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Trust up

Not only are more people online than many clients believed, but those customers believe in the Web, according to a survey by Golin Harris.

December 28, 2011 1:39 by

PR agency Golin Harris, in partnership with research company Zarca Interactive, has released a survey that looks at media consumption habits across the MENA region. While the survey looks at the way people interact with traditional and new media, its focus is on digital, to gauge how people see the Web, mobile, social and interactive media compared to more traditional forms such as television and print.

The report is based on responses from 532 people online, and was conducted between April and June of this year.

“We do this because we really have to,” says Edward Lloyd, joint managing director of Golin Harris Dubai. He tells Communicate, “We pushed this without request, but through an educated decision because a lot of clients – even in the West, but specifically in the Middle East – are in a position where they know they want to be in something digital, they know they want to be addressing the Internet and online activity more, but they’re just not sure how, why exactly, and where they should do that.”
Clients know they should be going online, says Lloyd. They just didn’t know why. However, the survey has helped to open some eyes.

Clients were surprised by the maturity of the market, he says. The report finds that more than 60 percent of people get most of their information from the Internet, as opposed to only 10.5 percent who get it from newspapers.

On top of this, people trust the Internet. Golin Harris’ research finds that 52 percent of people find the Web a reliable source of information. There used to be a problem with “unofficial sites,” says Lloyd. Now, he suggests, “maybe there’s more money in it; maybe there’s more professionalism; maybe there’s more traditional media online now.”

More people are accessing media on the go. That’s pretty much a given if you follow media trends. But this survey found that 66 percent of people plan to buy a new mobile-enabled device “in the near future.”

That wouldn’t be a surprise in the UAE, but this survey covers the wider MENA region. “The proliferation is a big thing,” says Lloyd. “Proliferation is growing through the mobile device.”
The findings have implications for PR practitioners. Lloyd even says that much-derided backbone of Middle East marketing, the humble press release, might get updated for a digital age. Press releases might become interactive, he says. “We need to look toward the electronic release, with more multimedia. It’s not just news; it has to be the format as well.” Lloyd says it makes sense to look at sending out releases with audio interviews, a video of the CEO, or 3D product previews.

We ask what other changes we can expect to see from PR and communication agencies.

For starters, he says, we can expect to see a lot more digital officers. These people may go by different titles depending on the companies that employ them, but they will be the ones in charge of an agency’s digital expertise.

Larger agencies will have the luxury of buying, partnering with or launching specialist digital agencies. Golin Harris’s parent group, Horizon Holdings, recently launched Blue Barracuda, for example (see “Blue for you,” page 16, Communicate, Nov. 2011). This will allow agencies to offer a “holistic, integrated service.”

On top of this, says Lloyd, the Arab Spring, with all the coverage the region’s uprisings generated for Facebook and Twitter, now means that the man on the street is aware that digital is here and it’s powerful. The research shows that not only is he aware of digital, he’s also using it more.

And so should marketers.

*This article was first published in Communicate

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