Paving the future of communication

Ahmad Itani, founder and CEO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations and vice chairman of PRCA MENA, says that in a fast-paced market, change is a prerequisite to progress in PR.

 Ahmad Itani is founder and CEO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations (C&B) and vice chairman PRCA MENA
Ahmad Itani is founder and CEO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations (C&B) and vice chairman PRCA MENA

When I started my career in public relations — somehow it sounds more engaging and inviting than simply labelling it with its prevalent initialism PR — I thought I had the future of communication as I would know it in the palm of my hand.

After all, I thought to myself, all I needed to do was bolster my media network and strengthen client relations. Success was in the bag.

Less than a decade later, I started making space on my bookshelf for books that attempted to define and explain the meteoric rise of digital media. Yet no sooner had I educated my clients on the importance of online presence and the waning impact of traditional mediums, I found myself no more than a few years later guiding my team, affiliates and partners on the need to look at the profession as a conglomeration that emphasises leveraging new innovations to reach out to the public.

Change is a prerequisite to progress, of course, but where other professions may take years to evolve and adapt, PR seems to be changing on an almost daily basis. It is a case of art unapologetically pushing the artist beyond the confines of their box, reshaping all possible communication conventions and leaving nothing untouched.

Today, those of us lucky to be in this ever-dynamic profession have become practised storytellers with proficiencies to exist in almost all fields, covering the spectrums of creativity, business, data analysis, and even psychology.  

It’s easy to shrug off PR as just another industry, but in reality, it is the most fast-paced, integrated medium that forces you to not only consider the impact of a message or a campaign but also understand a targeted demographic and establishing the right personalised tone, wording, and approach.

When Edward Bernays — the man whose name adorns one half of my agency — first conceived public relations, he approached the realm as a scientist would a subject of interest.

Throughout his 70-year career, in all his writings and his public speeches, Bernays constantly sought to make public relations actually be more scientific. He was not free of his critics who lambasted him for deeming what they regarded as a corporate need, a science. Given how the future of PR is gearing up to be, it’s easy to see the impact of his foresight.

Evidence of the evolving science of PR is rooted in our associates today no longer solely expressing interest in media relations; their main prerogative is to create partnerships with experts who possess a distinct understanding of new-age and digital media.

Every new platform now plays host to a target audience with distinct interests, personalities, and tastes, requiring unique campaigns and strategic approaches.

Where once agencies sought to hire people with robust media contacts, the most sought-after individuals now are those who know how to read a market and conceive ideas that not only target the desired demographic but also leave a resonating impact that will have people engaging with a brand or concept.

As with every field, there is a science behind public relations that carefully underpins the power of a word, visual, or message to an audience.

Agency professionals in the current media climate also find themselves in a favourable position: where a PR veteran may easily navigate the realms of advertising and marketing, the inverse is not necessarily, if at all possible, true.

Ahmad Itani is founder and CEO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations (C&B) and vice chairman of Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) MENA

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