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MENA Leadership Lessons with… Lisa King and Margaret Flanagan, Founders of Tales & Heads

Lisa King and Margaret Flanagan are the Co-Founders of marketing and communications agency, Tales & Heads. We spoke with them about the trends, challenges and opportunities facing the industry in 2024. 

This Leadership Lesson is part of an ongoing series exploring the landscape of PR and Communications in MENA - one of the fastest growing regions for brands, businesses and organisations. To read more insights from leaders across the territories, click here.

What are the significant trends you foresee in the industry in 2024? 

There are key areas for growth, including ESG. The region is maturing  in terms of environmental communications, and with regional governments’ increased focus and sustainability a higher business' priorities, there are huge opportunities. We're seeing more businesses embed sustainable practices, and communicate them more actively.

We're also seeing an increase in executive profiling and thought leadership post-pandemic. Barriers that existed before then have dissolved, and leaders want to show a more human side to who they are and what they do for talent, partners, investors and other stakeholders. That increased visibility will continue to grow, whether that's tailored and bespoke interview opportunities and strategic profiling, speaker panels, LinkedIn strategies,  or  opinion editorials.

Internal communications is also a growth area . The importance of talent retention and engagement, as well as corporate culture coming to the fore is putting the focus firmly  on internal comms right now.

Tell us about some of the focus areas for growth in MENA.

Of course it’s no secret that Saudi Arabia is in the midst of huge growth so it's an interesting market right now. But we shouldn't forget the opportunities that exist across the region - and the continued strength of Dubai and the UAE. The economy is growing, the city itself  is growing. There's a big population surge because of how well the UAE recovered after the pandemic, and because it's a very future-focused culture here.

There are also potentially more opportunities across North Africa, which is a maturing market. Over the next five years, the markets in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria will continue to emerge and we also see great talent opportunities there.

How do you think AI is going to impact the comms industry, and what benefits or concerns do you have?

Certainly there are great benefits, like quick research or a bit of support if you're struggling to get started. For people who speak English as a second or third language, it's incredibly useful to help correct grammar and language. That support is really beneficial, and generally helps talent become more confident in their work.

The quality of work is intrinsically different; you can tell if something is written by ChatGPT. It's a bit like the type of work that would be written by a high school student. You need to read it and check it. But six months or a year from now, the tech will have progressed to be more sophisticated. We would expect to see an incredible leap in terms of the content and quality in the very near future.

We typically use media and trusted sources of media to support our work. If the trust in those sources is undermined by AI, or the fact that content can't be copyrighted, it could jeopardise media houses and their profitability. We're in an unknown space which could have a major impact and force significant change in the comms industry.

What do you think are the top ESG trends for the next year?

I think this year and next will be about putting much more tangible deliverables and targets in place, and committing to more than just talk.

There'll be a big switch in terms of attracting talent as more and more young people look for employers with strong ESG credentials. And increasingly, anyone dealing with international partners, or regional partners who operate with international partners, will be forced into more sustainable business practices, simply because they'll be held accountable. Some of the big players have already started this, but it will begin to filter down in 2024.

Do you see much promotion around DEI matters in the UAE?

There's a much bigger focus now than there used to be. The number of our clients who are actively increasing DEI focus in their talent strategies is huge.

The region's been highly focused on gender equity  in the DEI journey, especially within the last 2-3 years. And I would say that businesses are taking it more seriously. It's also an interesting time for ethnic diversity. In Dubai, for example, there are 200 nationalities who live and work here, and we're seeing more equity and opportunity, which is really encouraging. People are also staying longer than we’ve historically seen in the region.

Are you optimistic about 2024?

I know I am. What I love here is the speed of change. There's a real spirit of innovation and a drive to do things differently. A lot of international businesses are moving to Dubai, and I think we'll see more companies being born in the region. Which, of course, is creating this groundswell of talent with great thinking and understanding of global issues. And there's certainly more focus on the value of comms across government and business and industry.

Our business turns three years old in February 2024 which  gives us an opportunity to think pragmatically about where we're going and the growth and opportunities we want to see develop.  

To speak to us about finding skilled, quality talent for your MENA business or offices, contact us today.

Posted on 05.02.2024

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