In The Hot Seat – Cheryl King

Team TMN chat with Cheryl King, Managing Director, markettiers, who talks about her current role and offers her thoughts on the PR industry in the Middle East.

Name: Cheryl King

Age: 34

Nationality: British

Current job title: Managing Director

When did you first arrive in Dubai? October 2014

Where did you work prior? LEWIS PR in London

What were your first impressions of the PR industry in the Middle East? It was great to see a lot of familiar faces who had relocated from London and global agencies that had set up shop here doing some interesting work. The industry seemed quite press release driven from my first impressions, presenting an amazing opportunity for markettiers to make our mark by demonstrating the power of broadcast strategies in expanding audiences and influencing behaviours.

Has your opinion changed much? Yes, absolutely. When I arrived, broadcast PR was very much in its infancy in the region. Over the past four years, we’ve witnessed the explosion of video content as a tool in PR strategies. Media are hungry for rich media to support their news articles so that they can deliver their stories in a more engaging way. Now we’re seeing online media owners, as well as TV, investing more in their own editing facilities, and we see major news sites actively requesting for B-Roll content so that they can create their own bespoke stories whilst others are still looking for the packaged video news release content that has historically been our ‘bread and butter’ in the region.

News sites are also delivering live streams much more frequently, and utilising their communities on social channels to expand upon news stories and create a dialogue with their readers/viewers that hasn’t always been possible. We also see podcasting as a PR tool growing in popularity in the region, with brands starting to take advantage of the opportunity this offers to tell more of their story and communicate their brand identity in a more relaxed, conversational way.

Tell us about your current role… My role is an exciting one, with touchpoints at every step of the process of a campaign. With a close knit team, everyone gets involved with each campaign we deliver, from attending and producing film shoots for major news announcements, events and initiatives, to crafting proposals for up and coming campaigns, to delivering live streams and podcasts for brands. I oversee the team in the Middle East and also get to work closely with our London headquarters on campaigns that involve international media relations. It’s very varied and definitely very busy!

What challenges do you face? In the beginning our key challenge was one of educating potential clients and the media about the power of broadcast to build out their strategies and stories. But now, whilst there are some clients that still operate more traditionally, the majority of clients absolutely get it, and are open to being more digitally innovative. It’s been exciting to see the region make this shift, and the campaigns we’ve been involved with have been fantastic – particularly the Guinness World Record breaking campaigns for the likes of the world’s longest zipline, which achieved unprecedented global coverage.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? I think for anyone in the comms industry, there’s a lot of satisfaction from seeing an idea that you’ve proposed bought into by a client, executed and landing excellent results. There’s a buzz to securing a key target for the client in reaching their audience effectively. It’s been amazing to work on some firsts for the region including the first live and interactive stream delivered to a media portal back in 2015. We’ve also been delivering 360 videos and working on some very ambitious projects of late, one of those being delivering the live broadcast stream for the World’s Largest Aerial Firework Shell on New Year’s Eve, a world record for Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah. It involved a crew of almost 50 people working together across the whole Island to make sure the feat was seen around the world. It’s also been great to work with a very passionate and energised team – their excitement for what we do always keeps me motivated, even at 2am in the morning when we’re editing an overnight Video News Release!

How has clients’ expectations in today’s digital community influenced PR and marketing in the UAE? For us, the desire for digital is an exciting development, as it’s an area we service through video content creation and broadcast media relations. Now, digital has become a necessary part of PR strategies we’re seeing clients open to exploring newer and innovative tactics – challenging us to keep ahead of the curve as well.

How has social media in the region evolved to become an integrated part of the PR industry? Everything we do has to work for social. PR and social should be viewed as one after all. Audiences consume content across multiple platforms, they are scrolling through Facebook, viewing stories on Instagram and posting updates on LinkedIn. So therefore there are huge opportunities to create loyal communities via social media – the audience then becomes your brand advocates as a result. For us, working our video content hard means that we can create short social edits / vignettes to work across different social platforms – again it’s about being clever with your content so that you reach your audience via their existing media diet.

What do you think of PR ethics in the industry today? There have been some well documented ethical slip ups in the industry of late – that’s perhaps an understatement. With budgets ever more stretched and given up to other forms of comms, for some there must be a temptation to offer things they might not otherwise do. But I think, as with anything, it’s up to the individuals involved to maintain their own sense of what’s ethical and behave accordingly.

Describe yourself in five words… Quite short and annoyingly smiley.

Who inspires you? My sister. She’s had a difficult few years, but I’m proud of how she’s pushed herself forward and how she has set up her own business whilst being a great mum to my niece and nephew. 

What’s your most overused saying? Nice one.

Five things you can’t live without? My phone, running shoes, back pack, red wine and cheesecake.

If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing? A Blue Peter presenter. That would have been the dream.

What’s your favourite form of media? At the moment, podcasts – I’m listening to a lot of Tim Ferriss podcasts currently. 

What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in PR in the UAE? Go for it. Get as much work experience as possible – I worked at my local radio station first, and then did some stints at a newspaper and an ad agency before I started in PR. It gave me a good grounding of the different forms of comms, what I felt best suited my interests and skills set.