The way we communicate is changing, and the way the communications industry must work together is changing too
This is certainly the case across the Middle East where communications firms are increasingly becoming integrated – offering virtually every PR, digital and marketing specialism under one roof. This was not the case 5 years ago.
In 2011, when I first arrived to the UAE after working as a Head of Communications in Paris, I had expertise in PR, media, advertising, digital and social, invaluable assets without which I would not have been able to fit into the current state of the integrated communications market place. It helped me to understand every part of the jigsaw in order to ensure that the work of the various agencies I managed was effective in achieving the objectives that were set out.
To be successful in marcomms agencies or in-house communications teams, you need to be able to see – and understand – the whole picture. When I began working in recruitment, our clients found this breadth of expertise appealing and I realised that this was a skill set they were increasingly looking for from agencies.
The rise of digital
The catalyst for this is the emergence of digital, which has done nothing short of transform the media landscape and our entire lives. Social media and the rise of digital communications mean that the different ways of communicating blend into each other like never before. To travel, we Expedia our tickets; to ride, we Uber or Careem it; to enjoy a new city, we Airbnb our accommodation. It’s all online and it’s all on our mobile devices. Clients know it and agencies need to deliver accordingly.
As recruiters, we are dependent on digital skills when connecting great people and organisations. This is especially relevant in the Middle East and North Africa region, where the use of digital media continues to grow. Indeed, the fifth edition of the Arab Media Outlook Report, published this month, highlights that young people under the age of 24 make up half the population in the region, and that the way they interact with media content is a major contributor to the surge in digital communication (source: Gulf News).
The same report also suggested that the average person in the Middle East is interacting with different sources of media for around 11 hours a day, with 41% of this time spent on the internet, followed by 30% of time on watching television, 12% of time listening to the radio and 17% of time reading print. The internet quite clearly emerges as the winner in the fight for market share, and this means that no campaign can truly succeed without embracing it and giving it the primacy it deserves.
A slow start to integration
For some time, the industry was reluctant to embrace this. When I first came to the region, I couldn’t fathom how many companies’ marketing spend either made no allowances for digital, or allocated as little as 3%. The modern communications campaign will require the creation of content for a range of paid, shared and owned channels. The modern consumer digests news differently, and the modern agency needs to create content that can suit every palate. And this means integration.
Greater agility is the future
Integration requires people who can act and live digitally and traditionally; tweeting, blogging as well as meeting clients in real life. Nowadays I am seeing agencies and communications teams going through a cultural change as management needs to embrace creativity, innovation and take on a certain risk in order to provide one full service to their clients. People are and will continue to be in the centre of this digital transformation. This will become increasingly important as newer technologies like virtual reality emerge, and expertise needs to be constantly sourced and renewed.