Communicate speaks with Taryam Al Subaihi, MEPRA Chair & Head of Corporate Communications, EWEC to understand MEPRA's plans for 2021.
What were your key takeaways from 2020 as a comms professional?
As troubling and challenging 2020 was for every sector, it will always be a year in which the importance of communications, and how we communicate, was clearly emphasised to all. We needed a new way to live, work, communicate and help one another move through this difficult time. The UAE became an example of how to do this, and do it well, to countries around the globe. I am proud of our colleagues in the communication industry in the UAE and the region who helped achieve this world-class standard of response to the COVID-19 situation.
From a personal perspective as a communications professional, I found that time spent at home or in quarantine forced us all to reflect internally as professionals, family members, colleagues and as communicators. For me, this is the key takeaway from 2020. We will all move into 2021 having learned or at least experienced different and even perhaps better ways of living and working. As communicators, we were also privileged to be part of the target audience of most campaigns during 2020 and experience first-hand, the quality of wider communication initiatives. This will hopefully lead us to raise our own personal benchmarks, to ensure we up our game moving forward into the new year.
The same applies to our takeaways as a communications community. 2020 provided us with new challenges, new opportunities, and the chance to evaluate not only our own work, but to also be an audience of good and bad communications as we all seeked accurate, clear, concise information from governments, health authorities, community leaders and social platforms. It allowed us to evaluate our style and preferences of communications and fine tune our own skills to communicate effectively during a tough year.
What are your goals with MEPRA in 2021?
MEPRA will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2021. It is also the UAE’s 50th birthday, and hopefully the passage out of the tunnel, towards the light that is the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. For MEPRA, as we look back on the history of this magnificent organization, of which the MEPRA leadership and team must be applauded for, I would like to explore the possibility of taking a few ambitious steps that will see a new direction in the MEPRA strategy. I will be working closely with the MEPRA Executive and Strategy Boards to ensure that we aim high but also set achievable targets.
We are the Middle East Public Relations Association, but it’s clear that communications is now so much more than ‘PR’. The types of communication, the tools for communication, the audiences we engage with have expanded and diversified, and as an association I hope to begin to reflect and celebrate every aspect of modern communications; written, verbal, visual and more.
We have ambitious ideas, and with the Vice-Chair, MEPRA Executive and Strategy Boards, I’m looking forward to implementing a programme to expand the scope of MEPRA, the support services of the organization, and a topic that is close to my heart: more closely connect MEPRA and the Arabic speaking communications community. We will be revealing the full strategy for 2021 during the MEPRA Annual General Meeting in early February.
I invite all my communications colleagues across the region to join the MEPRA Community and help drive our industry forward as one collaborative team.
What are the key challenges/obstacles that need to be addressed in the field of communications?
Challenges are opportunities, and as communicators we have so many tools at our disposal now which we need to leverage to build effective, influential, integrated campaigns that have a positive impact. More so in the Middle East than other markets, I believe we can do more to track and show the impact of communications on business outcomes using data beyond audience reach, engagement, and equivalent advertising spend. We can continue to learn from other markets in how we track and define the value of our work and, as previously mentioned, continue to think beyond ‘PR’ and utilise all forms of communications.
With the massive changes that took place this year as a result of the pandemic, will we see any changes to the business model or the way the communications industry operates henceforth?
I think there has still been an element of communications being an afterthought of business functions and decisions in recent years, but 2020 has highlighted how fundamentally important communications is, so I think there will be an increased emphasis on businesses to fully integrate communications as a critical element of business planning.
I think 2020 and the challenges of the pandemic have also highlighted how important accurate, concise and swift communications is in defining narratives that have a long lasting impact on public opinions and actions. As an industry we need to ensure we are the guardians for maintaining accuracy and accountability for the information we disseminate.