Injeel Moti, Founder of Catch Communications, explains why flipping the narrative around PR is critical to a sound marketing strategy, especially when trying to engage with the youth in Saudi Arabia.
What are the key points that you wanted to convey during your Deep Dive on “Leveraging Public Relations as a Tactic to Connect with the Youth” at Communicate’s Marketing to Youth KSA event?
I wanted to really go back to the basics and educate people on what PR is. I feel it’s the most misunderstood marketing medium, and that’s a challenge that the region faces as a whole. PR isn’t as straightforward as social media, influencer marketing, or events and activations. Appearing in newspapers is not PR; it’s just its output. PR is completely reliant on strategic storytelling and is such an important function because it’s essentially communicating your brand’s message and it’s all about how you do it. I don’t think many people really understand that. So, through this session, and through the work that we do at the agency, we try and educate people on what PR really is and why it’s such an imperative marketing tool.
How do you approach this PR education, including through Catch Academy?
Through the academy, we target fresh graduates and young professionals with a MarCom background. We work with them to fill the gap between formal education at university and practical working environments.
And we do a lot of education with our clients. Typically, the brief that we get is for a launch happening a month later. The client wants to hire us for a 30-day period and stop. That’s where we put our foot down and explain that, of course, we can do that but it’s not advisable. It is our responsibility – and the ethical thing to do – to advise that it’s not really going to pay off in the long run. You cannot stop talking to your audience after a launch because you will be forgotten. Start your work at least three months in advance. Put together your story, your narrative. How do you want to speak to your customers and keep that sustained? You’re going to have more goals to meet so how do you keep that cycle running? Education is our responsibility as professionals in the space and something we need to keep doing for our clients.
Do you see a hunger for this kind of approach?
Yes. Once people understand the benefits, definitely. Of course, there are considerations like budgets and team logistics, especially with younger businesses, which we’re seeing a lot of now in Saudi Arabia. But once the education part is done and understood, there is a demand. And there is definitely a curiosity and a willingness to try and experiment.
What’s your perspective on the state of PR in Saudi Arabia today?
I don’t think it’s being leveraged as well as it could be. Saudi Arabia is a large market with a very young, very tech-savvy population who spends a lot of time on their devices. Advertising and direct brand messaging have been exercised heavily in that part of the world but there’s a lot of room for storytelling, for creating a certain perception of a brand in a way that creates an impact.
The mediums would definitely be digital but how we communicate on those mediums is what we need to really look into. We need to start telling stories – why should you opt for our brand as opposed to another? What makes it different? Special? We need to change the narrative and really speak to the youth in a very storytelling approach. That is what is commonly missing there. Marketing in general is done around “This is who we are. This is how we do it.” Nobody really talks about the why. “Why are we doing this? Why are we coming out with this? How is this going to add value to your life? How is this going to benefit you?” I think the why needs to take precedence over the who.
What are the keys to connecting with Saudi youth specifically?
They’re a very engaged community. They want to be involved and be part of the conversation because, for the longest time, they felt like they were not a part of it. When you engage them, they reciprocate, they ideate, and they’re very opinionated. If leveraged correctly, this particular aspect is something that we can use to our benefit as brands and businesses. Go to them and ask, “What would you like to see? How would you like to be spoken to?”
What role does the culture play in Saudi Arabia when considering PR?
Any marketing campaign must be adapted for the local market. I can’t run the same campaign I’m running for a client in the US and replicate it in the UAE. And people who are used to working in the Middle East, particularly in the UAE, have a certain understanding of the region but they also need to be mindful that it’s not the same at all in KSA, Qatar, or Kuwait; each market is different. Culture and religion play a very important role in the KSA market. And while there are many developments on the economic side, the end consumers, the people that we connect with, are still the same. So, whenever you’re planning any sort of activity, you need to consider that. Doing your research and speaking to people on the ground is very important before you go in.
This article was first published in Communicate's Q1 2023 print issue.