In The Hot Seat – Rachael Perrett

We chat with Rachael Perret, Editor at Abu Dhabi World, who talks about her role and offers her thoughts on the media industry in the Middle East…

Name: Rachael Perrett

Age: 29

Nationality: British

Current job title: Editor, Abu Dhabi World

When did you first arrive in Abu Dhabi?
I arrived in Abu Dhabi in January 2007 on a gap year and never left.

Where did you work prior?
I’ve only ever worked in the UAE and have worked for What’s On and done freelance writing for Hello! Middle East, Good and BBC Good Food

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to compare it to as my journalism career started and has grown here. But I certainly had a shock when I changed career (from hospitality management) and moved into the world of journalism. For starters, I was amazed at the lack of communication in the industry (ironic, I know) and how often things here are organised or announced last minute. This is a real challenge for those of us in the media industry who have deadlines, but alas it’s part of the culture here so I’ve learned to accept it.

Tell us about your current role…
The role of Editor is new for me but I’m loving it. Abu Dhabi World is a community magazine – we are people living in Abu Dhabi, writing for other members in our community. It’s incredibly satisfying meeting so many people here who make this place so special and getting to share their stories with readers.

We have a really small team and producing a weekly publication sometimes feels like we’re on a hamster wheel as we send one edition to the printer and start all over again on the next one in the same breath.

As an Editor, I still get to do a bit of writing, which I love. I’m constantly planning future issues and supplements, attending press conferences and events and always trying to get out and explore so that I never lose touch with the city as it’s constantly changing.

What challenges do you face?

There’s so much going on in the city and so many people doing cool things. But many people aren’t forthcoming with information and there’s only so much we can do to dig up stories when we don’t always know where to look.

Then there are the usual challenges that I’m sure many managers, not just in the media industry, face – lack of resources, time constraints and budgets.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

You just do! We don’t have time to get writer’s block as we’re writing several features a day but of course, there are times when it happens. I go get fresh air first. Then if something really stumps me and I can’t figure out how to pull all the words together, I’ll talk about it with a friend or colleague. Sometimes it helps to say things out loud and just let the words roll off your tongue in a casual conversation rather than stress about how you want it to come across on paper. Then you’ll often find that it all suddenly makes sense and everything will just start flowing.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Meeting new people on a daily basis who are from totally different backgrounds with amazing stories to share. Sounds cliché but that’s essentially one of the beautiful things about living in Abu Dhabi.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

Will Smith rapping a press release!

What do you think of publications in the region?

I think the quality has really improved over the years and we’ve seen new publications introduced that have added healthy competition. I’d love to see more independent publishing houses here with local publications that could reflect the essence of UAE life.

What role has digital media played when it comes to reader engagement in the magazine industry?

Digital media is a really valuable tool for us that has allowed us to reach new audiences and interact more with our existing one. For a magazine, it means better feedback and being able to monitor areas where you can then implement changes in print as well.

That said, I like to call the digital world a minefield: you never know what’s going to happen and one wrong step could be disastrous. The challenge is to create interesting content that’s as fast-paced as our lives are today, but that still fits with your brand identity.

Everything changes when you enter the digital world. You’re no longer competing with other print publications in your town or country, you’re now competing with the giants for the attention of users who themselves sometimes don’t even know what they’re looking for. Digital media is a whole other ball game.

Has the region’s culture and diverse audience posed as a limitation or advantage in producing editorial content?

Both. For us, we have 82,000 copies a week and our demographic is vast. So catering to such a wide audience is a real challenge for obvious reasons. But then that’s also one of the advantages. The diverse culture here makes for great content and readers here always seem to be eager to find out more and celebrate the local culture.

What’s your pet PR peeve?
People sending me content about Dubai… Sorry guys but not everything revolves around Dubai.

Describe yourself in five words…

Organised, creative, passionate, sporty and a health-freak

Who inspires you?

My parents.

What’s your most overused saying?
No way!

Five things you can’t live without?
My horses, my cats, dark chocolate, green tea and water

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

An animal psychologist

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

I’d be pursuing my Olympic dreams! Or running a restaurant

What’s your favourite form of media?

Print. I will always love reading words on pages and flipping through from cover to cover.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in the media industry in the UAE?

Be willing to start at the bottom, don’t act like you know everything and always ask for and take on criticism to help you improve. I’ve seen too many people here who’ve studied journalism or media and come into the industry thinking they’ve got it all sussed – boy do they get a shock!

I got my foot in the door with an unpaid internship that lasted way longer than it should have or than I wanted it to, but I kept at it as it got me the experience I needed and I was working with such a great team who taught me much more than I potentially would have learned in a paid position with a less passionate and willing team.