We catch up with Grace Asmar, Director of Practices and Offerings at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, who talks about the media industry in the Middle East and how she hopes it will evolve in the future…
Name: Grace Asmar
Age: Mark Twain once said “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
From: Lebanese French a.k.a. Canada
Current Job Title: Director – Practices & Offerings, Cicero & Bernay Public Relations
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I first landed in Dubai back in 1989. My family and career then took me on a journey through many cities across the Middle East and Canada for almost 10 years. I came back to Dubai last year.
Where did you work prior?
I started my career as a TV producer here in Dubai. I then joined a multinational public relations agency, where I worked in different markets which included; Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Jordan.
What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Like all first timers, I looked at it as a growing industry in a young market. Even as a seasoned professional, I landed in this media industry with an understanding that the local media would be a completely new experience for me.
Has your opinion changed much?
Completely. There are several reasons behind this but first and foremost, the local media was a pleasant surprise. Publications are far richer and far more mature than I had thought. The ever-expanding industry working alongside the local media has provided the PR sector with the freedom to push creative boundaries and actually implement out of the box ideas. That being said, the industry is still advancing and it’s always going to be exciting to look back and evaluate the progress it’s made in less than a decade.
Tell us about your current role…
As my title says, I am the Director of the Agency’s Practices – internal, growth oriented and proprietary – and its Offerings – client communication, strategy counsel and day-to-day management.
What challenges do you face?
Like all specialists in their respective professions, PR practitioners want to know the “next big thing.” The industry is evolving so quickly, it’s now about hyper-personalised content, real-time crisis management, the role of traditional journalism and highly effective, measurable PR. The challenge is to keep up with the fundamental game changes that the PR profession is going through at this time more than ever.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I feel rewarded when I leave my office with the knowledge that someone, somewhere is leaving happy because of what my team and I have accomplished.
What do you think is the secret to successful leadership?
What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in media in the UAE?
Be ready to put in the hours, be ready to stand by your ethics and welcome to the most interesting profession!
What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
I think that we have some of the most diversified media bouquets in the world. I really cannot think of another region where you enter a bookstore or switch on the television and find a choice of 50-60 languages, with content ranging from news to pet TV shows and everything in between.
In your opinion, what makes a PR campaign successful?
When FACTS do the talking.
How would you rather be contacted at work?
Anything but email, I have 182 unread emails even as I answer your questions!
Five things you can’t live without?
My kids, my husband, my everyday challenges, my coffee and my heels
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
Probably running a bed and breakfast in a quiet town somewhere in the Mediterranean. Although I fear I would become the town’s media ambassador before I know it.
How do you see media changing in the UAE in the coming years?
I truly believe that the media will become stronger, with opinions more defined. I hope and await the day when one reporter from the UAE will win a Pulitzer prize and do us all proud.
If you could have one work wish granted, what would it be?
If I could somehow import the French language of diplomacy, the Canadian Indian summer colors and the Lebanese survival know-how to my office, I would never leave the workplace.
What is your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print)?
I think print will never die. Especially as they publish Netflix schedules now!
But seriously, jokes apart, what I love about the printed paper is the amount of diligence, preparation and crafting that it takes for anything to make print ‘news’. And that’s after someone or something has done enough to be deemed ‘newsworthy’.