Middle East PR industry eyes 25% annual growth

The region’s PR industry could see an annual growth rate of 25% over the next few years as companies look to invest in other marketing services rather than just traditional forms of advertising.

The Middle East Public Relations Association estimates that PR billings were around US$60 million in 2005 and it is predicting an annual growth rate of between 20% and 25%.

But according to Sadri Barrage, MEPRA chairman and managing director at Headline PR, the industry is being held back from even larger profits due to a lack of awareness of what PR is for and how much the service costs.

Barrage said that the key sectors fuelling growth in the region were finance, real estate, health, IT and tourism.

He said: "If you are operating in a society you have to engage in discussion and dialogue. People in the Middle East are now accepting that PR is a matter of simply explaining what you are doing, so that there is no misunderstanding about your business. PR is now not a choice, it is a must."

He added: "Our problem is to make sure that our bottom lines are respected -- that people understand what we can and cannot do. There should also be a better understanding of the costs that are involved."

Sunil John, managing director of Asda'a Public Relations, said that the estimate of 20% to 25% growth was conservative, but also realistic.

He said that Asda'a saw its business grow by around 45% last year and that other agencies could have witnessed
similar successes.

"The industry could grow at an even faster rate, but I do think that 25% is a realistic figure," he said. "Traditional communication models no longer apply and I think that now the time of PR has come."

John said that key drivers of growth were governmental organisations, financial institutions and the 'phenomenal' growth of Middle East businesses seeking to acquire international reputations.

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