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The value of PR
Following its second annual awards night, MEPRA says more companies and brands need to understand the full value offered by Public Relations. Kipp hears about the ‘high value’ discipline.
December 15, 2010 12:00 by Sidra Tariq
The role of public relations is viewed by some as merely preparing press releases, conducting one-way dialogues, or organizing events, and it can certainly seem that way here in the Middle East. But PR experts used this month’s MEPRA awards to push the message that there is more to it than that.
“We define public relations as really being stakeholder communications, that look at all of the key publics of any organizations or institutions, whether it be employees, financial investors or government regulators,” says Rebecca Hill, the executive director of the Middle East Public Relations Association.
MEPRA’s recent awards night recognized best practioners in the PR industry. The second annual event, where Dubai-based d’pr was declared Agency of the Year, honoured agencies and PR-arms for best practice in various categories. D’pr also won in two best practice categories, in addition to Jamal Al Mawed, senior account manager at d’rp, being named Young Communicator.
Hill says such awards are important for recognizing best practice in the profession, and refers to public relations as a “huge value-add discipline.”
“It is something that every organization needs to be endorsing, implementing, and ensuring that it is very much integrated within all its management and operational disciplines, because without good communications there is no way that you are ever going to improve your performance, engage your employees, etc. Communication is fundamental,” she said.
Sangeetha Umakanthan, head of a consumer servicing team at GollinHarris Dubai, believes that PR is too often an underrated field. “We work with clients that do a lot of cross agency work so we tend to work with advertising, media and they tend to be very 360 (degree) campaigns’” she said. “A lot of the time, though, I have found that PR tends to get the shorter end of the straw and a smaller budget.”
But GollinHarris Dubai’s winning entry in the Best Practice in Consumer Relations category at the MEPRA Awards highlights the importance of integrating PR in a 360 degree campaign, says Umakanthan.
The entry “How Cheese Inspired a Region of Women” (Kipp likes the title already) was based on Philadelphia Cream Cheese’s “Spread Some Inspiration” campaign, conceived by GollinHarris. The campaign involved an online competition in three markets— UAE, Kuwait and Qatar— where regular women who did extraordinary things told their stories and were recognized for their achievements. In an attempt to increase market penetration, to raise awareness of Philadelphia Cream Cheese as a spreadable cheese, to encourage product trial and to connect with consumers, the competition was launched apart from the existing outdoor advertising efforts.
“The [MEPRA] award really is a demonstration to our clients that if PR is integrated into the full 360 plan from the word ‘Go,’ from the time the brief is being developed, what you will get at the end of it is a very sound, very PR-able campaign and obviously one that can win awards,” Umakanthan says.