As PR manager at Luxhabitat, a high-end property brokerage in the UAE, Aneesha Rai is in charge of marketing the multi-million-dirham homes of Dubai’s mega-wealthy, with the most expensive home she has been in charge of managing the comms for coming in at a whopping Dh240 million.
In an exclusive interview with PRWeek Middle East, Rai talks about in-house versus agency, the importance of recognising every demographic, and why PR professionals need to retain a sense of humour when it comes to both clients and media.
"Working in-house is different to an agency because you really need to emanate all that the brand stands for,” says Rai. "Combine that with working with a very limited budget and resources and you’ll learn so much more about making a little go a long way.”
Working in-house, says Rai, means that, as the years' pass, the brand identity and ethos "become a part of you”.
“Therefore, it becomes relatively easy to emulate,” she explains. "Getting responses to press queries also become easier and more efficient as you have direct contact with the spokespeople.
"You are also expected to keep in touch with current trends and consider the viability of implementing them within the company. At Luxhabitat, I’ve had to wear a lot of hats across online marketing and social media, because it’s just so much more than just press relations.”
Rai, who started her first foray into PR 11 years ago, says that in the UAE, pitching for unique angles is rapidly becoming the norm, which was nascent in previous years.
"I see a big opportunity for growth for those that are content-driven and analytical, because data science is at the forefront of quality journalism. Multimedia releases haven’t yet caught on here, but podcasts are now big.
"There’s been a lot of talk about artificial intelligence and automating press releases, but I haven’t seen it being actively used.”
When it comes to challenges in the local market, Rai said a lack of transparency in the real estate market, coupled with a huge demand for privacy, makes it a challenge to pitch certain stories.
"I think the main challenge is still trying to effectively connect with an audience that’s so diverse,” she said. "However, the advent of video releases and infographics has in some cases eliminated this problem.
"Despite having one of the highest concentrations of the extremely wealthy, it is still sometimes a challenge to reach them and find our niche audience.
"I think if you do speak and write a variety of languages well, you have a better chance to reach a wider audience. Currently, in the real estate market, there is a big demand for communication professionals that can speak English, Arabic and Chinese.”
Rai began her career freelancing for finance companies, before dabbling in freelance writing for titles such as Femina and Unilever’s BeBeauty websites.
She joined Luxhabitat in 2015 as a content editor and PR executive, primarily handling in-house communications, the annual magazine and website editorial. After studying and receiving her master’s degree in Media and Communications in 2017, Rai was last year promoted to PR and content manager and now handles parts of online marketing and the social media strategy, in addition to my PR and content duties.
Looking to in-house media trends for 2020 and beyond, Rai predicts that "third culture kids” will take the forefront to shape the corporate communications for the region as it matures and carves out its own identity.
"Comms and PR is very important for both the established and fledging brands. In most cases, it could make or break the business. Watching the changing consumer sentiment is important and current economic scenarios should also be taken into consideration.
"I think many PR professionals have nailed it when it comes to forging and cultivating a strong brand story and relationship with millennials. However, I think older demographics are a bit ignored, even though they are the ones with the most purchasing power. "My advice would be - never forget that humour, while still a prized asset, could probably not translate well to other nationalities... but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t risk it every once in a while."
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