Awards show future of PR in the Middle East region 'in safe hands'

If ever you want to feel confident about the future of the industry in this region, look at that list of finalists in this years MEPRA awards, says Four Communications Ray Eglington.

Ray Eglington, group MD at Four Communication, was part if the judging panel at this year's MEPRA Awards
Ray Eglington, group MD at Four Communication, was part if the judging panel at this year's MEPRA Awards

I would be lying if I said I was anything but delighted by the MEPRA Awards last week.

I was genuinely delighted to see the quality of entries, the range of winners and the spirit of (good-natured) competition that now characterises this event.

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From humble beginnings only 11 years ago, these awards now attract more than 350 entries and almost 500 people on the night, far outstripping any other similar event in the region.

As a judge in those early years, and now again in recent years, it is great to see how the quality of entries has improved. There were some fantastic campaigns in there this year. I loved Performance PR’s pop-up restaurant for Bentley, Standard Chartered’s Art Gap and H+K’s Lenovo Dad Squad, to name just a few.

They, like other strong and winning campaigns this year, used smart insight to develop strategies that would meet business, not just communications, objectives. They each had simple creative concepts (often the most difficult to come up with) that allowed for campaigns that stood out. Then the teams in each case motored (literally in Performance PR’s case) to create real impact with multi-faceted implementation programmes.

Just as importantly, they presented the campaigns well, telling great stories about how they had made a difference.

These awards aren’t perfect. One of MEPRA’s strengths is that (like many other organisations that develop and grow) it is always looking at its activities with the ‘critical eye’ – working out what should change to make things better.

Over the last few years, for the awards that has meant new categories to reflect the breadth of what the industry does here, and to move away from a UAE-centric view.

"It has meant increasing the panel of judges to more than 50 regional industry leaders and doing everything quantitatively; if you win, you’ve scored the best – there is no sharing awards around so that ‘everyone’s a winner’. And it has meant creating a festival of communications around the awards that ensure participants cannot only celebrate success, but learn about all the latest trends the industry has to offer.

I think one of the best things that MEPRA has done is put the Young Communicators at the heart of the awards – and make their categories some of the most difficult to win!

Before you think I sound too harsh, let me explain.

Some years ago, MEPRA decided to cancel entry fees for that category and, later, to create in-house winners as well as agency ones. And then, to invite all finalists to a judging panel in which they have to present for five minutes and answer questions for 20 minutes (then being judged, quantitatively, by the panel of eight).

That means there are a lot of entries, the quality is incredible – and the winners in each case do stand out.

For those lucky enough to judge that panel, we saw perfect poise, superlative storytelling, creative presentations that went from powerpoint to video to poems (actually, poem – but it was a poem that got a spontaneous round of applause from the judges) and confident responses to often challenging questions.

If ever you want to feel confident about the future of the industry in this region, look at that list of finalists. The winners were incredibly impressive – but the competition was so close in each case, it made us realise the future is in safe hands.

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