. Still, almost a decade after starting my career in online journalism, it’s no secret that the UAE has been slower on the uptake and while, yes, the country’s buying habits may differ from others, it’s important that those with experience mainly in traditional media, embrace the new.

“Still, almost a decade after starting my career in online journalism, it’s no secret that the UAE has been slower on the uptake and while, yes, the country’s buying habits may differ from others, it’s important that those with experience mainly in traditional media, embrace the new.”

With print publication closures and team resources being shrunk (even on those that were comparatively very small to begin with), many have found themselves accepting web-based roles sooner than they thought. For those who are apprehensive about taking the leap, here are three big tips I would give to people making the transition.

Forget the rules

Many of the things you’ll see in print do not apply when publishing on the world wide web. So forget what you were taught and get ready to embrace a different way of writing. For example, with headlines, the main concern is writing something that fits into a space and sounds nice, like a play on words or alliteration. You have got to make sure your post is search engine optimised (using key words that people commonly type into their browsers so people can find what they’re looking for), at the same time with an interesting angle as well as informative.

Unlike in a print publication where the readership is more loyal and may have already made the decision to buy before even reaching the newsstand, there’s constant competition with websites to win the reader’s love among the endless choice of similar URLs out there. In a sense, stories featured on search engine pages could be compared to front covers on busy supermarket shelves, the headline and preview picture have to stand out or you face losing website visits and page views to competitors, of which, unlike print publications, the number is limitless.

Time is everything

In print there are daily, weekly, monthly deadlines but when it comes to online, the pressure is constantly there to cover what’s relevant to your brand and publish it in a timely manner. While it’s true that publications have loyal reader bases that come directly to the site to consume stories in a way that resonates with them, if what they need is not there when they want it, loyalty wanes.

Unless you’re lucky enough to work for a brand with teams on different times zones or big enough to work night shifts, it means, the traditional sense of “office hours” are thrown out the window as you prepare yourself to work from practically any space with an Internet connection, which can be both a blessing and a curse as it frees you from being bound to an office chair but technically, your work is never done.

The whole world is your critic…

In real time, online readers can easily track you down if they disagree with something you have written or notice a mistake. So as well as the pressure to impress your manager, prepare for your every word to be scrutinised by anyone on the planet with internet access.

The comments section on articles and social media may become your worst enemy if you find it difficult to take criticism in the public forum, some not constructive. While it can be a great way to keep the conversation going and get opinions on your piece, sometimes the comments section can become the story itself and if what people are saying isn’t constructive, you’ll have to learn to develop a thick skin. It seems people are more likely to voice a negative opinion rather than a positive one, so when you find yourself in the awkward spot of reading negative responses about your writing, take onboard what is reasonable but shrug off the rest as chances are there’s plenty more where that came from.

Is traditional media’s biggest strength also its bane?

Ravi Raman, Senior Vice President at Khaleej Times touches on the state of traditional media in the Middle East today, what they are doing wrong and what the newsroom of the future should look like…

“Journalists generated and reported on their communities, but could not be part of it – however, social media has changed all that from the way news is sourced to the way it is consumed today.

As consumers evolve, so does their expectations of brands – and with purchase decisions becoming more deliberate and value driven, brands need to constantly meet these expectations. Consumers are starting to seek more information on how the goods are produced. They are beginning to ask conscious questions like; is the brand ethically sourced and produced? Is it environment friendly? Or does it have social values? Consumers are expecting alignment of brand values with their own, so why should media be treated differently?

For a long time news media has operated in a walled newsroom with a clear separation between ‘church and state’ and even readers. With objectivity and independence, they practiced their profession in a ‘just the facts’ environment. Journalists generated and reported on their communities, but could not be part of it – however, social media has changed all that from the way news is sourced to the way it is consumed. News media is constantly mutating and evolving, forcing mainstream media organisations to pay attention. The internet is changing the news and in many cases bypassing the professional reporter.

Computers also play a key role in the media industry today as they are doing what traditional journalists used to do, like compiling stock reports, filing company announcements, reporting sports results and even weather and travel news bulletins. These used to be an integral part of traditional news, but are now automated and available online on a real time basis. Also, content aggregating platforms are now encroaching on the territory of publishers by influencing story selection and placement.

Citizen journalism, which started out as a public engagement has also gained enormous popularity in the media industry. Social networking platforms have given consumers the ability to transmit information globally, which has tilted the balance of power today. Not being bound by journalistic standards and norms has actually made these citizen journalists, whom are youtubers, bloggers or social media influencers more powerful. It could be argued that they voice opinions rather than truth however, citizen journalists are playing a vital role in news media, being present on the ground where a professional journalists cannot be. Traditional media is using social platforms for crowdsource comments, pictures, videos, insights and story ideas. It is also using it as an engagement tool, seeking readers to spend more time online and making them more valuable to advertisers. But is that enough?

Newsrooms today need to adopt a wall-less or virtual model, where readers are partners in the news conversation, not just passive consumers. So what should the newsrooms of the future look like?

Firstly, it would be made up of several tech savvy, socially connected journalists, who are capable, equipped and most importantly empowered to report, write and file stories on the fly. Better connectivity, artificial intelligence, analytics and easy access to social platforms will allow reporters to go beyond reporting and offer detailed analysis, as well as context and expert opinions on events as they happen. With smarter tagging, intuitive archival and retrieval systems they would be able to stitch together perspectives, links and inferences.

Secondly, the funnel approach of stories being filed, vetted, fact-checked, proofread, edited and then finally approved to be published will either be short-cycled or completely eliminated. Story filing deadlines are already disappearing with news and reports being on a continuous loop. Consumers today want to see and not be told, so video journalism is the new frontier, which requires a whole new scripting and storyboarding technique to ensure the story not only engages and entertains the audience, but is shared too.

The adoption of this newsroom of the future will require a large degree of trust and training. Publishers will have the fear of losing control of their title with copy errors and even fake news creeping in. However, the new reality is that readers are demanding faster, better and more engaging content – and a dynamic, fluid newsroom is the only solution that can deliver that.

In all honesty…

Tanaz Dizadji, Founder and CEO of insydo talks to TMN about biased content and how ‘undercover’ reviews make for honest opinions…

“Press releases are like the tip of an iceberg and honest opinions come from exploring beneath the surface of every business.”

People are savvy and know the difference between impartial content and everything else out there and this was the main reason I decided to launch an authentic digital guide for residents and tourists of the city. To accomplish this, we felt we needed to spend a year in ‘stealth mode’ before officially launching, testing numerous businesses undercover, completely off the marketing community’s radar.

Undercover reviews across several categories result in a trust-worthy opinion on Dubai’s top businesses and services. I believe Dubai is craving honest and independent content and to produce completely impartial and unbiased content, freebies are an absolute no-no. This will ensure that the reviewer does not get influenced by any external factors and voices his/her true opinion on the product or service experienced. Working incognito to assess every featured business – whether that is a dining spot or the services of a painter, allows for authentic opinions based on the same treatment that any regular customer would receive and this is an aspect that should never be compromised, no matter what.

People respond strongly to unbiased recommendations because they trust them. Giving readers and users an all-round holistic review that highlights the good and bad aspects of an experience as well as tips on how to get the most out of a each business, allows them to filter their search and identify a place, product or service that best suits their needs.

Another key factor for fair reviews, particularly when your scope includes different categories of businesses, is to ensure that each one is judged in comparison with other contenders in the same field and supported by relevant KPIs (key performance indicators). After all, you can’t compare a food truck to a fine-dining restaurant. By determining the right KPIs for each category, the reviewer is able to assess every business in a fair manner and benchmark it against the competition.

Testing out every business is a vigorous process that requires time and attention to detail, so it is challenging, especially if one does not rely on press releases for reviews. Press releases are like the tip of an iceberg and honest opinions come from exploring beneath the surface of every business.

A question that I get asked the most is, “How do you decide what to include amongst the city’s best?” In a city as dynamic and diverse as Dubai, sifting through a mountain of choice is no easy task. It is physically impossible to list every business or service in the city – we’ve only got emoji-heart-eyes for the top contenders. Impressions matter most when shortlisting businesses and services for an anonymous first-hand review. It is essential to always stay informed – whether through traditional media, word-of-mouth recommendations, social listening, search volume data and most importantly, consumer feedback, comments and rating. Many of the city’s favourites tend to fly under the radar, in spite of high quality standards and a fiercely loyal customer base. Dubai is an ever-changing city with people that are strongly influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations, which should play a key role in how you explore.

So, how does a business make the cut? Hunting down the top contenders in every field, without the influence of marketers, brand managers and PRs, requires a lot of filtering. While I am open to PRs and marketers pitching their businesses and clients for reviews, I don’t guarantee acceptance to every business. There should be a vetting process and only businesses that make the cut are tested out incognito. Even in cases where featured businesses wish to secure more exposure through our platform, the original review is never tampered with. Once a business has been selected, anonymously tested and featured, brands are allowed to add digital content to their existing page. This feature gives brands the opportunity to market themselves without influencing the authenticity of the review.

I believe in giving the residents of Dubai a complete picture of what to expect and a true reflection of what people love most about the city, and I think the best way to do that is to put an end to freebies and half-honest opinions.

Is your press release lacking interactive content?

Josh Baker, Business Development Specialist at markettiers discusses the increased need of video content and how to generate maximum engagement through a press release…

“It is not enough to just use carefully curated video content, without using a press release. The two pieces of content should complement each other and give the end user both options of a visual experience as well as a simulating read simultaneously.”

Since we launched our Dubai offices, roughly four years ago, PR in the Middle East and more specifically the UAE has considerably changed and undergone intense evolution.

A few years ago, the marketplace was heavily dominated by agencies winning PR retainers and projects with clients almost on a one-pronged approach. PR plans were dominated by a series of press releases as part of the output and many agencies were (and still are) tasked with delivering a minimum number of press release content as part of their scope of work. Typically, there were not as many people accompanying this with video content.

Placing video content and live streams along with a strongly worded press release ensures that an agency’s PR strategy is as broad and engaging as possible, while capturing a wider and more targeted audience.

In today’s world, audiences like to read content that is accompanied by stimulating videos, as is very evident with the recent growth of visual social media channels. They enjoy and get more involved with a brand through textual information that is paired with interactive video content, giving them the most hedonic, energetic and emotional experience.

This does not mean that written content is dead or is even fizzling out. In fact, we always say to our clients that it is not enough to just use carefully curated video content, without using a press release. The two pieces of content should complement each other and give the end user both options of a visual experience as well as a simulating read simultaneously.

Each video produced to go along with a press release should be strategically thought out and curated, so the finished product is not interpreted as an advertorial piece. The video needs to fit with the news agenda and should be carefully developed to include statistics and figures that will play along as the press release reads.

So why do clients like seeing news worthy video content? Their target audiences can visualise the product or services and also because media outlets are happy to feature video content – If you look at most stories now on websites, you’ll find plenty of video content. Websites like it because it increases dwell time on their site, which in turn means they can charge advertises more to have their banner ads displayed for increased engagement and a longer lasting impact. Most clients today like to see their product or service in both written and video content format.

Video content creation should always have a flexible approach. Having worked with government entities and corporate clients as well as consumer brands in the past, we have learnt that each client has different needs and content creation should always be in sync with the brand’s goals.

When working with broadcasters, video content gets the editor listening to you. They are more drawn towards your news and it builds their interest to work around your proposal to best suit their agenda. If well written and well shot, more times than not, the article will get featured and produced in the right manner.

Your social media reputation actually counts!

Jeremy Nicholls, Group Business Development Manager at MCG Group, talks about how social media platforms have evolved to become an integral part of how candidates portray themselves…

“Personal branding is paramount in the digital age to ensure you are giving off the right impression. Make sure you are happy with yours.”

In the eight years that I have been recruiting, the industry has changed and evolved in many ways, especially in the use of social media to advertise jobs, promote your brand and headhunt suitable candidates for vacancies. When I started recruiting in 2009, Facebook had 200 million users and compared to its current level (1.7 billion), was very much in its infancy. Linkedin was even smaller at 40 million (now 106 million), Twitter was just a toddler at three years old and Snapchat hadn’t even hit the online shelves of the app store.

In today’s digital world we are far more connected and accessible then ever before. Social media has its supporters as well as its detractors, but no one can deny that it has made the world smaller by allowing us to interact with people we historically didn’t get the chance to. It also encourages us to promote ‘brand me’ and if done correctly can have some great benefits on a professional level.

If managed incorrectly however, it can lead to embarrassment (pictures of those cringe-worthy 90’s haircuts) or even disaster with many reports of people losing their jobs based on social media faux pas’.

In my current position, I meet a lot of clients, I always try to be as prepared as possible ahead of meeting someone new and one of the first things I do is review their Linkedin profile − I’d be lying if I said I don’t look them up on Facebook too. I try to find out about the person (do we have any mutual connections, where are they from, where did they study, what are their interests) so I can discover common grounds to help me build rapport and develop a good relationship. Your social media profiles are the ‘you’ you decide to show the digital world. When you are in the situation of looking for a new job the important question to ask yourself is, ‘Is this how I want to project myself to a potential future employer?’

I’m a firm believer of ‘first impressions mean a lot’, when starting any relationship, be it personal or professional. If a potential employer’s first impression of you is based on the ‘digital’ you, it’s crucial that you are comfortable with how you present yourself and it’s suitable for the job or career of your choice. A wise person once said ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and your profile picture can tell a story all on it’s own. What we are never able to control is another person’s opinion, what we can control is how we manage that opinion: is a picture of you in fancy dress at the Rugby 7’s a suitable image you wish to promote? It may well be, depending on industry, etc. but it could also be taken the wrong way.

Employment itself in many ways has become more casual − this can be seen in dress code (remember the power suits in Mad Men?), flexible hours and home working. But what is important to remember is when a company employs us, we represent them as an ambassador of their brand.

When applying for a position, know the company. Does it have the sort of culture that represents something which will engage you and allow you to thrive? Do your research, look at its website and social media accounts (if any) and try to speak to people who work there now or in the past. If you think it looks right for you, consider the way your social media accounts present you and whether your digital appearance is in line with the company. Your picture, your groups, your posts. All of these things can potentially be taken into consideration for your application. Most recruitment agencies would be able to help advise you on how to best present yourself, while keeping the said client in mind.

If you are active on Linkedin (which I recommend), ask former colleagues or clients for recommendations, which will act as additional references for you. Put plenty of detail into your profile, consider it as an extension of your CV. Never be afraid to add your hobbies and interests. All of these are an insight into you outside of work and shows you as a real person.

In 2017 it’s important to remember your social media reputation actually counts! When you apply for a job, employers have the ability to look you up online. Personal branding is paramount in the digital age to ensure you are giving off the right impression. Make sure you are happy with yours.

2016 – Rise of the boutique agency

Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, Founder and Managing Director of TishTash, talks to TMN about the rise of the boutique agency and the new culture in the PR business…

“Whilst many of the big global agencies are reporting one of their worst years ever in 2016, boutique agencies such as ours are reporting record growth…”

When I started my career, some 18 years ago, the agency world order went something like this: Fortune 500 brands were matched up by global agencies with offices across the world − brands who could not afford global agencies would team up with mid-size agencies with key market presence and small, boutique agencies would cater mainly to local businesses and the very occasional big brand projects.

What a difference a decade has made! Five years ago, when I set up TishTash, the order was starting to crumble. And today, big brands are increasingly making the move from the ‘titans of the industry’, with established local offices and vast resources, to startups. So, whilst many of the big global agencies are reporting one of their worst years ever in 2016, boutique agencies such as ours are reporting record growth of over 50% year on year, as well as a doubling in team and office space.

To me, this is not at all baffling. It’s a reflection of the evolving industry and environment at the present: clients’ appetite for social media, influencer partnerships, SEO and content creation is high, and whilst they may not move as fast as they’d like or need to, they certainly expect that their partner agency does.

In my view, at this point in time, a boutique agency presents several intrinsic qualities that can turn it into the right partner for a big, global brand.

The skill set

First off, I feel that today the divide between marketing, media, social and public relations is blurred. Moreover, clients are looking for a communications partner that has all these expertise (and then some) in one room, and knows exactly how to optimise it to their brand’s benefit. Most boutique agencies in the region handle everything (beyond the regular PR scope) from crisis management and media training to media lists and pitching, and even stuffing goodie bags at events. We can prep the CEO for his big broadcast interview and we know what it takes to pitch to Gulf News or Zahrat Al Khaleej. We can assess the timeline for campaigns and the expected results, or the likelihood of collaborating with an influencer. We can do it all, because we do it daily. This mix of strategic thinking and hands-on, practical knowledge makes our workflow better than in most other agency setups, and importantly, drives greater results for our clients.

The client approach

In our agency, for example, we focus only on getting the job done, well and fast. This focus is a necessity. With a small team and lean structure, we can’t fill our day with status meetings. This approach works for clients too as they like to partner with someone who gets their business, is quick to respond and can deal with a myriad of tasks.

Growing solely by word of mouth and referrals, it turns out that size matters less and less even to the biggest of the clients. What they value most is the team they deal with daily. They value knowledge, honesty and passion. That’s not to say that it’s not tricky to scale up to carry out a global assignment!

The culture

I believe that a smaller agency’s culture defines itself quickly, from the fabric of the founder and the core team. Boutique agencies such as ours encourage young individuals to hone their skills in PR in a fun and nurturing environment as well as give the team an opportunity to learn first-hand the ins and outs of running a business. That’s why for us being knowledgeable, hardworking, resourceful, entrepreneurial, open and honest are not empty words.

The team

With a small but strong team, the workflow is direct and effective: there’s no room for things to get miscommunicated or fall through the cracks. Also, a smaller work place fosters a tight knit team that works smarter, faster, better. Clients of all sizes value a fast moving, seasoned and dedicated team that works at their side.


I don’t have a crystal ball to foresee the future of PR agencies, but based on my experience of running one in the last five years, I think a new culture is shaping up, and we should get ready for even more transformations and disruptions ahead.