The Middle East is a diverse, exciting and brilliantly challenging region to operate from a public relations perspective. It encompasses 13 countries, ranging from conservative Saudi Arabia to the far more liberal Lebanon, and five languages are spoken across the entire territory.
The majority of PR agencies reside in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai, as do many of the regional media covering the Middle East, North Africa and the Levant. With the recent economic downturn, clients from outside the region are recognising the Middle East as an important growth area for their EMEA business footprint, meaning that the outlook on the future is extremely positive.
The diversity of the region is reflected in the media; there are, for example, over 500 media titles covering each country. The varied set of media in each country requires different approaches and emphasis, as well as sensitivity to subtle language variations and cultural differences. Further adding to the challenge, CSR, internal PR programmes and public affairs campaigns vary in effectiveness and relevance in each of the markets.
Change is in the wind of course and this is being driven on all fronts: agencies educating and developing clients; the media evolving and trying to develop a stronger voice while struggling with its democratic interpretations; and clients who are starting to see the benefits of broader aspects of the public relations tool set.