It’s time to engage through mobile media

While the UAE boasts a high number of smartphone users, very few use their phone for browsing and purchasing. It’s time to engage, says Abdullatif Alsayegh, CEO at Alsayegh Media.

“UAE brands need to shift from trying to make a one-time sale to creating an ongoing relationship via mobile”

The billion-dirham question is, despite having one of the highest rates of smartphone penetration in the world, why does the UAE lag behind when it comes to smartphone phone use? This is even more confounding when we consider that human beings are habitual creatures. Two prominent studies sponsored by Facebook and Nokia, respectively, show that we spend more time with our mobiles than with anyone or anything else. On average we are next to our mobiles 22 hours a day, and four out of five of us check our phones within 15 minutes of waking up. Given our dependence on mobile devices, why aren’t people using these mobiles to go online or engage with brands?

Due of the power of habit, people usually use the same apps every day, and new apps they try have typically been recommended by friends. Users ignore annoying banners, but don’t ignore notifications. Why? Because they are personally relevant. Contrary to what many advertisers think, mobile advertising is not just about banners or SMS’s. It’s about engagement and two-way interaction. Rather than waste millions of their budget competing for attention in a cluttered media landscape, companies should give consumers a reason to follow them and await updates and notifications.

An international example is Metro Trains in Melbourne, whose “Dumb Ways to Die” safety awareness video went viral, attracting countless consumers to download the app. “Dumb Ways to Die” wasn’t just soberly amusing or visually appealing – It took place in a familiar setting, had a clear message and implicated the consumer in its campaign for accountability. It was also dynamic. Similarly, UAE brands need to shift from trying to make a one-time sale to creating an ongoing relationship via mobile.

The more loved a brand is, the more talked about it is, and the more people will spend on it. Target their hearts and minds first, and their pockets will follow; because if there’s one thing worse than not having a customer, it’s having an irritated customer.

Most importantly, never introduce new ideas into the market until your own team is wildly passionate about it. It should give you goose bumps of enthusiasm. Because passion is contagious, and it will be passed on from one mobile user to another. The open secret is that the world’s best brands don’t clog people’s inboxes trying to get their attention. The best brands are the ones you love so much that you’ll spend all night in a queue to get your hands on them.

I have enormous faith in the UAE market, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before we claim our rightful place on the global stage of mobile Internet.

Things AVE to change

The Middle East PR industry is lagging behind the global market in terms of implementing new forms of PR measurement and it’s time things change, says Nicola Gregson, Managing Director at Ketchum Raad.

Crisis management is time consuming and staff intensive, yet the AVE value that would be attributed to this effort would be zero

“PR is constantly evolving yet one of my main areas of concern for the Middle East PR industry is the slow uptake on new methods of PR measurement. The vast majority of the global PR community is unified in the belief that the old-fashioned Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVEs) are an outdated form of PR measurement and do not offer the true value of PR achieved. While a number of the large Middle Eastern agencies have already implemented new measurement initiatives, based on clear goals and objectives, there still remain many who haven’t.

During a PR summit held in Barcelona In 2010, more than 250 high-ranking PR professionals gathered to agree on a new modern approach to PR measurement. It was unanimously agreed that the old AVE method was no longer effective in today’s market. It was here that ‘The Barcelona Principles’ were born, offering new ways to identify, capture and measure the impact of a PR campaign.

Some may ask why AVEs are no longer viable and my response is this – PR does not just equate to writing press releases and securing media coverage… there is considerably more depth to a PR campaign than this. AVEs by far undervalue the true worth of PR, and do not fairly represent the volume of work or the strategy a PR team have implemented.

For example, how is crisis management measured with AVE figures? Built on the foundation that coverage equals worth, the AVE method does not account for coverage the agency has deliberately battled to keep out of the media. Crisis management is both time consuming and staff intensive, yet the AVE value that would be attributed to this effort would be zero.

Similarly, a PR agency could secure a front-page newspaper feature for its client, which offers a glowing report on the brand that leads to a huge increase in sales. Take the same publication and size of feature but imagine the coverage had been less persuasive and led to fewer or no sales at all. The AVE would remain the same, yet the true value offered by the PR agency would differ greatly.

With AVEs, how do you account for the quality of titles, the share of voice compared to competitors, the ratio of English language coverage to Arabic coverage? It should be considered it’s not always the size of the coverage book that matters, it’s the quality of the work achieved based on each company’s goals.

I’m not suggesting that PR agencies should rip up the rulebook completely. After all, AVE values have been used for many years and are still useful to present to the client, even if the figures don’t represent the full extent of an agencies work. The AVE value of a PR campaign should simply form a small part of the jigsaw, and should be submitted along with the list of achievements.

So what is the solution? I believe the answer is clear. You set clear, concise and measurable goals, which offer set objectives that are achievable. We need to adopt and contribute to international best practice, moving away from simplistic measurement tools like AVEs to look at real business performance metrics.”


Is reputation insurance a help or hindrance?

Communications advisor, David Banks, questions the effectiveness of reputation insurance as a means of crisis management

Reputation is transacted in a currency called ‘trust’. You can’t convince someone that you’re trustworthy by paying your way out of a problem – you can only do it by demonstrating and proving that you deserve their trust.

What do business leaders fear the most? Surveys show their biggest fear is ‘reputation risk’ – in other words, the danger that their company will suffer a major PR crisis so significant that it brings a financial loss. After high-profile disasters such as the BP oil spill and the stricken Costa Concordia cruise ship, where reputation damage was closely followed by financial woes, it’s not surprising that reputation risk now tops the list of corporate financial concerns.

In many ways it’s a victory for PR professionals that the subject of reputation is now at the top of the corporate agenda, but it’s insurers who are positioning themselves to gain the most. So-called reputation insurance is being offered by some of the most credible firms in the insurance industry and is already available to corporations in the Middle East.

In exchange for a regular premium, the insurer will provide a payout that is designed to help bring a company out of its reputation crisis. At least that’s the idea. The insurance payout is often tied to a public relations campaign, which is supposed to assist the crisis-hit company for a fixed number of weeks. PR professionals reading this might already be feeling uneasy about this financial ‘solution’ to reputation and will have some serious questions about it, just as I did.

How much can a new PR agency achieve after the crisis has hit? What happens when the plug is pulled on the agency’s help? How would the media and an angry public react to a crisis-hit company receiving an insurance payout? There were 24 questions like this and I interviewed journalists, social theorists, public relations experts and risk managers in an effort to find the answers.

One of the most telling question and answers was, “Would the media view a reputation insurance claim negatively?” The answer, after interviewing more than 80 journalists was an overwhelming negative response. The vast majority of mainstream journalists said their view of a crisis-hit company would suffer if they found out the crisis had led to a reputation insurance claim. Furthermore, journalists also said they would be suspicious and dismissive of any communications response that was triggered by an insurance policy rather than appearing as a genuine desire to be contrite or to put the record straight.

The reason this is important is that for a company in the middle of a reputation crisis, perception of management behaviour matters a great deal. When these perceptions are hindered, it could make the crisis deeper and longer. What it comes down to is this: Every company’s and every person’s reputation is transacted in a currency called ‘trust’ and not money. As soon as anyone tries to transact reputations in money, they are perceived to be doing the wrong thing. You can’t convince someone that you’re trustworthy by paying your way out of a problem. You can only do it by demonstrating and proving that you deserve their trust. When trust is broken, the only answers are sincerity, apology and a change of behaviour.

The insurers offering reputation insurance admit that the policy only provides an answer to the cost of a PR response and does not guarantee that public trust will be repaired or even improved. Furthermore the insurance claim pays for only a short duration of the overall crisis lifecycle. Most policies refer to PR support of several weeks or months, whereas PR textbooks show that the lifecycle of a serious reputation crisis – the type that is insured – often lasts for years.

With all things considered, could it be the real risk lies in the reputation insurance itself?


David Banks is an independent communications advisor who specialises in the insurance industry. Based in London, David spent four years living in Dubai, UAE, during which time he edited the Middle East’s first English language insurance magazine and established the region’s first insurance and reinsurance awards.

Connect with David on Twitter @DavidJBanks

Perfecting the pecking order of the pit

Farooq Salik is a Senior Photographer at Motivate Publishing. Here he tells The Media Network why pin placement is key to successful event coverage.

How is it that professional photographers working across high-profile media titles can find themselves demoted to second grade citizens of the photography pit?

“Media dimensions have changed over the past five years. While change is often a good thing, it often requires the re-writing of certain rulebooks to ensure order is kept, and failure to do so can result in a build up of tensions.

This is something that can be seen in the world of photography and photojournalism in the Middle East. Prior to the online media revolution, print photographers and videographers were the main media outlets on the red carpet vying to get that coveted picture or video grab. That in itself has always been a bone of contention – with many PRs and event organisers failing to offer dedicated areas for each medium – but we’ll revisit that point later.

The last five years has seen a new generation of photographer take their place along the red carpet… the blogger. Now, on a personal level, I have nothing against bloggers – I admire their passion and dedication to share their thoughts and opinions with the world. When it comes to work however, there needs to be boundaries and a certain understanding from PRs, event organisers and bloggers themselves.

With increasing frequency, I am assigned to cover events for a number of our media titles (some of the biggest selling titles in the region), yet I find myself in the photographer’s pit, further down the pecking order than bloggers who are taking pictures on their smart phones or everyday digital cameras. How is it that professional photographers working across high-profile media titles can find themselves demoted to second grade citizens of the photography pit?

With print magazines holding editorial space for certain events, it is essential that there is a pecking order in place to ensure prime positioning is secured for the titles. Put simply, bad images equals bad coverage – not to mention very unhappy Editors who find themselves with last minute pages to fill, after discovering the event images unsuitable hours before going to press.

Internationally, it is almost always the case that newspapers and agencies take priority along with high-profile weeklies and monthlies – the more important and influential your title, the more prominent position assigned. International events also ensure that the video pit and photographer pit are separate… it goes without saying that the two don’t work together. With the latest SLR cameras now equip to take high-quality video footage, it’s more important than ever before for large-scale event organisers to ensure they ask the purpose of the press pass – video or photography.

If bloggers wish to share our pit, they need to learn the code of conduct. Just as all professional photographers do, get your picture and step back. A little common courtesy goes a long way.