In The Hot Seat – Danielle Wilson Naqvi

Team TMN chat with Danielle Wilson Naqvi, Founder, CSPR Group, who talks about her current role and offers her thoughts on the PR industry in the Middle East.  

Name: Danielle Wilson Naqvi

Age: 42

Nationality: British

Current job title: Founder of CSPR Group and Unique Family Travels

When did you first arrive in Dubai? I have lived in Dubai for the last 25 years.

Where did you work prior? Before starting my own PR agency 10 years ago I worked at ITP for 6 years as Head of Marketing for the women’s group which include Ahlan! Masala, Grazia, Cosmo, Harpers etc

What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East? I actually left ITP to set up my own PR agency. 10 years ago the PR industry was a lot less saturated and I felt like the PR companies back then (16 years ago) didn’t provide a lot of information or were even that creative in their approach. As a marketer I used to chat to the editors/sales team within ITP and PR reps never supplied enough information on their brands that we had to chase for the information. With this in mind I wanted to focus on female entrepreneurs and small businesses which needed start up support. I am proud to have worked with many diverse brands and represented many amazing women in the region from Elham Al Qasimi, Shereen Mitwali, Jessica Khawaty, Caroline LaBouchere, Aiisha Ramadan, Saja Kamal, Amna Haddad to name a few.

Now a days there are so many people in PR, some think outside the box and others follow what everyone else is doing, if you work with well known brands you role is slightly easier, but still long hours and hard work. Its not all about events and getting influencers to cover your brand.

Has your opinion changed much? 16 years on and PR in the region is strong with many talented and creative people in the business.

Tell us about your current roleCurrently the brands I am managing are all in the business sector mostly focusing on entrepreneurial women. I am also just about to launch a travel business which I am super excited about and I flip my work day between these projects, my foundation in Pakistan and being a mum to my 3 children all under the age of 6.

What challenges do you face? When it comes to media, editorial teams change a lot so its keeping up with relationships and as my current clients are more business lead I need to stay on the ball in the corporate sector too. I do however enjoy working with new brands, it can be a challenge but it keeps me excited and the creativity is endless.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? Seeing a campaign come together, gain momentum and the brand doing well on its own without PR support. My most rewarding campaign was launching Emirati adventurer Elham Al Qasimi who successfully trekked an unassisted and unsupported expedition to the Geographic North Pole. We received global coverage from CNN and BBC World to Elham gracing the cover of nearly every publication in the region, winning many awards, being part of many panel discussions, sponsorship from brands and being asked to speak on the Ted platform.

How has clients’ expectations in today’s digital community influenced PR and marketing in the UAE?  Clients have become more demanding as they have the ability to control and manage their own message – this means that they demand a specific type of service from their PR and Marketing companies. The relationship between the client and the service provider had become much more customized. This has also made everyone more honest and transparent meaning less chance of disappointment or unrealistic levels of expectation.

How has social media in the region evolved to become an integrated part of the PR industry? Instagram is the biggest tool for PR. Many of my clients sell their products via Instagram, you can share snippets of information and of course thought leaders in the region can really promote your brand. My biggest issue with Instagram is that people buy likes and followers to make their accounts look more popular but actually they are making their accounts look daft, it makes me cringe. They could have over 20k followers yet receive under 100 likes and no comments per post. Others post a picture and the fake likes kick in within a minute and before you know it they have more likes per post than Karen Wazen has in 5 minutes and we all know she has one of the most powerful and honest accounts in the region. I think people have forgotten that Instagram is about interaction and engagement – you can have all the likes in the world but if you have no engagement your account isn’t going to get you anywhere. Be honest and authentic!

What do you think of PR ethics in the industry today? We are all in this rat race together and I personally support other PR’s even some of my ex employees have started their own agencies and I will continue to help them along the way.

Describe yourself in five words

Honest, caring, understanding, grafter, loyal

Who inspires you? My husband with his always positive approach on life

 What’s your most overused saying? Think outside of the box!!!

Five things you can’t live without? My 3 kids, husband, holidays, my phone, love

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing? I am also the founder of an NGO based in Pakistan which provides new born screening tests to all babies born in the country. I set it up with my husband in our late daughters name, its called The ZB Foundation. We are the only screening facility in the entire country and every test we provide is given free. Our aim is to make new born screening a birth right like it is in every country in the world except Pakistan. If I didn’t need to earn a salary I would do this full time as it’s the most rewarding and selfless thing I can do.

What’s your favourite form of media? Instagram

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in PR in the UAE? Find a niche in the market which you are passionate about and focus on that.