Briefing process 'biggest challenge' facing PR companies in UAE

Claire Micheletti, MD of an Abu Dhabi-based boutique communications consultancy, said an expectation of creative work upfront is also a habit that needs to be abolished.

Claire Micheletti is the managing director of the Abu Dhabi-based boutique communications consultancy Cosmopole
Claire Micheletti is the managing director of the Abu Dhabi-based boutique communications consultancy Cosmopole

Clients expecting creative work upfront and lack of clarity when receiving briefs are challenges facing PR firms in the UAE, says the managing director of Cosmopole, a boutique communications house founded in Abu Dhabi in 2018.

Micheletti said too few clients outline a clear brief for agencies pitching for business.

"The briefing process is our biggest challenge," she told PRWeek Middle East. "We rarely receive clear briefs. I recently surveyed our business register and of 100 enquiries received in 2019, only four were concise written briefs.

"The procurement process – having to submit strategies, ideas and creative work upfront – is a habit that also needs to stop."

Micheletti added that in the UAE, many entities are still reluctant to communicate externally with the media, creating a red-tape culture.

"Internal approval processes to get information out are convoluted and many clients fail to meet journalist deadlines," she said. "One area [that PR in the region needs to improve] would be taking a more creative or quirky approach to communicating products and services.

"We are limited by a tendency to stay conservative and keep formal; straight tones of voices. I would like to see more personality and playfulness in branding or marketing campaigns."

Micheletti believes there is "a huge opportunity" for companies to run more engaging and effective internal communications programmes by simply communicating internally frequently, candidly and transparently - and connecting with journalists in a more relevant, personal and professional way.

Other concerns in the current market include the amount of content that needs to be created, and specialising in content marketing.

"Creating content for traditional media, as well as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok, adds pressure on several fronts.

"Firstly, resources. We don’t just need a good copywriter and editor on staff, or marketing campaign strategist. We need visual designers, photographers, videographer, content editors, social media experts, specialists to handle posting and community management at all times of the day and in different languages.

"Secondly, the costs for clients. Small business simply can’t keep up. They end up using one or two channels only.

"Thirdly, creativity. Just because people are online means doesn't mean they are getting what they need. I read that only 29 per cent of our time online is spent searching on Google, while 71 per cent of our time is spent reading articles, watching videos, browsing images or listing to podcasts."

Micheletti said Cosmopole - which handles major brands including Emaar, Ski Dubai, Aldar Education, the Jumeirah group in Abu Dhabi, in addition to government entities such as twofour54, International Fund for Houbara Conservation, Abu Dhabi Government Media Office and the European Union - is currently expanding its suite of skills and equipment to cater to this emerging demand.

The agency plans to expand to the neighbouring emirate of Dubai later this year and is looking to expand an alliance with two boutique firms in Singapore to grow business in Asia.

Micheletti is marking her first full year in operation of her homegrown agency.

A board member of the International Business Women Group, Micheletti says she has been inspirited by powerful female peers in the boardroom.

"Sahar Cooper who leads Aldar Education and her leadership team, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi is run by strong, skilled women, all three of our foreign government clients are represented by women, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort run by Linda Griffin, while 75 per cent of the start-ups we represent are run by young Emirati women.

"There clearly and most definitely is a rise in female empowerment here in the UAE."

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