Buchanan launches PR operation in Middle East

The influx of specialist financial public relations firms has stepped up another gear after Buchanan Middle East formally launched its operations in the region.

The news comes just a week after Campaign revealed that UK financial PR giant Brunswick Group is to open an office in Dubai next year.

Buchanan Middle East, which has been formed by a link-up between WPP companies JWT PR and UK-based Buchanan Communications, has already signed up its first major IPO client in Saudi Arabia concrete firm Al Aifa.

The agency will operate several branches across the Middle East and North Africa, with Dubai and Riyadh acting as lead offices.

Buchanan says that while opportunities in financial PR are a key reason for entering the Middle East, it is committed to maintaining high levels of service for former JWT PR clients, which include Sony Ericsson, MBC Group, HSBC and Visa International.

Tim Anderson, director of Buchanan Communications and BME, said the agency was experiencing "tremendous" demand for financial PR expertise, which would be provided by experts in London and in the Middle East.

"We have many competitive advantages the number of offices across the region, our established client and income base and the London expertise," said Anderson. "But our greatest strength is the quality of our people who are based in the Middle East and North Africa. This combination gives Buchanan Middle East the most enormous potential."

But he added that growing the company with local talent was a challenge that would be difficult.

"One of our biggest challenges will be staffing up quickly with specialist financial PR people. Having said that, the opportunities for career development are enormous, and knowing about the standards we demand, I think we'll be able to attract the right people."

Former Saudi TV journalist Amjed Shacker has joined the agency as chief executive. Shacker joins Buchanan Middle East from the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, where he helped to launch the King Abdullah Economic City.

"While PR services have been available in varying formats in the region, the depth of subject matter know-how and the need for local expertise leave much to be desired by clients," said Shacker. "The BME team offers customised communications solutions. That's our value proposition."

Shacker said that Buchanan would work closely with JWT in signing up new clients, who would benefit from the skills of both agencies.

"You cannot separate PR from advertising," added Shacker. "People want our services and every client that has contacted us wants both PR as well as advertising."

Mohamed Ghozeil, meanwhile, has joined the agency as managing director for Saudi Arabia and director of IPOs.

Previously Ghozeil was director of planning and communications at Leo Burnett, Saudi Arabia.

Lisa Rutherford, formerly of JWT PR, is managing director for the UAE and director of consumer public relations, while Samantha Bartel, previously of Tonic Communications, is director of financial public relaions for the Middle East and North Africa.

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