Omar Zaafrani, strategic comms manager at new energy company Masdar, talks about the rise of maturing PR strategies in the region.
What is it like doing business in Abu Dhabi?
The strong economic growth of the city has given rise to a dynamic business environment, which makes for a culturally and professionally enriching experience.
While the business environment in Abu Dhabi has established a Western set of business practices, it is important to be receptive to the cultural sensitivities and nuances of the region.
Today, Abu Dhabi has an overarching goal to position and grow its economy into a globally recognized and competitive market. Abu Dhabi is also diversifying its economy so that knowledge and not hydrocarbon resources form its economic backbone. This economic transformation is the fundamental goal found across all sectors, which is met with enthusiasm by the international and domestic talent contributing to it.
What is the communications/PR industry like?
During the past five years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has quickly emerged as a growth market for the industry. Today, all major PR firms have established offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The importance of communications and PR is maturing. Companies, especially with international brands and stakeholders, are quickly recognizing the value effective communications has on growing market share and overall brand reputation.
The days of push communications and simply sending a press release to the media are fading. The public has become more sophisticated and derives opinions from a variety of sources. Just like the rest of the world, companies must earn trust to do business. From a communications point of view, this requires us to be more creative and embrace the power of delivering our story through multiple channels.
1. Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Chamber Tower, Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi
Tel: (+971) 2-6214000
2. Abu Dhabi Media
P.O. Box 63, Abu Dhabi
Tel: (+971) 2-4144000
3. Middle East Public Relations Association
Twofour54 Media Zone
P.O. Box 77812, Abu Dhabi
Tel: (+971) 52-9314085
What role has communications had to play in your company?
Communications has always been central to the organization. As an international company, we understand the importance of maintaining our strong reputation and staying connected to our stakeholders.
While we adhere to an overarching communications strategy, we also remain responsive and flexible. We are always adapting as our industry is constantly changing. New technologies hit the market and policies fluctuate regularly. This is the ever-shifting nature of the new-energy industry.
What sectors are experiencing the most growth in Abu Dhabi?
The economy is experiencing notable growth across various sectors including real estate, banking, industry, and tourism.
At the same time, there is a strong commitment from the Abu Dhabi leadership to diversify the economy and become globally competitive across knowledge-based industries.
As a result, Abu Dhabi is beginning to play a noticeable role in aerospace, microsystems, and clean energy sectors, for example.
This drive has encouraged strengthening of the education system and establishing the R&D foundation that is necessary to fuel innovation and growth in these sectors.
Is social media having an impact on traditional PR/communications?
Although the UAE is the biggest user of Facebook per capita in the region, print and TV remain the most effective channels to reach audiences.
However, social media is still a crucial channel, especially among young people. From a corporate standpoint, we believe in creating an issues-based dialogue that is important to the organization and relates to the next generation.
What are the main challenges communications/PR professionals face in Abu Dhabi?
The foundation of any effective PR and communications team in the UAE lies in having strong English and Arabic capabilities. The team should be able to communicate and devise any form of content in both languages.
Relying on translation services is an error that befalls several organizations. The challenge is being able to convey the idea, rather than simply the words, in both Arabic and English.