With the start of 2020 - set to be a monumental year for the region - ushering in a new decade, PR professionals and agency chiefs have reflected on the past 12 month's successes and challenges, their industry heroes of the year, while also preparing for what this year might have in store.
PRWeek Middle East chatted to several senior communicators, and for many, the last 12 months brought a mix of challenges and opportunities.
For Lucy Harvey and Lisa Welsh, manager directors of H&K Strategies MENA, the year was one where the agency flourished.
"Our Middle East team at H+K Strategies has grown by more than 50 per cent this year, but the real highlight was reaching the top ten in the UAE Great Place to Work 2019. Building our culture and our business side by side has been hard work, but is the real proof of success for any agency."
For the duo, their industry heroes of 2019 have been the clients themselves.
"Our clients have been our heroes – being brave in communications, trying out new ways of thinking through testing out new ideas, challenging the norm and enjoying the spotlight on busy awards nights."
Harvey and Welsh said their predictions for the year ahead are that technology will continue to redefine the media landscape.
"Data and purpose are the day job for all of us now. But the next stage is integrating behavioural science – understanding why we so often act in irrational ways in seemingly rational moments, and how that affects individual behaviour around health, energy, climate change, purchase patterns and more.
"Behaviour change is top of the global agenda – and understanding each other at a fundamental level is key."
The 2019 highlight for Loretta Ahmed, CEO of Grayling Middle East and North Africa, is perhaps unsurprising.
"It has to be buying Grayling’s Dubai business to achieve independence and a future where we get to decide our own journey."
For 2020, Ahmed predicts "more campaigns from the public and private sector that are aimed at solving some of the big issues the planet faces".
"This - and of course even more video, more podcasts and more smart content."
But there’s also a lot to look forward to in 2020. Nearly all the industry professionals PRWeek Middle East spoke to have optimism for the year ahead.
For Ray Eglington, MD of Four Communications, he said: "I’m optimistic for 2020, in terms of work and business.
"On work, the latest MEPRA Awards showed that the industry here continues to develop creatively, with some fantastic stand-out campaigns. With the Saudi market now moving ahead so quickly, there’s an added impetus for big ideas and big campaigns.
"That Saudi factor will also continue to boost the commercial prospects for our sector, as will EXPO 2020."
Eglington said that while 2019 has many ‘highs’ in terms of client wins, business growth and awards, his biggest highlight was the company's first full Gulf graduate selection day.
"Fifteen shortlisted candidates spent a day with us on the group and individual exercises. It was inspiring to see such fantastic local young talent."
Eglington’s industry heroes of 2019 are Jonty Summers and Sabrina De Palma, chair and executive director of MEPRA respectively.
"They’ve led a successful year for the Association, with continued growth in membership, new engagement activities such as the podcasts and new events across the region.
"Our industry needs to have a strong local trade body – from the region and for the region – and they’ve done a great job in taking MEPRA forward."
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