Beyond Dubai part 2: Unlocking PR prowess across the Arab world

Abha Garyali Peer |

Dubai boasts a state-of-the-art media infrastructure, including world-class facilities (including the media city) and cutting-edge technology. The city's commitment to innovation and its embrace of digital communication have propelled the PR industry forward. PR companies in Dubai leverage advanced tools and platforms to craft compelling narratives, engage audiences, and manage reputations effectively in an increasingly digital world. In the first part of this series (LINK), we analyzed what makes Dubai the focal point for PR companies in the Middle East.

In the second part of this story, let us find out the major trends that drive the PR sector in the region and what PR pros in the region have to say about the untapped opportunities in the entire Middle East region.

According to Anastasiya Golovatenko, PR Director at Sherpa Communications, the major trends are:

Data-driven approach: PR is increasingly adopting data-driven strategies, fuelled by advancements in data analytics. In 2023, there was a notable focus on harnessing big data for deeper insights into target audience behaviour. This enables more personalized and impactful messaging for clients, enhancing brand resonance.

Multimedia content: The growing reliance on smartphones underscores the significance of multimedia content. In 2023, people watched an average of 17 weekly hours of online videos, and they are 52% more likely to share video content than any other media. Leveraging audio and video formats allows PR companies to create immersive customer experiences. Integrating brands into podcasts, YouTube channels, and other media outlets beyond online and print publications that are tailored to the brand’s target audience's preferences is crucial.

Simple brand messaging: In 2024, concise, catchy, and authentic brand messaging is important. Short, attention-grabbing messages resonate well on social media, reaching diverse audiences across channels.

Flexibility is key: PR professionals must adapt swiftly to evolving news stories and changing client expectations. You can craft an excellent pitch and research the reporters you wish to contact, and still not get a response. Moreover, crises can escalate rapidly, necessitating swift and strategic crisis management approaches to protect brand reputation. Having multiple alternative strategies proactively and being responsive to shifting circumstances and the latest evolving stories helps ensure that the right message and angle are conveyed.

Artificial Intelligence: AI is being increasingly integrated into PR efforts, automating tasks like media monitoring, social listening, content creation and data-driven targeting. Early adoption of AI tools provides a competitive edge and frees up time for growth-focused projects. As AI continues to advance, PR professionals should explore its potential for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in their campaigns.

Similarly, Injeel Moti, Founder and Managing Director of Catch Communications, includes digital transformation, adoption of AI, purpose driven-PR and content marketing integration as top five trends.

According to Natasha Hatherall, Founder &CEO, TishTash Communications, integrated, 360 marketing and PR agencies are definitely growing in response to client and market demand for a full-suite of communications services, especially in content creation.

Regarding the changes in the PR industry in the last couple of years, Anastasiya Golovatenk observes that a prominent change is the emphasis on purpose-driven PR.

According to Golovatenk, companies are increasingly aligning their PR efforts with societal and environmental causes driven by changing consumer expectations, with people valuing businesses that demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility.

“We have seen a huge influx of interest in companies to expand to the KSA, with launches, partnerships, and joint ventures being announced by UAE-based companies in the KSA as the nation’s government strengthens and diversifies its economy. However, a one-size-fits-all communication strategy doesn't work in the diverse Arab world. The strategy for the UAE will not work in Saudi Arabia or other countries in the region. Understanding of the local market will be crucial for PR agencies to perform,” adds Golovatenk.

Injeel Moti observes that the PR industry has been increasingly embracing digital platforms and tools. This included using social media for real-time communication, data analytics to measure the impact of PR campaigns, and the adoption of AI and automation for tasks like media monitoring, content generation, and chatbot-driven customer engagement.

A look into the future

Dubai's evolution into a hub for PR companies is a testament to its commitment to excellence, innovation, and global connectivity. As the city continues to grow and diversify, the PR industry is likely to play an even more pivotal role in shaping the narratives of businesses operating in the region.

On the future, Injeel Moti said: “There is a whole lot of opportunity in the region; not just Dubai, but the UAE and other GCC markets opening up has meant increased opportunity for brands to penetrate a new market and subsequently opening up space for professionals in the comms / PR space to execute campaigns.”

Concurring with Moti, Alex Malouf, Executive Director, Corporate Communications and PR expert, said: “What I would like to see is more investment and more growth in other markets. I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to do good communications remotely; you have to be on the ground if you want to have a real impact. I do believe that there’s a fallacy that we need to correct, which is the region is uniform due to the Arabic language and culture. Look at the UAE. Abu Dhabi, which is one hour’s drive away from Dubai, is a completely different place, with different demographics. So yes, Dubai is a wonderful hub, but if you’re only in Dubai and not in Cairo or Riyadh or Beirut or Doha, then I wouldn’t call you a Middle Eastern agency.”

A word of caution

Anastasiya Golovatenk is optimistic about the future which appears promising for PR companies looking to establish a presence in Dubai.

She, however, is giving a word of caution.

“I would like to emphasize once again that only those who are willing to adapt, learn about this market, and consistently offer a professional approach will thrive. We observe numerous instances of businesses and individuals entering this market with half-baked or unprofessional approaches. Such approaches do not receive support from either businesses or the local PR community. Our goal is to build a high-level network of PR professionals here, and shortcuts will not last.”

Well, Dubai's state-of-the-art media infrastructure and commitment to digital communication have fueled a thriving PR industry. AI integration, purpose-driven PR, and content marketing are rising trends, while understanding local market nuances across the diverse Arab world remains crucial. Despite Dubai's leading role, untapped potential abounds in other Middle Eastern markets, offering exciting opportunities for savvy PR professionals willing to adapt and embrace cultural differences. The future of PR in the region looks vibrant, promising dynamic campaigns and brand stories that resonate across borders.

Tanu Chopra "In my 15 years of experience in the UAE and Middle East public relations sector, I've witnessed Dubai's significant transformation into a global PR hub. The UAE's leadership has played an important role in this shift, particularly in their steadfast support for digital innovation. This commitment has catalysed a paradigm shift within the public relations industry, fostering the integration of cutting-edge digital tools and methodologies that improve communication efficacy while encouraging new levels of creativity and involvement. 

Dubai's strategic geographical location, a cosmopolitan atmosphere, business-friendly regulations, and a luxurious lifestyle solidifies its position as a flourishing hub for global public relations firms. Dubai's relentless pursuit of innovation, seamlessly aligned with fundamental PR principles, positions it as an exemplar for achieving global success in the realm of public relations. The emirate stands as a testament to the harmonious fusion of innovation, strategic thinking, and a commitment to excellence, setting the standard for the future of the PR industry worldwide."