New appointment at TishTash

TishTash Marketing and Public Relations welcomes Charlotte Heckford to the role of Director of Strategy & Planning. Having previously worked with brands such as Reckitt Benckiser, PZ Cussons and LF Beauty, Charlotte has over 15 years of marketing experience in FMCG, health and beauty sectors. In her new role she will be responsible for strategic planning for all of the agency’s clients as well as supporting with new business and the development of the team.

“Charlotte is well placed to support TishTash and our clients into our next stage of strategic growth, and her rock solid FMCG and beauty marketing background make her the perfect addition to the team,” says Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, Founder and Managing Director, TishTash Marketing and Public Relations. “I am excited to see what the coming months have in store with her on board as part of my senior management team.”

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.”

It’s not the boogieman, it’s self-censorship

Michael Jabri-Pickett, former Head of Digital Operations at The National, talks to TMN about self-censorship in the media industry and how it can effectively be tackled in the UAE…

“Censorship may come in many forms, but what disappoints most people when the subject is discussed is that there is no grim-faced man walking around the newsroom with a red pen reading over reporters’ shoulders pointing nervously at computer screens or gesticulating at an editor’s page proof demanding a story be cut or killed. What happens is much more subtle. What happens is self-censorship.”

The first question I was invariably asked when anyone learnt I was a Journalist at a newspaper in the UAE was a simple one, “How do you deal with all the censorship?” my response was straightforward, “there is no censorship, or at least none we would think of as what traditional censorship – whatever that looks like – might entail.” Anyone who has read any UAE-based news website for more than a few weeks will laugh at my denial, but truth is – as Lord Byron wrote, “stranger than fiction.”

Censorship may come in many forms, but what disappoints most people when the subject is discussed is that there is no grim-faced man walking around the newsroom with a red pen reading over reporters’ shoulders pointing nervously at computer screens or gesticulating at an editor’s page proof demanding a story be cut or killed. What happens is much more subtle. What happens is self-censorship.

Decades ago, my journalism world was black and white, but I failed to understand the desperately needed nuanced approach essential to survive in a newsroom. Papers are closing, financial resources are evaporating and staff layoffs are constantly happening. If you are a journalist in 2017, finding a way to keep the job you love is an increasingly difficult challenge.

All of which means there are reasons why self-censorship exists. It is not that the boogieman is hiding in plain sight – it is the nervous, gentle soul holding out hope that the profession he has cared so much for will somehow improve. You may believe self-censorship is never right, but you must concede there are legitimate reasons why it exists. The editing process at a newspaper is without mystery, I think. Once a reporter has written his story, it will be edited and edited again and proofread and proofread again. There are several pairs of eyes that look critically at a story before it is published.

Imagine this, a veteran journalist with eight years reporting experience in Dubai puts together a story. He has ten points he wants to include in his article. The reporter knows before he writes a word that two of his points will never be allowed to remain, so he doesn’t even include them. Then the first editor to see the copy takes out another two, the next editor removes one, a proofreader drops one more point because he just isn’t sure and doesn’t want to ask anyone and the next pair of eyes in the chain nixes another one simply because he wants to do his job with a certain amount of zeal. A great story with ten points is published with three. Not a proud moment, but a regular occurrence.

Some might claim I have failed to point out that the reporter and the editors in this hypothetical scenario are simply using their knowledge gained from years of experience in the region. This unfortunately is the standard response intended to silence critics. I will acknowledge that on some occasions certain stories should not be published, but I came across too few colleagues who were willing to discuss the issues.

Newspaper journalists in the UAE know their industry is dying. Many senior newspaper journalists in the UAE know this is quite possibly their last chance to do a job they love in a country that is safe and prosperous. No one wants to leave, so the temptation is to protect what they see as the interests of the UAE. As a result, a newspaper journalist will remove from a story anything that he thinks might not help the country. He will act on his own.

It is human nature to protect your job and self-censorship may be self-preservation. What goes against the fibres in a journalist’s being, however, is the absence of a debate. Discussion leads to ideas and thoughts inspire change. This is how we avoid self-censorship, and I believe this is how we move forward.

New Managing Director at MullenLowe MENA

Dubai-based integrated marketing communications group, MullenLowe MENA has promoted Matthew Butterworth to the role of Managing Director. Having joined MullenLowe MENA in 2016 as Regional Director of Digital and Integration, Matthew has over 20 years of experience and previously worked in the UK with McCann EMEA as Director of Digital Strategy and Publicis as the Digital Strategy Director. In his new role, he will work on creating a stronger integration and consumer driven creativity through data-driven experiences across every touchpoint to produce results.

PRCA introduces PR competition

PRCA MENA has partnered with Cannes Lions to introduce the Young Lions PR competition to the region. The competition will open for entries from February 1 – 26, 2017, accepting teams of two members aged under 30. With the creative brief issued on March 1, 2017 and the shortlist announced on March 14, 2017, the MENA winners will be announced on March 23, 2017 following a final 24-hour competition that will take place on March 22, 2017.

“PRCA MENA is committed to promoting and demonstrating the value of PR and communications in the region,” says Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA MENA. “The Young PR Lions competition allows us to do exactly that – show off the calibre of PR and communications practitioners in the Middle East and North Africa.”


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.