We chat with Zainab Imichi Alhassan, Managing Director at POP Communications, who talks about her current role and offers her thoughts on the PR industry in the Middle East…
Name: Zainab Imichi Alhassan
Current job title: Managing Director, POP Communications
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
Where did you work prior?
My first job in the UAE was at Grace and Garbo as an Account Executive, I later moved to Q Communications, where I also worked as an Account Executive and eventually as a Senior Account Executive. My most recent role was at TishTash, where I held the role of Senior Account Manager.
What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East?
My first impression was that there were lots of opportunities to grow. I also noticed that the PR industry in the Middle East is unlike anywhere else in the world. I was quite surprised to see how monotonous and archaic it was, everyone sticks to the same playbook and there is rarely any innovation. I moved here in 2013 and we were still receiving faxes!
Has your opinion changed much?
The industry has evolved over the last couple of years but it still has some catching up to do in terms of integration of digital media into day-to-day communication strategies.
Tell us about your current role…
My role at POP Communications is very diverse at the moment. As the Managing Director of a fast growing boutique PR Agency, I juggle a lot of responsibilities ranging from developing strategies, client servicing, media engagement to new business development and managing our team.
What challenges do you face?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is time management. It’s impossible to work 24/7 but it seems like that is the only way to get things done and keep the business running and our clients happy.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with my business partners, Sarah Dudley and Roxanne Mukhi who are also co-founders of POP Communications. Running a business can be quite intense, but when you get to do it with your friends, it makes things bearable.
How has digital media changed the playing field?
For me, not much has changed as digital media has always been included as part of ongoing media relations. Despite the shrinking print media landscape, I think the relationship between PR and media has stayed exactly the same. We have always included digital media as part of our communications strategies.
What do you think of women dominating the PR industry in the UAE and the role that this has played in the media community?
I don’t have the stats for this, but the majority of PR practitioners I have interacted with in the UAE are women, so maybe women are dominating the PR Industry in the UAE. If this is true, it puts the UAE in a unique spot as one of the only countries where majority of the PR leadership roles are occupied by women, which is great news! Hopefully, what this would mean for the community is that these women who are already in positions of power can nurture and empower young female PR practitioners.
What role does social media play in building a brand’s reputation today?
I think these days an active social media presence is important for any brand whether B2B or B2C. Social media is a great way to showcase a brand’s services or product range – you can also directly engage with your target customers and be part of the online conversation going on in your industry. Another benefit is that it supports your SEO when people search for you or your products on Google through hashtag and geo targeting.
How would you describe yourself at work?
With me, what you see is what you get. When I’m at work, I just want to get things done and I have no patience for laziness and I expect the team to be on the same wavelength. This is why we only hire high performing individuals who are hardworking and have good work ethics. I can also be really funny and I think people find me entertaining.
Describe yourself in five words…
Hardworking, fun, deliberate, inquisitive and ambitious.
Who inspires you?
I am surrounded by a village of successful women who inspire me daily. I have also had the opportunity to work alongside some of the best PR professionals who have inspired me to work hard and never take no for an answer.
What’s your most overused saying?
‘Fab!’ and ‘Thank you!’
Five things you can’t live without?
My husband, phone, Deliveroo, Careem and Dr PAW PAW lip balm.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
So many things! I wanted to be a Pharmacist, Writer, Poet and Fashion Stylist.
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I would be working as a Journalist or Fashion Stylist.
What’s your favourite form of media?
I would say digital media. I spend most of my time reading blogs and on social media. My favourite blog is Jezebel.com.
How do you see the PR industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?
As the traditional media landscape continues to shrink, all roads now lead to digital and we can’t wait a couple of years, it has to be now. Clients are no longer just satisfied with seeing their faces in tabloid magazines or newspapers. They need to be guaranteed exposure on the platforms that their customers consume the most these days, which are social media platforms.