By Taryam Al Subaihi, MEPRA Chair and Director of Corporate Communications, EWEC
This year, we have been working closely with our Board and MEPRA members towards launching the inaugural Arab Communications MEPRA Awards, which aims to celebrate and recognize the very best of Arabic communications across the region.
Over the years, Arabic language campaigns, targeting Arabic-speaking audiences, have been recognized in our annual MEPRA Awards. Last year, winners included national campaigns for the Mars probe and the commissioning of the Arab world’s first nuclear energy plant, as well as the first Saudi Arabian national to be named Young Communicator of the Year.
But this is the first awards program that puts Arabic communications first. The event will be hosted by renowned Arabic communication professionals from the region; all entries must be focused on Arabic-centred campaigns; the outputs must have been published or delivered in Arabic, and all written entries must be submitted in Arabic.
Like any professionally-run, objective awards scheme, this has three goals: to celebrate great work, to encourage excellence in the future, and to raise the profile (in this case, of the exceptional Arabic language talent across our industry).
I also believe that the awards are also another important signal of how the industry is maturing here in the Middle East. We are choosing to recognize excellent Arabic language-first work because we know it is there –and we believe it deserves to be seen and recognized.
Whilst we warmly welcome expertise from around the world, and I am sure we always will, it is critical that we build strong home-grown practitioners in this important industry, for the long-term success of the region. This year, for the first time, Arab national members form the majority of our Executive Board (and the election for Chair was contested by three UAE nationals).
Our focus is not just on the Arab communication awards but on the overall improvement of our content, communications, and cooperation with Arabic communication specialists and organizations. Once this goal is achieved, we'll be in an ideal position to train, develop, equip and support communication professionals and students in the Arabic language. Greater representation of the Arabic language, will improve the development of career opportunities for Gulf nationals, and leadership roles for Arabic communication professionals across the sector in the Middle East.
Perhaps most encouragingly, we are seeing greater opportunities for those looking to enter the industry.
A number of regional universities now have well-established degree programs in mass communications and public relations. More importantly, that academic expertise is being backed by real-life grounding as many agencies and in-house departments extend their graduate recruitment for Gulf nationals and those from the wider Arab world. People are grabbing those opportunities. One of the most satisfying statistics is that Arab Board members also form the majority of our Youth Board, all of whom are past winners of our Young Communicator of the Year accolades.
All of these are steps in an evolutionary journey. For the first decade of its life, MEPRA was focused on establishing the value of the communication profession itself in the region. For the second decade, there was a subtle but important shift, as it moved towards establishing the value of the region’s communication professionals. I do believe that at our best, the work of MEPRA members stands in comparison with any region in the world.
Now that we’ve passed through our teens into full adulthood, though, I see further evolution to come. The next stage of our journey, as a mature industry and as a mature association, is helping to develop that truly Middle Eastern voice even further, in addition to a much-needed welcoming and celebration of the best of Arabic language-led work.
It is one of the great strengths of this region that we are not afraid to work with the world’s best as a route to developing our own national skills and capabilities. I'm sure that will continue, but it is great to know that our home-grown talent – across the whole of the Middle East, is offering world-class standards in Arabic Communications, and continues to develop and progress.
I, for one, am greatly looking forward to participating and judging at the Arab Communications MEPRA Awards, where for the first time, we'll be seeing on one platform, world-class Arabic language content and campaigns. There are 20 categories up for grabs including, best campaigns in geographic markets, technical skills, industry sectors, people, and teams plus a special focus on the most notable work produced in response to COVID-19. My suggestion is to start planning your entries!
In itself, each entry may just be a small step on our journey. The important thing is that journey is taking us forward consistently, helping us learn, grow and come of age as a leading sector here in the region.
Opinions in this piece belong to the author.