By Elías Jabbe
PR industry leaders and journalists gathered at the inaugural Middle East PR Association (MEPRA) KSA Leadership Majlis in Riyadh on October 21, to discuss the evolution of the PR industry in Saudi Arabia.
This year’s “Impact & Influence”-themed edition was documented on MEPRA’s social media platforms as it happened at Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya, and served as a sequel to previous editions of the Majlis in Abu Dhabi.
On top of analyzing branding opportunities for key Saudi projects – including Vision 2030 and The Red Sea Project – highlighted in a previous Communicate article, the need for PR professionals to adapt the latest technologies available was a recurring theme throughout the half-day event.
During the first speech of the Majlis, which set the tone for a day full of analysis of the future of PR, International Public Relations Association (IPRA) executive board member Faisal Al Zahrani said that traditional communications skills leveraged in his country need to be paired with modern tools.
“The Internet revolutionized the public relations and communications industry. Traditional skills like writing, crisis management and public speaking, are not adequate anymore,” said Al Zahrani. “We need to have enhanced expertise in social media content.”
Al Zahrani was followed by Peter Debreceny, vice president of international at Page (also known as the Arthur W. Page Society), who discussed the future of chief communications officers. Debreceny shared excerpts from a new Page report called “The CCO as Pacesetter: What It Means, Why It Matters, How to Get There” which includes survey results from 18 months of global research.
One of the main takeaways from Debreceny’s presentation was that PR professionals should take inspiration from the MarTech (Marketing Technology) movement and leverage CommTech in order to create digital engagement opportunities.
Wise words shared by speakers @NoorNugali, @MuhammadTahlawi, @MazenNahawi and moderator @JontySummers at our final #MEPRAMajlis panel in Riyadh that studied 'The changing face of modern media' in #SaudiArabia. pic.twitter.com/RseQqkty6Z
— MEPRA (@MEPRA_org) October 21, 2019
The big picture
Along with an overview of digital PR, the Majlis offered perspectives on PR’s true purpose and where the industry is heading next in Saudi Arabia, in an era where it pursues a larger platform on the global stage and a new tourism strategy.
Saudia VP of corporate communications Fahad Bahdailah’s presentation featured a case study of the airliner’s partnership with Formula E during the 2018 Saudia Ad Diriyah ePrix, with a reminder regarding how PR spokespersons should maintain a subtle approach.
“A lot of people have this misperception about spokespersons. The spokesperson should not be in the media all the time. He should be in the media when there is a need for him to be in the media,” Bahdailah said.
The MC of the Majlis and MEPRA chair Jonty Summers shared his impressions with Communicate and looked ahead to the nonprofit’s upcoming events in Abu Dhabi, including the REMAP Communications Festival on November 19 and the MEPRA Awards Gala on November 20.
“In putting together the MEPRA Leadership Majlis in Riyadh, we looked to bring together senior communication leaders from across the region to discuss the challenges, trends and opportunities in public relations in Saudi Arabia,” said Summers. “It was a fascinating program, with a lot of differing and creative viewpoints from a range of interesting speakers, from government organizations, corporates and agencies. There’s a real sense of energy in the public relations community in Saudi Arabia at present.”