Weber Shandwick makes structural changes 

Communications agency, Weber Shandwick has made structural changes to its senior management team. Ghaleb Zeidan has been promoted to the role of UAE Managing Director. With over 16 years of experience in the communications industry, Ghaleb most recently held the role of Managing Director of the agency’s Abu Dhabi office. In his new role, Ghaleb will handle operations for both Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices while overseeing the agency’s growth in the UAE and MENA region.

Rachel Dunn has been promoted to the role of Deputy Managing Director in the Dubai office. With over 10 years of experience within the agency, Rachel most recently held the role of VP, Client Experience and will lead the Dubai team while helping their clients transform the marcomms landscape.

Weber Shandwick will also see the promotion of Noura Al-Sarraj to the role of Deputy Managing Director for the Abu Dhabi office. With over 14 years of experience in the agency, Noura most recently worked with the agency where she held the role of VP and Head of Social Impact and Consumer. In her new role, she will lead the Abu Dhabi team while assisting to increase the agency’s growth in the MENA region.

“After a very successful tenure leading our Abu Dhabi office, it gives me great pleasure to announce Ghaleb’s promotion to UAE MD,” says Ziad Hasbani, MENA CEO, Weber Shandwick. “Over the last eight years, Ghaleb has achieved great results, and under his leadership our Abu Dhabi office has grown to become one of the leading agencies in the market. Ghaleb has shown himself to be a very capable leader, and as our industry continues to evolve, I have no doubt he will drive our UAE operation and keep us ahead of the market in terms of offering, efficiency and client focus. I’m very happy to see Noura and Rachel taking leadership roles as they have both proved themselves, each in their own way, and I’m confident they will add great value.”

Shortlist for Young PR Lions MENA 2018 announced

PRCA MENA has released the shortlist for this year’s Young PR Lions MENA competition to find the best young PR professional in the region. Eight teams have been shortlisted to win the accolade this year and one of them will be heading to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to take part in the international competition from June 17 – 21, 2018. The shortlisted teams include BPG Cohn & Wolfe, Edelman, Golin MENA, Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Q Communications and Weber Shandwick.

On March 19, the shortlisted teams will be asked to deliver a five minute presentation explaining their PR campaign and the winning team will be announced on March 20.

In The Hot Seat – Nicole Suter

Team TMN sits with Nicole Suter, Managing Director of Djembe Communications, offers her thoughts on the role of digital media and the PR industry in the Middle East…

Name: Nicole Suter

Nationality: Swiss

Age: 38

Current job title: Managing Director, Djembe Communications

When did you first arrive in Dubai?


Where did you work prior?

I previously worked at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Switzerland and in the UAE, I worked as Account Manager at Golin Harris, Communications Manager at Legatum, Account Director at Weber Shandwick and most recently held the role of Regional Director EMEA at Djembe Communications.

What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East?

That it is an interesting, multi-facetted industry where someone like me who started out fresh could learn a lot.

Has your opinion changed much?

No, not at all. I think with the Middle East and particularly Dubai, becoming an international hub, it is more important than ever for organisations, both local and international ones, to focus on their reputation and communications. Which is why I think this industry remains very interesting and challenging.

Tell us about your current role

I am leading an international team across offices in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. My role is very diverse in that I strategically advise clients, drive our growth by generating new business leads and ensure we as a consultancy offer our clients best in class capabilities and expertise. It is very exciting for me to interact with a team of drummers with local expertise in UAE, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the USA.

What challenges do you face?

The challenges of entering and setting up a business in the Middle East or any region for that matter, are manifold and range from understanding the culture, approach to business and becoming familiar with procedures, processes and key stakeholders. It was imperative for us to understand the market and adapt our market entry strategy accordingly to ensure we have a successful start to our operations in the Middle East.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Witnessing every day how such a diverse team of people can deliver great work.

How would you rather be contacted at work?

Through email, phone, our website or social media channels. Our channels of communication vary and are always open.

Has user-generated content taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the Middle East?

Megabrands and smaller companies alike are harnessing the power of user-generated content by mobilising their audiences in social sharing, both on and offline. I would not say it has taken over yet but it has definitely added great value and created another reference point for consumers today.

Has the Middle East’s diverse audience posed as a challenge or advantage in PR today?

I think it is a challenge in that we as communicators need to make sure we address this diversity, so it is a positive challenge and an advantage at the same time for brands to speak to various stakeholder groups.

What role has digital media played in redefining the relationship between PR professionals, journalists and bloggers?

Digital media has become very important and a source of information, news and opinions that is readily available and spreads globally within a very short period of time. Smartphone penetration is incredible. It has brought a new dynamic to the communications industry and key actors. We have seen that African companies are increasingly adopting social media as a tool for business growth and, supported by increasingly reliable broadband infrastructure, it is becoming a core part of the innovation eco-system. That eco-system also includes a nascent app and web development industry. Collectively we are seeing the growth of an exciting new digital age in Africa that is proving to be attractive to the region’s young population and creative minds.

How would you describe yourself at work?

Focused, driven, organised but also in need of a laugh once in a while

What inspires you?

I can’t name one thing, it is often the unexpected – a different opinion or view for instance, that inspires me to think or act differently.

What’s your most overused saying?

‘We need a plan’ and ‘Let’s get the job done’.

What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?

There are many but overall, I would say the exciting places my work has taken me to over the years.

Five things you can’t live without?

Definitely, my two sons, the rest is materialistic and shouldn’t be so essential.

If you could have one work wish granted, what would it be?

Shortening travel times to a few minutes.

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

I would have loved to have been a criminologist or profiler.

What’s your favorite form of media?

As communicators, we have to consider all channels, always. I access news on my tablet as I’m always on the go and depend largely on social media for latest news. I also depend on TV while at the airport waiting to board.

How do you see the PR industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?

Clients have embraced digital and we have fewer clients giving us traditional briefs. Digital and social media continue to prove essential channels for brands looking to engage with their highly connected audiences. We have also noticed that clients are looking at consultancies to advise them on campaign PR as opposed to regular one-time activity or solutions. In terms of professionalism I think we can always do more. Evaluation is still to come of age, but again the inclusion of social and digital elements, including paid media, into many mandates is starting to finally force through the changes we needed to all see in this area too. We have also seen that the importance and impact of online influencers have grown and will keep growing, however there will be more emphasis placed on ROI, measurement and earned equity. With the Middle East and Dubai continuing to become a regional and international hub, the industry will also become more sophisticated and adapt international best practices even more.

BPG Cohn & Wolfe makes senior appointments

BPG Cohn & Wolfe has made three new appointments following the expansion plan of its corporate and technology practice. Hala Sarieddine has taken on the role of Account Director having previously worked with Weber Shandwick and most recently with Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Also appointed to the role of Account Director is Ajith Henry who has experience in handling financial services clients and previously worked with APCO as well as ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller.

Mara Carpencu joins the team as Associate Account Director having previously worked with Active DMC, where she worked across integrated communications campaigns for international B2B and B2C clients she brings with her experience in communications and events.

In their new role, they will join the senior management team at BPG Cohn & Wolfe and build the current client portfolio of the agency, which includes KPMG, HMD Global – the home of Nokia phones, Booz Allen Hamilton and Omantel. They will also deliver innovative solutions to build, protect and enhance the brand value of the agency’s clients.

“We are excited to welcome Hala, Ajith and Mara to our team,”says Ketaki Banga, Business Director, Corporate and Technology, BPG Cohn & Wolfe. “Our technology and corporate practice has grown to over 16 accounts in the past three years and we credit this success to the entrepreneurial culture encouraged at every level in the BPG Group.”

New appointments at Total Communications

Dubai-based PR agency, Total Communications has made new additions to its team. Hanae Ouakrime, who had started her career with Total Communications in 2011, before moving to Weber Shandwick as Senior Account Manager in 2014, has re-joined the agency as Account Director. Amii Cumming, previously Communications Officer with the National Health Service (UK) will take on the role of Digital Communications Manager.

“I am excited to be back home,” says Hanae. “Six years ago, Total Communications offered me the opportunity to enter the big PR world in one of the most competitive and prestigious markets and today, I am back, looking forward to re-joining the team and contributing to the growth of the company across the region.”

Amii adds, “I am delighted to be joining the Total Communications family and working across a diverse collection of clients. My background in digital communications will help to bolster services provided by the agency as we continue to evolve through the digital climate.”


Weber Shandwick wins at MENA Young Lions

PRCA announces Weber Shandwick as the winners of the MENA Young Lions Competition for their ‘#spareoneminuteforchange’ campaign. The second year of the competition held by PRCA saw teams create an effective campaign as per a brief given by Dubai Cares. Sponsored by ICCO, the team, Angelina Hedra and Viviana Villasmil will get to represent the region at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity that will take place from June 17 – 24, 2017.

“We are absolutely delighted that Angelina and Viviana were selected by the PRCA to represent Middle East PR industry at the Young Lions Competition this summer,” says Andreas Keller, Managing Director, Weber Shandwick MENA. “We’ve had many Weber Shandwick teams take part in this competition over the last two years as it provides an excellent platform for young PR professionals to experience the realities of developing integrated campaigns for clients in a pressured environment. Producing Cannes Lions award winning work is something that all agencies aspire to do. This will undoubtedly be a very memorable and enriching experience for both consultants.”

PRCA MENA announces award winners

PRCA MENA has announced the winners of its inaugural awards ceremony that took place on February 08, 2017. Hosted at the H Hotel Dubai, the awards ceremony honoured and recognised individuals, teams and campaigns from the PR and communications industry across the Middle East and North Africa.

Winners included Q Communications for Best B2C Campaign, Weber Shandwick for Best B2B Campaign, Volkswagen for Best Influencer Relations, Instinctif Partners for Best Crisis Campaign, Dubai Multi Commodities Center for Best Integrated Campaign, MCS Action for Best Media Relations Campaign, Brazen for Regional Campaign of the Year, Golin MENA for Results on a Budget, Matrix Public Relations for Small Consultancy of the Year and Seven Media for Large Consultancy of the Year. Bassem Ayache, Associate Manager at Golin MENA won the Rising Star of the Year award and Ziad Hasbani, Chief Executive Officer at Weber Shandwick was honoured as PR Leader of the Year.

“It is a great pleasure to announce the winners of the inaugural PRCA MENA Awards,” says Leanne Foy, General Manager, PRCA MENA. “The breadth and depth of entered campaigns, teams and individuals, demonstrates the strength with which PRCA MENA is growing.”

Nominees announced for MEPRA Awards

The Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) Awards 2016 shortlist has been announced. The awards have been divided into 17 categories – including Best Integrated Campaign, Best Use of Social Media and newly added category for in-house professionals, Outstanding Young Communicator – each award is designed to recognise exceptional returns on investments, creativity and strategic impact by agencies, corporates, teams and individuals. Shortlisted companies include: Four Communications, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Edelman, Mubadala, Seven Media and Weber Shandwick MENA. The winners will be announced at the award ceremony on November 23, 2016 at the JW Marriott Marquis, decided by a panel of renowned industry judges.

“Judging this year was even more challenging than ever,” says Jamal Al Mawed, Head of Corporate Communications, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “The industry has advanced in terms of its use of data analytics to measure the performance of campaigns. This means we had greater access to real figures than ever before making the judging process more about the cold hard results, than about the creativity of the idea. We are delighted at the progress made and we see a very strong future for the communications industry across the region.”

Alexandra Williams joins IHC

IHC Integrated Communications has welcomed Alexandra Williams to the role of Associate Director at the Dubai office. With eight years of experience in PR, digital analytics, crisis communications and strategy, Alexandra previously worked at Weber Shandwick, Kuala Lumpur as an intern where she worked on technology and B2B accounts including Microsoft and Google. She most recently worked at Grayling, UK as the Associate Director, where she worked on a portfolio of PR and digital clients including HSBC, Coca-Cola and Skype. In 2013 she moved to Dubai to oversee and take the digital lead at DABO & CO. In her new role, she will be handling IHC’s delivery of PR, digital and experiential marketing as well as supporting the continued expansion of the agency’s integrated offering at the Dubai office.

“With a strong PR background and advanced digital capability, IHC focuses on elevating brands through superior content, integrated communication and creativity, so Alex’s appointment is a natural fit for us,” says Ian Hainey, Managing Director, IHC. “Since inception, we have used a winning mixture of marketing techniques to maximise brand awareness and lead generation for clients. Bringing Alex on board will definitely help our clients enjoy an even higher multiplier effect on their communications investment.”

Alexandra adds “I am delighted to be joining such a strong team at IHC and am very much looking forward to exercising a multitude of marketing techniques in my new role. Ian and the team have strong brand names under their belts. I am excited to expand on this.”

Hill+Knowlton Strategies named EMEA Agency of the Year

Hill+Knowlton Strategies has been named EMEA Agency of the Year at this year’s SABRE Awards in Berlin. The awards saw Hill+Knowlton nominated alongside other EMEA agencies Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, Ogilvy PR and Weber Shandwick, with the agency’s win being accredited to service innovation and significant client wins.

“Since consolidating our Europe, Middle East and Africa regions two years ago, a lot of people have worked hard to take H+K in the region to the next level,” says Lars Erik Grønntun, President and CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, EMEA. “By implementing our regional strategy of connecting, converging and learning we’ve managed to take the agency to a new level, winning exciting new business, building stronger creative and content bids as well as strengthening our regional footprint.”