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Saudi Arabia: Tops and Flops in international PR

Today our series features Wael Sabri, Managing Director of Global Arabia

(http://www.globalarabia.com/), GlobalCom PR Network’s partner agency in Saudi Arabia – who gives us some insights into “Tops and Flops” in the Arabian market.

PR topics: tops and flops – what works best in your market?

The Saudi media in general focus mainly on product news for various reasons, which are mainly related to marketing & advertising shares. Publishing products and corporate news is considered a tool of marketing for the Saudi media, rather than educating the reader. Therefore it depends on the type of product or service we are talking about. When it comes to electronics (smart TVs, smartphones, laptops, etc.), product specs and Unique Selling Points work the best, at least when the product is introduced into the market. When it comes to cosmetics & perfumes, celebrity endorsement wins the deal.

On the contrary, when speaking of travel and tourism, expert comments and reviews are well-considered. So, the best instruments vary from one industry to another.

How important is industry expertise in your daily PR work?

In some markets, a focus on one specific industry might be more important than in another, but expertise on the markets we are working in is certainly always a plus…

Our Unique Selling Point to any client is our expertise in his industry. This is the first thing that any client always looks at when discussing a project.  Secondly, they look into the network size and the portfolio that we hold. For example, many clients used to request to meet the professional copywriter and discuss business details with him to ensure the future quality of the editorials. Others have to meet the crisis communications expert or CSR person to get a clear vision about his experience and how it will be beneficial for the client. Also when it comes to media training, the media expert is the most important person to the clients and can even be make or break.

Are integrated international PR programs beneficial for your work?

Any integrated international PR program is definitely beneficial in our work in the sense of “beating the challenge”.  Some of our major clients plan their expectations based on their competitors’ scope of work (who may be operating from a different region). Our knowledge and experience will be a plus.

Some worldwide brand names (such as LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Gucci, Chanel, Emirates Airlines, etc.) are centralized: all of their campaigns are in-sync internationally. They will reconsider their decision as soon as they gain trust towards the qualifications in the Saudi market.

On the other hand, many other brands operate locally because the market of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) requires specific expertise directed to a certain path. KSA is absolutely unlike any Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) or cosmopolitan city – they have their own regulations, procedures, working environment, and culture, which one must know how to deal with. So the best formula is mixing the local knowledge with the international experience. The main clients who always look for such a mix are the international clients who have some kind of global PR guidelines which must be applied in the local markets with a very minor localization. Here they need an international agency with a deep understanding of the local cultures and local diversity. Also, many global clients used to have their regional headquarters in the UAE, Bahrain or elsewhere, and prefer to work with international networks that had offices in all GCC regions, so local knowledge and international experience is the mix which will work with such clients. The reason for this is that the PR programs used in KSA and GCC are international programs with different local modifications based on the culture, and have local business requirements as well as a differing nature of the local media. The network and cooperation with international partners is usually useful for client and agency, since it assures the constant flow of information, experience, case studies, new business trends and training. On the other hand, due to the importance of the Saudi market, agencies in KSA used to get local PR projects or initiatives as part of their global clients’ cross borders initiatives – such as Earth Hour for Coca-Cola, Love Bracelet for Cartier, or Knowledge Sharing projects for Microsoft – so the local knowledge combined with international experience is the mix that works perfectly for such clients.

*The series is based on phone or face-to-face interviews and written input, therefore please excuse language mistakes which might reflect foreign language influences.

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