PRCA MENA Launches Digital PR and Communications Report 2017

The Public Relations and Communications Association in the Middle East and North Africa (PRCA MENA) has revealed the findings of its first Digital PR and Communications Report, with insights across the following key areas:

  • In-house budgeting for paid media continues to rise
  • Web design and build is a huge growth area for PR and communications agencies as service is increasingly combined with PR
  • Huge expectation that digital budgets will grow over the next 12 months
  • In-house and agency staff alike do not feel they get enough training around digital

The first PRCA MENA Digital PR and Communications Report, produced in partnership with YouGov, provides a benchmark of how the PR industry is performing with digital communications.

To receive a copy of the report, contact

Attitudes and responsibilities

When asked why their brands are on social media, in-house leaders surveyed are now less likely than ever to point to negative reasons such as to address a lack of control to online reputation (17%) and to be able to respond to a crisis quickly (19%) while the biggest reasons are to increase brand awareness (52%), and to drive sales (48%).

Now more than ever, in-house teams surveyed see themselves as the owners of digital/social media strategy and execution, with agencies providing supporting roles. This raises some important questions about the role of the PR agency in digital, going forward.

In-house budgets

The mean percentage of marketing budgets spend is 51% on paid social media, closely followed by 43% on web design and build. Just under half (44%) expect their digital budget to grow in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, investment in Image based content is only 20% in comparison to 51% of budget spent on image based content in the UK.

Agencies and how they’re being used

In the past year in particular, we have seen huge growth in in-house PR departments expecting PR agencies to be able to deliver many digital service areas. The highest expectation is agencies delivering creative ideas (54%) and online media (48%)

On the PR agency side, 49% are now offering social media marketing, 41% digital media marketing, and 36% influencer outreach.


Over the last year, in-house teams surveyed have seen the biggest growth in use of Facebook (60%) and Youtube (58%).

The biggest in-house platform losers are Pinterest and Linkedin, with a drop of 7% and 6% in usage respectively over the past year.

For agencies, the leading campaign platforms over the past year are Facebook (78%); Instagram (41%) and Youtube (45%), while it is interesting to note that Twitter use is somewhat lower at 28% compared to 95% in the UK.


When asked to rate their top three, the majority of in-house comms people gain most of their social media education and insight from external training courses (26%). When asked which three things they need more education in, the biggest percentage of in-house comms people need more education/insight around digital media coverage (49%) and digital strategy (43%)


YouGov partnered with PRCA to survey over 2,000 agency and in-house PR professionals across business services, finance and banking, technology and telecoms, charities and NGOs, Government and other sectors. In-house respondents include Directors of Marketing/Communications, Heads of Marketing/Communications, and Heads of Press/PR. Agency respondents include CEOs, MDs, Partners, and Directors.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size in 2017 was 2027 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken during April 2017. The surveys were carried out online.

PRCA MENA launches face-to-face training in Dubai

PRCA MENA has partnered with the Media Network, the news, networking and data centre for the Middle East media community, to provide half day face-to-face training courses in Dubai.

The face-to-face training is in addition to over 40 online training webinars that PRCA MENA currently offers.

All trainers have completed a rigorous assessment process and are all accredited and certified PRCA trainers.

The PRCA will be launching an initial four courses:

Developing a Social Media Strategy , with Samantha Dancy MPRCA. This course will equip you with the tools and tips to develop a communications strategy that integrates social media and traditional media effectively.

Business Development Techniques with Victoria Tomlinson MPRCA, CEO Northern Lights. This training course will teach delegates how to identify prospects, convert these to business opportunities and close the deal.

Over-servicing Clients – How to Turn Around and Make Profit with Victoria Tomlinson MPRCA, CEO Northern Lights. This half day training session will look at why over-servicing happens, setting expectations, ownership, and agreeing deliverables.

Beyond the Press Release – Writing Skills for PR in a Digital Age with Samantha Dancy MPRCA. Delegates will learn how to develop key messages and news into written content that works across various media platforms.

All training courses are certified and delegates will receive a certificate on completion.

PRCA MENA members can attend the training courses at an introductory discounted rate of 650 AED, non members 1000 AED.

PRCA MENA is preparing to launch a series of face-to-face training sessions in Arabic, which will be available later this year.

Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, said: “I am very pleased to partner with The Media Network, to broaden further the range of training options available to PR and communications practitioners in Dubai. It is a key priority of the PRCA’s to improve standards within the industry, and this is an important step forward.”

Michelle Kuehn, Managing Partner, The Media Network adds, “We’re so thrilled to launch face-to-face training sessions with PRCA. Our ethos has always been to create a nurturing media community in the region, and through this step, we aim to provide access to quality training for PR professionals in Dubai.”




PRCA MENA is pleased to announce that it is partnering with Action UAE for the launch of its own training academy.

The CPD-accredited programme includes both face-to-face training in the region as well as online training webinars and will be overseen from PRCA MENA’s office in Dubai. PR and communications professionals will be allocated a training budget as well as a bespoke guide and staff will be able to learn new skills, develop best practice, and stay abreast of the latest developments in areas they already operate in.

The academy follows the recent success of the Qcademy by Q Communications, and the training academy at Instincif Partners.

Euan Megson MPRCA, Managing Director, Action UAE said: “We’ve invested in PRCA’s diverse and multi-faceted training programme to ensure our people stay ahead of the curve across the full spectrum of skills required in today’s constantly-evolving communications arena. Whether it’s top-up sessions for our longer-serving resources, or core education for more recent recruits, PRCA’s webinar and face-to-face options provide regular avenues for targeted training. There’s no regional equivalent to the richness and variety PRCA offers across its training modules. With Action UAE having doubled in size over the last 18 months, we’re looking forward to our people optimising these modules across all levels of our business. Learning never stops – for any of us.”

Leanne Foy MPRCA, General Manager, PRCA MENA, said: “I am thrilled that Action UAE have put together a comprehensive training plan and are investing in their staff with both internal and external training, thus developing talented PR and Communications professionals in the region.”

Social Media Photography – Shooting for Brands

Shooting photography for social media can seem a little daunting because your posts are basically going up against those of influencers – who have tens of thousands of followers – and seem to get an unachievable amount of likes on each post. These influencers also have a lot more time on their hands than the typical PR, who might have numerous accounts to manage at the same time. Posting beautiful pictures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc for multiple brands can seem like the impossible task but as we all know, a well curated, on brand, and consistent looking social account can be a fantastic foundation for the wider marketing activities for a company. I work with many brands here in Dubai (Scoopi, Sugarmoo, Wendy’s, Cafe B to name but a few), and over time I have learnt that there are a few things to think about (or not), when getting the perfect shots. Here’s six tips to make life a little easier for you…

1: Keep It Simple

 The product you’re shooting needs to be the hero of the shot, not the pretty wallpaper or the flowers that someone suggested will look nice in the background. Obviously, make sure that the colours match in the frame, but make sure there is nothing in there that will take the attention away from your product. It’s good to use props, but make sure they’re not bigger, more interesting or draw the viewers eye more than the product you are shooting. It’s easier to add things in than take them away, so start simple and then build from there. Most of the time, when you look back at your shots, the earlier ones will be the keepers.

2: Props

As a follow on from the above, and in some ways contradictory, (sorry about that), have a think about props for your shots and what could maybe enhance your images. For a coffee shop I recently shot for, we placed a magazine in the corner of the image and a hint of a computer to show a lifestyle feel, and for food photography, could having some of the raw ingredients of a strawberry cheesecake somewhere in the image help convey the taste? As above, keep it simple and don’t clutter the frame, also, make sure the props you use are relevant.

3: Plan Ahead

Before you start to shoot anything, sit with your team, your brand and ideally the photographer to understand the look and feel of what you’re after before you pick up the camera. Look through Instagram and make a mood board of pictures and accounts that you like and want to mimic. It’s much easier to achieve a consistent look and feel when there is a clear cut palette of colours, angles (top down / 90 degrees), and also an idea of lighting. These may sound like things for a photographer to worry about, but everything will run much smoother with these elements agreed before the shoot. Even if you’re shooting this on your own with an iPhone, planning will save time and help with consistency.

4: Lighting

Lighting is key for all good photography, and this is especially true if you’re shooting with an iPhone on a budget for social. Start paying attention to light wherever you are… how do the shadows look? Are they harsh? Are they soft? Is the space you are shooting in only lit by unnatural light such as you get in a mall? As a really basic rule, natural indirect sunlight works best for food, and for products, you need a but more thought to get that polished look. It’s genuinely amazing what can be shot on a phone with two simple table lamps and a couple of pieces of white card, and obviously this only gets better with the more professional equipment you have access to. Also, if you’re shooting outside, avoid the middle of the day with direct sunlight and aim for the start of the day or the end of the day (the golden hours for photography). All of the above is worth considering, and next time you look at a photograph, try to think about where the light source is, what the shadows are doing, and how you could replicate this. Honestly, the more you think about this and notice the light, the better your images will be.


This section is down to taste, as is all photography, and everyone has a different idea of what is acceptable in regards to filters and editing. Speaking personally, I like to try and keep the images as natural as possible, and not add too much of a filter to an image. It can be very frustrating when you’ve edited an image and when a brand posts the image on Instagram, the colours are completely off because of the filters that have been added. Like I say, this is completely down to taste, and if this is what the brand wants, then sure, go ahead and do it. But just be careful. If you want a consistent look and feel to your feeds, a whole range of filters used on a page can make things feel disjointed. Editing is an art, and a lot of photographers even use external sources to edit their images as they appreciate that taking photographs and editing are two separate skills to have. As a rule, learn how to use a program like Lightroom to colour correct your images, and make sure that things are consistent.

6: Hire a professional

If all of the above seems like too much to get to grips with (let’s face it, you’re probably busy enough right now), seriously think about hiring a professional to take your social images for you. You can shoot these in batches over the year to ensure you have enough content to keep your brands social feeds full, and also schedule ahead of time so it turns into a monthly task rather than a daily one. With proper planning and execution, there is no reason that social photography needs to be a headache. Also, if you can, try to work with the same photographer on a long term basis to help get better rates, and also so the photographer understands your brands, understands you and so that everyone can grow together. 

Mark Field – – Ex-PR turned photographer based in the Middle-East.

Weber Shandwick team win MENA Young Lions PR Competition

PRCA MENA is pleased to announce that the Weber Shandwick team of Angelina Hedra and Viviana Villasmil have won the MENA Young Lions PR Competition, and will go on to represent the region at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, sponsored by ICCO.

This is the second year PRCA MENA has run the competition which this year saw over 20 entries from teams of two under the age of 30. Teams responded to a brief from Dubai Cares, which performed as the ‘client’. Each team had 24 hours to create a creative and effective campaign.

The Weber Shandwick team won with their ‘#spareoneminuteforchange’ campaign.

Alex Malouf, Jury Chair, Proctor and Gamble said: “There was so much energy, enthusiasm and creativity on display during this year’s MENA Young Lions PR Competition. We were impressed by many of the entries, and it’s fair to say that the region has a strong pipeline of talent on the agency side. Well done to all the entrants, and especially the finalists. The winners of this round will do us proud in Cannes.”

Andreas Keller, Managing Director, Weber Shandwick MENA, Dubai, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Angelina and Viviana were selected by the PRCA to represent the Middle East PR industry at the Young Lions Competition this summer.

“We’ve had many Weber Shandwick teams take part in this competition over the last two years as it provides an excellent platform for young PR professionals to experience the realities of developing integrated campaigns for clients in a pressured environment. Producing Cannes Lions award winning work is something all agencies aspire to do so this is will undoubtedly be a very memorable and enriching experience for both consultants.”

PRCA MENA announces shortlist for Young PR Lions MENA competition

PRCA MENA has announced the shortlist for the Young PR Lions MENA competition to find the best young PR professionals in the country.

Six teams have been shortlisted to win the accolade this year and one of them will be heading to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to take part in the international competition on 18th June, 2017. Each team is made up of two PR professionals aged 30 or under.

The shortlisted agency teams are:

  • David Willet & Mira Assaf- Weber Shandwick
  • Anahita Guha & Anisha Sharma- Golin MENA
  • Dhaliya Zankawi & Ailsa Sachdev- Grayling
  • Angelina Hedra & Viviana Villasmil- Weber Shandwick
  • Swati Jain & Heleen Laurisson – Q Communications
  • Elizabeth Singleton & Naomi Chadderton – Action UAE

The six agencies have been narrowed down from 16 MENA competitors, after responding to a brief set by Dubai Cares, which performed as the ‘client’. Participating agencies had 24 hours to create a campaign.

The shortlisted teams will be asked to deliver a five minute presentation explaining their PR campaign on the 22nd March in Dubai. Following this, there will be a five minute Q&A session.

The judging panel for this years’ competition is: Skender Hacine, Dubai Cares; Alex Malouf, Procter and Gamble; and Iman Issa & James Mitchell, Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

Following this, the winning MENA team will be announced on 23rd March and will receive complimentary accommodation and delegate passes to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The team will then compete against representatives from more than 30 countries, delivering a presentation for a non-profit organisation in 24 hours that will be judged by a selected jury.

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) is the sponsor of the Young PR Lions competition to find the most talented young PR team in the world; and PRCA MENA is responsible for running the element of the competition from the region to find the country’s brightest and best young PR talent.




Pushing the boundaries on best practice

Awards and PR often seem to go hand in hand. Whilst there are ample opportunities to submit your best work for recognition amongst industry peers, I was particularly excited about this one! The PRCA MENA Awards held on February 8th was a first for the industry body in the region, since coming to the Middle East just over a year ago.

I’d had the opportunity to attend a number of different workshops, seminars and training programmes over the past 12 months, as a result of being a member, so I’d met and networked with a number of my fellow industry colleagues before. This has been great in terms of learning from different people, sharing best practice and of course building friendships along the way. The Awards, though, provided the opportunity for our work to be judged by comms professionals from the industry internationally, and for us to see what other standout work is going on in the region; it was a night that I was thoroughly looking forward to.

Rather than a traditional awards set up, with their black tie dress codes and sit-down dinners, there was a sense from the outset that the PRCA was trying to do things differently. Everything from the outdoor venue to the informal dining set up and dress code was refreshing, and certainly set the precedent for a different kind of evening.

As a broadcast consultancy, my team at markettiers were on hand to film and create a short highlights showreel of the evening. The interviews we conducted provided us with some more insight about the diverse campaigns and accolades individuals and agencies were up for – and it was fantastic to speak to some of the bright young talent coming out of the region. It absolutely highlighted to me the excellent work that is being delivered every day locally – and the sense that there is a hunger and real ambition for the region to catch up with more mature markets such as London and the US.

But most importantly, the night was all about celebrating success, and the campaigns that received their accolades did not disappoint. Whilst often I have the sense that the Middle East seems to be overshadowed by some of its more developed market contemporaries, this certainly was not the case here.

Every campaign on the shortlist was selected because it pushed the boundaries, sought to inspire and delivered outstanding coverage. This was not just about traditional forms of coverage – the ‘influencer award’ and role that video content played in the finalists’ entries was both refreshing and exciting to see. Innovation it seems is becoming the watchword of a strong entry, and we’re excited to see what the PRCA has in store for the rest of this year, and beyond.

Josh Baker, markettiers

Winners-Large Consultancy of the Year

It was on April 1st 2010 that the journey of Seven Media began in the unlikely setting of a portacabin in Ras Al Khaimah. As co-founder Matt Slater and I stood in the prefabricated building (the makeshift headquarters of RAK Media City), signing our first ever business license, it would have been impossible to predict that one day the company would be named the best large agency in the Middle East.

Almost seven years later, Seven Media has 52 staff. We’re headquartered in the UAE with offices in Abu Dhabi (our HQ) and Dubai; our operations in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were launched in the last year. The story of growth was one we didn’t expect at the start – and we are incredibly proud that this latest chapter saw us take the prestigious accolade of Large Consultancy of the Year at the inaugural PRCA MENA Awards.

Up against so many of the industry’s international leaders, winning this award is the source of immense pride for a home-grown agency. It is also testament to the talent that makes Seven what it is today.

Since Matt and I launched Seven, we have been lucky to have employed some incredibly talented media professionals who have helped drive things forward. They have enabled us to consistently deliver for some incredible clients and projects – from major government organizations to big regional and international names in hospitality, sport, entertainment and business.

Seven began life as a plucky little company that thrived on content-driven Arabic and English PR campaigns. Today our media relations capabilities are complemented by an in-house video production department and a dynamic social and digital media team made up of designers, motion graphics artists and strategists – taking our campaigns to new levels.

Those departments are completely bilingual and fully integrated, so the agency is much more than the sum of its parts. This integration has meant that over the last couple of years many people have had to work extremely hard to develop their skills (and learn many new ones) to adapt with the times.

The recognition from the PRCA judges is a validation to all our staff that hard graft really does pay off. It is also refreshing to see a new type of agency recognised by the industry and demonstrates that independent, forward-thinking PR firms are beginning to shine in a competitive market.

And for a company with such humble beginnings, we are honoured to be sharing the limelight with the biggest names in the business.

Gregg Fray, Co-Owner, Seven Media – PRCA MENA Large Consultancy of the Year 2017

Matrix PR’s first Red Carpet moment at the PRCA MENA awards 2017!

Napolean Bonaparte once said – “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” The inaugural PRCA Awards 2017 saw Matrix PR, one of the oldest agencies in the region, do just that.

On a cold winter night, a room full of regional PR professionals set the mercury rising with pounding chests and gasping breath. While the rivalry was evident, camaraderie and mutual respect outshone.   Despite being one of the oldest boutique PR agencies in the region we’ve always shied away from awards. And with emotions replacing the blood in my veins, all I could hope for was the best.

Matrix PR was shortlisted in three categories and as the evening of February 8th wore on, the team present was quite antsy in anticipation. And then came the moment, a moment that will be etched in the memories of every Matrix team member that night. We won and that too the big one!! Matrix PR was conferred with the prestigious ‘Small Consultancy of the Year’ award – and I could finally breathe, scream and celebrate with the team.

Employees make an organization and Matrix PR is no different. Our goal to nurture our talent and equip them with tools and opportunities to grow while producing exceptional work for clients is what sets us apart in the industry.

This award goes out to all Matrix employees, our media and blogger friends who’ve supported us throughout and our clients who’ve been rooting for us all these years!

Estee Lauder once said: “I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” Something that has always motivated us to work hard for ourselves and our clients. And now that we have tasted success, we are ready to strive harder. We can’t wait for the sequel!

Sharon Pereira- Matrix Public Relations

What a first awards…

The great and the good of the local public relations and communications industry descended on the H Hotel last week to celebrate and award the leading lights and most compelling campaigns of the past 12 months at the inaugural PRCA MENA Awards.

The PRCA, led in the region by Leanne Foy, the General Manager of the MENA chapter, is doing fantastic work with implementing increased credibility, international best practice and regulation to the sector, as well as recognising those people who make the local PR industry so special.

An institution first established in the UK in 1969 and now boasting over 20,000 members in 48 countries across the globe, the PRCA’s entrance into the MENA market is another step in the development of the industry of the region and the awards play key part in maintaining a healthy competitive edge.

It was great to catch up with a host of familiar faces and see a whole variety of different companies supporting the awards, from agencies born in the region, to corporate companies and international communications consultancies.

At risk of rolling out a tired cliché, Dubai really is a dynamic melting pot of international talent and the turnout suggests the PR industry is still buoyant. The creativity of the award entries suggests good ideas are still in abundance and PR plans and strategies are ever evolving in line with the changing media landscape.

MCG Group has always strived to support the local creative industries and we were proud to be main sponsors and continue our partnership with the PRCA. If you are a company looking for the best talent or an individual seeking a new role, please do not hesitate to get on touch.

Tom Watterson MCG Associates