Senior trio leave Qatar Airways comms team as senior seat remains vacant

Three senior members of Qatar Airways' comms team are taking off, with the airline also struggling to recruit for its most senior PR job.

Qatar: losing PR staff amid blockade
Qatar: losing PR staff amid blockade

Doha-based head of comms Sophie Knight, who joined the company in 2015, has resigned and it is not known if she has a job elsewhere.

A colleague in the Qatari capital, comms manager Michael Johnson, recently left and joined UK consultancy The PC Agency in March. Johnson worked at British Airways until last year.

London-based Europe PR manager Elise Duvergé-Biensan is also leaving a little more than a year after joining, following a long stint at Air France KLM.

Knight was the firm's most senior comms specialist, reporting directly to Salam Shawa, SVP of marketing and corporate comms. The role of VP for comms, a level above Knight's position, has been unfilled since Jenny Dervin's departure in March 2017. Dervin had been with the firm for 18 months.

The airline did not respond to a request for comment.

The remaining team is understood to number circa 20 staff in Qatar and a handful of other employees elsewhere.

Agency changes

Qatar Airways took on doomed agency Bell Pottinger's Engage division for UK PR early last year, around six months before its collapse. Prior to that, it worked for The PC Agency.

It is now understood to be working with the London office of Cohn & Wolfe (now Burson Cohn & Wolfe) on a project basis.

The carrier is also a FIFA Partner, and likely to increase its sponsor visibility ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which takes place in its home market. More immediately, it recently said it would be posting a "very large loss" in its upcoming financial results, putting this down to a regional blockade.

Last year, PRWeek interviewed Shawa's counterpart at rival Etihad, taking in subjects including being a woman in a male dominated industry.

  • On 25 May, a spokesperson for Qatar Airways provided the following statement: "Sophie is leaving Qatar Airways in order to follow her husband, who is being relocated out of the region. Sophie remains a Qatar Airways employee as she serves out her notice period. She is a highly valued member of our communications team, and we will be sad to lose her. We do of course wish her and her husband all the very best for thefuture... We look forward to working with our communications team on the exciting years ahead, with further expansion of our global network."

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