Five Minute Focus – PR Measurement

TMN catch up with Mazen Nahawi, CEO of CARMA, to find out about the upcoming seventh PR Measurement Summit to take place from October 12-13, 2016…

Tell us a bit about CARMA and the PR Measurement Summit?

CARMA is a media intelligence company that uses a unique methodology, balancing automation and curation to capture global media coverage and provide analytics that drive business impact. In other words, we focus on delivering media information in the form of monitoring, media analysis and databases which help improve client decision-making, whether that be measuring reputation, PR performance or other important communication facts. CARMA is one of the leading measurement and media intelligence company in the region and a growing player internationally, but this summit will not be about us, it will be about the industry and best practice measurement.

The PRMS is a standalone measurement event that began in 2008, we have had three of them in Dubai, two in the USA and one in Argentina. It’s aimed at having a high level and strategic dialogue about measurement best practices worldwide, gathering the best minds in our industry and promoting the concept of measurement across communications. The speakers are mainly high level communication professionals but that doesn’t mean a mid-level executive won’t benefit. They will definitely benefit by learning about best practice, upcoming concepts and genuine case study examples.

Where did the concept for the summit originate?

In 2007 I felt that we needed a forum to help further the understanding of measurement. PR measurement in the region is very isolated, it wasn’t opened up to a global audience or global ideas, it was very much rooted in AVE’s which are not the measure of public relations. I felt that by getting experienced people from around the world, who live and breathe measurement, we would be able to change the dialogue and help elevate the level of measurement in our region. I think that’s exactly what has happened, not only have people taken that best practice and adopted it, but we’ve been able to become a part of the global dialogue on measurement, not just CARMA as a company but the entire PR industry.

Although CARMA is the primary sponsor and driving force behind the event, we want this to be an open dialogue where all parties are invited. We have invited people from AMEC and FIBEP to take part and MEPRA is a strategic partner too, because we want to make sure the members of MEPRA have the ability to benefit from this exchange of ideas and knowledge as well as to actually have MEPRA at the forefront of advocating for measurement best practice in the region.

Who is the PR Measurement Summit aimed at?

The event is aimed at all PR and communications professionals, as I mentioned early our keynote speakers and panelists are Senior Communications professionals from some of the world’s leading PR agencies, international corporations and communications research centers, but that does not mean your entry level communication executive will not benefit from learning about best practices and getting a feel for its use in the context of real business scenarios. That’s often the issue, how to put theory into practice.

What do you think makes an event such as the PR Measurement Summit relevant to the Middle Eastern community?

Like any part of the marketing and communications industry worldwide, clients are demanding hard answers on returns on their investment, they want to know what they are getting for their money, they want to know whether all of their outreach is actually working or not.

Analytics and measurement have come to the forefront of measuring success and validating success. Our region is making good steps in the right direction when it comes to that, but we’re not where we need to be yet. The measurement summit is another step in the right direction, in helping clients and agencies alike, implement best practice.

There is a huge amount of content out there to keep on top of and its growing exponentially, not only on social media but in broadcast as well, in the last five years alone we have seen over 300 new TV stations go live in the region. The route to getting the best returns on your investment, will be down to one’s methodology. How to get the most accurate meaning out of that big data. The way to do that will be to avoid being stuck to counts, amounts and quantitative data and more towards qualitative and insightful information. That’s what I would describe as best practice.

What do you think of the media community in the UAE?

Vibrant and resilient, despite the slowdown in the regional economy as a result of the drop in oil prices. Spending on media has generally gone down and we know in advertising for example, many people are being laid off, companies are shrinking, budgets are diminishing, but in the Dubai community or the UAE media community, I think you still find a growing and vibrant sector. Online and social media has provided journalism with a huge boost. There is a lot more content going out to a lot more readers. Even traditional media such as TV and print remains strong. So on the journalism front, there is more media consumption, however that’s not necessarily translating into money.

In terms of advertising I think that part of the industry is under stress, but you still find a lot of good creative work and high quality people coming in. I think everyone is waiting for the economy to turn a corner and see spending at a more sustainable level—that will probably come in 2018.

As for PR and communications, that industry has been going steady and is doing fairly well. You have the major PR companies continuing to dominate the market, especially on strategic advisory, but you have a lot of low cost players who focus mostly on media relations and they provide options for those who don’t have the budgets for the more strategic council. Overall it remains positive; still vibrant, lots of opportunity and good people around.

How do you find the PR industry differs in Dubai to elsewhere in the world?

It’s a smaller industry because we’re a smaller region, where PR Budgets are relatively small. It’s a younger industry, not just in terms of when it was established, but also in terms of the age of those who are contributing, as a lot of the old time founders of the industry have left the region or retired. It’s an industry that has an overall good sense of best practice and is getting better at implementing it, but we have a way to go before the level of our practice is equal to that in other parts of the world. For example, in media relations, this part of the world (UAE) is as good as any other part of the world with great relationships with the media professionals and journalists, but when it comes to advising a company on how to go public, the number of people who are qualified here are much fewer, than you would find in somewhere like London.

Did you face any challenges in establishing the event in the Middle East?

Not at all, we’ve seen a lot of interest. Not just from the registered attendees, but the speakers too. They are keen to promote a more accurate way of measuring PR and to validate its applications and impact.

What should PR Professionals expect to take away from the event?
A healthy dialogue about best practice measurement. To meet and engage with industry peers with a shared interest in raising the benchmark of the PR industry. Ideally the lessons learned will reflect in their thought process when they return to the office or when they next meet with their clients to discuss performance. Also, to provide knowledge and understanding of the methodology and tools to translate data to meaning as well as to push the industry to interpret and apply media intelligence effectively to support decision-making.

What does the future hold for the PR Measurement Summit?
Since we have held this summit at other international locations in the past, we may consider a venue outside of Dubai next year. We will however continue to hold it at regular intervals, but we’ll listen to our clients and attendees’ feedback to ensure the events remain engaging and relevant to their needs too. Above all the Summit is about elevating knowledge, understanding and implementation of best practice PR measurement. We’ll continue to deliver and engage with the PR industry across different nations on that premise and build insights from a global perspective.