Today our series features Fatma Ahmed of MeaComS, GlobalCom PR Network partner in Egypt, who gives us some insights into “Tops and Flops” in the Middle East market.*
PR topics: tops and flops – what works best in your market?
Due to the current political turmoil in Egypt, most people are interested in discussing topics related to politics, legal and regulatory reform, public figures and the economy – as well as mainstays like sports, with an emphasis on football. With the rise in internet users and accessibility to the internet, as well as the falling cost of getting connected, many in Egypt are spending their free time browsing online media, which includes news websites, portals and forums as well as social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Egyptians are very active online and like to share their experiences, photos, opinions and other creative efforts on blogs and Facebook pages for fans and friends. They also go online to do research and get information instead of buying new subscriptions to magazines or purchasing hardcopies of newspapers from newsstands. Many find it easier nowadays to keep up to date with news through websites and social media because news websites get updated frequently and allow readers to instantly catch up on what’s happening at the moment. The latest official figures show Egypt is home to 31 million internet users as of March 2012, a rise of 28 percent versus the same period in 2011. The internet now reaches 38 percent of the population. Data suggests that more than a third of users have internet at home, while half of users access the web via mobile phones or USB sticks.
One of the biggest reasons so many Egyptians have turned to online endeavors is the role that social media played in Egypt’s popular uprising known as the January 25th Revolution. According to a recent research, Egypt now has more than 11 million Facebook users, putting Egypt in 20th worldwide in terms of Facebook usage. Twitter also gained popularity. A report issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Information showed that Twitter boasted 129,000 Egyptian users in 2011, up 65 percent compared to the previous year.
The popularity of social media and the online world mean companies must have a positive and fluid online presence and seek to spread their messages in the virtual world through social media, blogs and news websites.
PR and marketing campaigns should also take advantage of Egyptians being so active online by involving them in the campaigns themselves. Examples include getting consumers to take photos with products, participate in online contests/opinion polls or create commercials featuring their friends and the brand of choice. Social media should be integrated in every communication plan in the hopes of creating word-of-mouth or viral excitement behind a product, service or brand. Expert online campaigns have the potential to garner a great deal of exposure as well as high return on investment and PR firms should be well aware of this.
How important is industry expertise in your daily PR work?
There’s no doubt that the best public relations and communications professional have industry expertise, particularly when dealing with diverse clients across several industries. Having an understanding of how to handle clients, what the markets are demanding and how to best communicate corporate messages is what differentiates the best in the business versus fresh graduates or those just starting out.
By following professional methodologies and remembering key communications principles, PR professionals ensure there is no incorrect or inaccurate information in press releases, testimonials, quotations, interviews, media kits or websites that could harm a client or product.
Another key part of the job that requires expertise and know-how is building relationships with journalists, industry experts and other related stakeholders. Having positive relationships with each of these groups means your firm will be in touch with the latest news and be able to reach out to news media with immediate, positive results even in a crisis or damage control situation.
PR consultants that have several years of practical, on-the-job experience are also important for firms that want to grow. They are the backbone of firms because they are good at seeking out new clients as well as promoting client retention. They can also facilitate and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders, as mentioned above. It is also helpful to have senior managers who can share and speak about their experiences and share their knowledge with new comers and junior staff members.
Are integrated international PR programs beneficial for your work?
Integrated international PR programmes are very beneficial to MEAComS. They allow our firm to get exposed, open our insights and benefit from new hands-on experiences and best practices. Doing so also helps boost our creativity particularly when it comes to international practices, while strengthening our communications network.
All of these factors help us implement new ideas/initiatives in Egypt that have already proven successful elsewhere. Sharing ideas and best practices keep PR professionals up to date with the latest techniques and methods, which enable us to grow.
*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.