"We don't want people who are obsessed with technology, because they'll forget the message is more important than the distribution system," says the Chime Communications chairman, Lord Bell, above, at the Public Relations World Congress in Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National
"We don't want people who are obsessed with technology, because they'll forget the message is more important than the distribution system," says the Chime Communications chairman, Lord Bell, above, atShow more

Image masters needed in the Middle East



Wanted: professionals who are tech-savvy and excellent communicators - and have thick enough skin that they can withstand being called such things as "spin doctor".

Public relations experts are in high demand but short supplyin the Gulf. Their work, globally, pulled in more than US$9 billion (Dh33bn) of revenue for PR agencies last year, and the Middle East and North Africa region is experiencing the world's fastest growth in this sector, says Sunil John, the chief executive of ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller in Dubai.

The business here is projected to double, from $500 million last year to $1bn over the next decade, he says.

"We think that is a huge opportunity," says Mr John, who is also chairman of the Public Relations World Congress, which was held in Dubai this month.

"The big question mark is: are PR agencies well-equipped to be able to handle that job?" Mr John says. "In our own opinion, not fully, because there is a serious lack of talent."

To help to address this issue, about 130 students from the Gulf attended this year's PR congress thanks to sponsorship by Etisalat in the UAE, Mobily in Saudi Arabia and Qatar Petroleum. Some of these students are expected to work as communications or marketing professionals in government offices or private enterprises, including PR agencies.

But not everyone who shows interest in this field will ultimately make the cut.

PR experts who spoke at the conference were asked about the kinds of candidates they seek when hiring. Some emphasised the importance of knowing how to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Others disagreed with a tech-focused approach.

"We don't want people who are obsessed with technology, because they'll forget the message is more important than the distribution system," said Lord Bell, the chairman of Chime Communications, which oversees the PR company Bell Pottinger.

Experts also differed on whether practitioners should have areas of specialisation within public relations.

Daniel Tisch, who chairs the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, argued that having a "bird's-eye view" of an organisation is crucial in assessing business risks and opportunities.

"While I think it is wise to develop a speciality, we shouldn't lose the importance of general skills," he said.

Mr Tisch's ideal candidate can read a financial statement, understand public policy or the regulatory environment and find a trending topic on Twitter.

Prema Sagar, the founding president of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India, noted that many clients are seeking professionals with specialised knowledge about the clients' particular domains - such as telecommunications or corporate social responsibility.

"People want experts in a particular subject," said Ms Sagar.

Still, she said that even specialists must be able to communicate across various media, including print, television and social media.

A sense of humour, it seems, can also help.

Shortly after Lord Bell was introduced to speak at the conference he said: "I am privileged to be described as the original spin doctor." Later, on what seemed to be a slightly more serious note, he advised job seekers to watch the TV series Mad Men to get a sense of his industry's history.

"It's still just as mad," Lord Bell said. "It's just not as fun any more."

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Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

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Consoles: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch
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Also on December 7 to 9, the third edition of the Gulf Car Festival (www.gulfcarfestival.com) will take over Dubai Festival City Mall, a new venue for the event. Last year's festival brought together about 900 cars worth more than Dh300 million from across the Emirates and wider Gulf region – and that first figure is set to swell by several hundred this time around, with between 1,000 and 1,200 cars expected. The first day is themed around American muscle; the second centres on supercars, exotics, European cars and classics; and the final day will major in JDM (Japanese domestic market) cars, tuned vehicles and trucks. Individuals and car clubs can register their vehicles, although the festival isn’t all static displays, with stunt drifting, a rev battle, car pulls and a burnout competition.

THE BIO

Favourite place to go to in the UAE: The desert sand dunes, just after some rain

Who inspires you: Anybody with new and smart ideas, challenging questions, an open mind and a positive attitude

Where would you like to retire: Most probably in my home country, Hungary, but with frequent returns to the UAE

Favorite book: A book by Transilvanian author, Albert Wass, entitled ‘Sword and Reap’ (Kard es Kasza) - not really known internationally

Favourite subjects in school: Mathematics and science

POSSIBLE ENGLAND EURO 2020 SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Dean Henderson.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Joe Gomez, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Ben Chilwell, Fabian Delph.
Midfielders: Declan Rice, Harry Winks, Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Forwards: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi.

ABU DHABI'S KEY TOURISM GOALS: BY THE NUMBERS

By 2030, Abu Dhabi aims to achieve:

• 39.3 million visitors, nearly 64% up from 2023

• Dh90 billion contribution to GDP, about 84% more than Dh49 billion in 2023

• 178,000 new jobs, bringing the total to about 366,000

• 52,000 hotel rooms, up 53% from 34,000 in 2023

• 7.2 million international visitors, almost 90% higher compared to 2023's 3.8 million

• 3.9 international overnight hotel stays, 22% more from 3.2 nights in 2023

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Name: Brendalle Belaza

From: Crossing Rubber, Philippines

Arrived in the UAE: 2007

Favourite place in Abu Dhabi: NYUAD campus

Favourite photography style: Street photography

Favourite book: Harry Potter

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5