Baha Hamadi on how Keel Comms is revolutionizing the MENA’s PR scene

Adgully Bureau | | Reading Time: 12:37 minutes

Keel Comms is the first and only 'purpose-driven PR & Communications, social media & content agency' in the Middle East and North Africa region with sustainability as the core of its operations. Keel Comms was founded by Baha Hamadi, a veteran publicist and communication professional in the region. Baha Hamadi is a board member of the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA MENA), and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Community of ESG Practitioners. He also serves as a mentor for Dubai Chamber’s Centre for Responsible Business.

In this exclusive interview with adgully.me's BF Firos, Baha Hamadi, Founder & Managing Director, Keel Comms, dwells on the rationale of introducing ‘Purpose Relations,’ his vision for Keel Comms, the growth potential and challenges of the PR industry in the UAE, the changing dynamics and the future of PR, etc.

"Keel Comms strives to imprint a corporate citizenship mindset in its clients’ DNA. Whether at the inception, early or maturity phase, we advise clients on how to incorporate ESG factors into their operations and branding, ultimately helping them communicate and accentuate their efforts genuinely," Hamadi says. 

The main challenge the PR industry faces, says Baha Hamadi, is the one-size-fits-all approach that most PR agencies adopt. "The need to differentiate your service offerings has never been more important. Also, as agencies reach greater heights of success and expand, there is a risk that the special one-on-one client care will be sacrificed for overly commercial tactics," says Hamadi. Excerpts from the interview: 

What is your vision for Keel Comms?

Considering the growing Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) movement globally, as well as the Year of Sustainability and COP28 locally, we aim to empower brands and individuals to play an active role during the Decade of Action and contribute to the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.

Regardless of the SDGs and the deadlines we set for ourselves, we are on an endless mission to help make the world a more sustainable place—one company at a time. This is an ongoing exercise requiring a lifelong commitment. Unfortunately, we will never live in a world without problems. What we can do is extend a helping hand and be consistent about it.

Whether through research, taking action, spreading the word or advocating for change, companies of all sizes and individuals from all walks of life are capable of creating meaningful impact.

What is the USP of Keel Comms?

Keel Comms is revolutionizing the MENA’s PR, social media and content sector by introducing ‘Purpose Relations’—the new face of Public Relations. Adopting a purpose-driven communications approach will help businesses make lasting impact while creating meaningful connections with their audiences.

How do you define Keel Comms as a purpose-driven and sustainability-focused PR & communications agency?

Keel Comms strives to imprint a corporate citizenship mindset in its clients’ DNA. Whether at the inception, early or maturity phase, we advise clients on how to incorporate ESG factors into their operations and branding, ultimately helping them communicate and accentuate their efforts genuinely.

We recommend ways in which our clients can contribute to the SDGs—either through co-creating initiatives or by facilitating partnerships with other entities within our network. For non-profits whose values align with ours, we offer discounted rates.

How can brands strike a balance between being socially responsible and staying true to the brand's values, while still achieving the marketing objectives?

Brands can strike this balance by considering how each marketing effort aligns with their core values—which is a given—while ensuring their campaigns deliver social or environmental benefits. Adding the sustainability component to marketing is becoming increasingly important for brands across all sectors.

Another way to maintain a balance between sustainability, brand values and marketing effectiveness in campaigns is by leveraging existing partnerships or creating new ones with organisations that share the same commitment to social responsibility. Through capitalizing on complementary strengths, partnerships have the potential to deliver exponentially greater outcomes than could be achieved alone.

How do you evaluate the PR and communication industry in the UAE? What are its key growth potential and challenges?

PR and communication in the UAE is one of the most vibrant and rapidly growing sectors across the Middle East region, driven by a wide range of market enablers, including a booming economy and increased demand for integrated marketing services. Key growth factors for the PR industry include an ever-increasing demand from both public and private companies for more advanced services such as ESG communications, reputation management, digital marketing, media relations, content creation, branding, and influencer marketing.

The main challenge is the one-size-fits-all approach that most PR agencies adopt. The need to differentiate your service offerings has never been more important. Also, as agencies reach greater heights of success and expand, there is a risk that the special one-on-one client care will be sacrificed for overly commercial tactics. In other words, it can start to feel like clients are being processed through a factory instead of receiving personalized service from their agency partners. 

The traditional media landscape is undergoing drastic transformation with digital media and influencers assuming prominence. How will these aspects change the dynamics of the PR industry in the Middle East?

The shift from traditional media to new media has had an immense impact. Digital channels present a much larger audience, providing brands with access to more potential customers. In addition, content is more easily disseminated and managed digitally, allowing for greater control over how campaigns are executed.

Influencers have become increasingly important for driving engagement and creating a two-way dialogue between the brand and its target audience. This has allowed brands to create deeper relationships with consumers, while also providing a platform to spread organic messages in an engaging manner.

What will be the future of PR in the region? Can you predict key industry trends?

The future of PR in the Middle East region looks very promising as businesses continue to invest in their reputations. Key industry trends that can be expected to gain traction include an increased demand for content creation, storytelling, and reputation management; the use of AI to predict trends, drive engagement and personalize messaging; and a greater focus on influencer marketing to engage with audiences authentically.

How will AI-powered analytics play a role measuring the effectiveness of PR campaigns?

AI-powered analytics will play a crucial role as a PR measurement tool. AI algorithms can be used to collect and analyze data from various sources, such as website visits, social media followers, ratings and reviews, sentiment analysis, and more. This data can then be used to gain insights into how effective a certain campaign is and provide actionable recommendations for improvement.

AI can also help detect anomalies that could affect the results of a campaign and alert marketers accordingly. Analyzing the data collected over time can also help PR professionals make informed decisions about future strategies based on past performance metrics.

Is the emergence of AI-supported tools like Chat GPT/ BARD a boon or bane for the PR professional? 

The AI engine revolution can be both a boon and bane for communication professionals. These tools provide us with unprecedented levels of efficiency in producing customized content, while offering valuable data-driven insights that can inform decision-making and shape effective strategies.

However, there is a concern about the accuracy of data output through AI. The other drawback is that AI could be used to spread misinformation or manipulate public opinion. It is up to us to ensure these tools are used responsibly, maximizing the benefits while mitigating any potential risks they may bring.