Fisher will support the group’s Chair, Lauren Brush, in driving initiatives for the Middle East’s rising public relations leaders

Dubai, UAE – 09 July 2020: PRCA MENA, the trade association for the public relations sector in the Middle East and North Africa, announced today that it has named Jonathan Fisher as NextGen vice-chair. Joining the group’s chair, Lauren Brush, the pair will drive events and initiatives to support the next generation of public relations and communications leaders.


A well-accomplished communications consultant, Fisher is a senior manager at Weber Shandwick where he specialises in financial communications. He has over six years of experience in the industry both regionally and abroad and has played a prominent role in mentoring and guiding young communicators across the Middle East.


“I am thrilled to bring Jonathan on board as vice-chair of PRCA NextGen. His passion and enthusiasm for both the industry and its talent is a very welcome addition to the group,” said Lauren Brush, PRCA NextGen Chair and Associate Account Director at Active DMC. “This is one of the most exciting eras in our industry, so there has never been a more important time to ensure that the region’s next generation of PR leaders has the support they need to drive positive change across the profession.”


“Our region has an abundance of young talent that will soon be leading the industry into a completely new environment, characterised by digital technologies and rapidly evolving business models. As part of PRCA NextGen, I am thrilled to be witnessing the changing of the guard and look forward to working with the next generation of PR leaders,” said Jonathan Fisher, PRCA NextGen Vice Chair and Senior Manager at Weber Shandwick.


NextGen is PRCA Middle East’s sectoral group geared to provide guidance, support and advice to PR and communications professionals from mid-level to senior executives in the industry. Founded by PRCA’s 2018 Rising Star of the Year, Lauren Brush, the group aims to provide inspirational figures to learn from and ignite ambition, communications and share best practices, break down competitive barriers within the industry, offer a safe place to discuss industry challenges.




About PRCA


The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is the world’s largest professional PR body.

We represent more than 35,000 PR professionals in 70 countries worldwide. With offices in London, Singapore, Dubai, and Buenos Aires, we are a global advocate for excellence in public relations.

Our mission is to create a more professional, ethical, and prosperous PR industry. We champion – and enforce – professional standards in the UK and overseas through our Professional Charter and Code of Conduct. The Code compels members to adhere to the highest standards of ethical practice.

We deliver exceptional training, authoritative industry data, and global networking and development opportunities. We also manage the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), the umbrella body for 41 PR associations and 3,000 agencies across the world, and LG Comms – the UK’s national body for authorities raising standards of local government communication.


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W7Worldwide Marketing Communications Consultancy Agency released its 2019 Annual Report, detailing a solid business performance in achieving a number of extraordinary goals in the public relations, corporate reputation and image management department during the year 2019/2020.

120 brands successfully achieved their communication goals by partnering with W7Woldwide. Additionally, the agency’s skilled professionals and experts handled communications for 15 key governmental and private events during 2019 (click here for the report).

This year, W7Worldwide announced its partnership with AVAYA, a global leader in technology solutions, to collaborate on enhancing and simplifying the company’s corporate communications.

W7Worldwide’s team was tasked with developing the right strategy for Avaya’s corporate image and brand reputation management in the Saudi market. The fact that Avaya was one of the few companies that entered the Saudi market under full ownership, meant that the agency’s job was even more crucial.

W7Worldwide also handled Softbank’s communications during their collaboration with the Public Investment Fund, where it developed a powerful strategy aiming to establish a solid foundation for Softbank’s reputation in the Kingdom. The strategy also focused on showcasing the technological advancement offered as part of Saudi Vision 2030.

Additionally, W7Worldwide worked to boost Bupa Arabia’s reputation by highlighting the company’s many health offerings, other initiatives as well as its role in empowering Saudi women. A short and creative video spotlighting Bupa Arabia’s daycare facilities and demonstrating its positive contribution toward the lives of working mothers, empowering them to achieve their career goals, in line with Vision 2030, earned admiration from several media outlets as well as others.

With fast evolving technology and the current 24-hour news cycle, W7Worldwide believes that traditional PR alone no longer gives clients what they need, focusing instead on reimagining and reinventing new and innovative methodologies to achieve the clients’ communication goals. The agency demonstrated its expertise in digital PR in its work for Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK). The team created a short video on the cooling systems in the Two Holy Mosques, attracting unprecedented online engagement and powerful results.

Furthermore, for the third year in a row, W7Worldwide’s team of consultants handled PR and communications for the biggest cyber security conference in the region and the accompanying Cyber Saber Hackathon. We developed an all-encompassing strategy that included not just positioning the conference and the hackathon as the region’s leading cybersecurity event, but also stressed its importance as a provider of the latest information and trends in the field of cyber security, thereby attracting its target audience, which mostly consists of young men and women.

W7Worldwide is no stranger to introducing new brands to the Saudi market. We were tasked with preparing the ground for the first ever cinema brand in Saudi Arabia after a 40-year cinema ban. We handled the very sensitive communications of Cinema 70 and introduced the brand to the Saudi public in a way that did not challenge their cultural sensitivities.

We succeeded in presenting cinema as not something that is new to Saudi society but as a concept that was simply making a comeback after years of being banned. In doing so, we highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts toward modernization in the national and international media.

W7Worldwide developed a holistic methodology to introduce the Saudi Company for Exchanging Digital Information (Tabadul). The agency highlighted how the new project, which was installing a truck management system for the Dammam port, will ensure the efficiency of the port and drastically improve managing journeys and implementing strict time slots for businesses and haulage firms using Dammam to import and export goods.


Link of the English version:

Link of the Arabic Version:


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Other 2019 Notable Achievements:

  • W7Worldwide developed a creative video showcasing the Kingdom’s efforts in ensuring the smooth operations of Hajj.
  • W7Worldwide developed and produced two video clips for the Ministry of Culture on the occasion of Saudi Arabia’s 87th National Day. The media content went viral and gained a powerful online presence.
  • W7Worldwide put its skills and expertise to use in a training course in public relations for the students of Dar Al-Hekma University.
  • W7Worldwide was shortlisted for various regional and local awards.
  • W7Worldwide launched a content series during Ramadan 2019.
  • W7WorldWide Co-Founder Abdulrahman Inayat became the youngest member of the regional board of the PRCA.


Following its 10-year milestone this year, the UAE homegrown agency has entered international markets as it eyes strong recovery post Covid-19

UAE, July 2020: UAE homegrown communications consultancy, Q Communications has announced its foray into international markets, launching new offices in Manchester and London as it expands its geographical reach and services into the UK and Ireland.

Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in the UAE, and with established offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the award-winning agency has been creating and delivering successful PR, marketing and digital campaigns in the Middle East region since 2010. Founded by company directors Katie Harvey and Elsa Roodt, the communications agency specialises in fully integrated PR and digital strategies and content creation, and is well known for its work with clients such as Burj Al Arab, Rosewood Hotels, Shangri La, VOSS Water, Tourism Ireland, Hakkasan, Yas Marina and Hyatt Hotels.

Q Communications’ UK & Ireland division will be headed up by the consultancy’s former Abu Dhabi office Managing Director, Kate Greville who takes the position of Managing Partner. Kate moved to the UAE from Manchester in 2015 to join Q Communications and led the team in Abu Dhabi for three years before returning to the UK to be a board director at Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs’ hospitality management company, GG Hospitality, as Director of PR and Communications.

During her time at GG Hospitality Kate directed the highly successful and much talked about launch of Stock Exchange Hotel and The Bull & Bear by chef Tom Kerridge, as well as led the ongoing marketing strategy, communications and PR for Hotel Football Old Trafford, Cafe Football Manchester, Cafe Football London and GG Events & Catering.

Katie Harvey, Director and Co-founder, Q Communications said: “Our expansion into the UK and Ireland comes at a time of global change. Over the last few months there has been a huge shift in the way the world communicates, how we do business together and how we connect with each other. Relationships matter now more than ever and we saw this as an opportunity for growth and a chance to evolve.”

“Manchester and London are both cities of huge innovation and vision, among the most forward-thinking in the world,” says Elsa Roodt, Director and Co-founder, Q Communications. “For us there was no question that our international growth would begin in the UK and Ireland and to have Kate back in the Q Communications family, now in the driving seat as Managing Partner of UK & Ireland, is fantastic.”

Kate Greville, Managing Partner, Q Communications UK & Ireland continued: “I’m very excited to bring Q Communications to Manchester and London. Launching in today’s market is a challenge, but it’s a market we believe we can help to grow and one in which we can thrive. The skills, experience, knowledge and creativity of the team, especially in the hospitality and tourism sectors, is second to none and we can’t wait to welcome our first clients on board.”

With established connections in the UK hospitality and sport industries, Q Communications’ UK & Ireland clients on the books will reflect these specialist areas. The range of services will cover all elements of PR, including media and community relations, social media, as well as high level strategy development and digital marketing.

For more information on Q Communications UAE, visit

For more information on Q Communications UK, visit


For press enquiries and image requests, please contact Cindy Mearini on or +971 55 631 0028

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES JULY 1 2020: Brazen MENA has appointed its first-ever Client Services Director, Alexia Lawrence-Jones, in a newly-made role for the award-winning agency.

Alexia Lawrence-Jones, who joins from Impact Porter Novelli, where she led the agency’s lifestyle and FMCG division working on Al Futtaim Retail and P&G, will lead Brazen’s key accounts, as well as look at client servicing processes across the agency.

She will also work closely with Managing Partner, Louise Jacobson, as Brazen MENA looks to ramp up its growth and expand the business in the region, following the agency’s new ‘Trailblazing PR’ proposition which launched earlier this year.

Louise Jacobson comments: “Alexia has an excellent track record in producing outstanding results for some of the world’s biggest brands. Her energy, creativity and commitment to excellence for clients made her the natural fit for Brazen MENA’s first client services director role. Alexia has already made a positive impact to the business, and I’m excited to see how she will take our ‘Trailblazing PR’ ethos forward.”

Alexia Lawrence-Jones added: “I’d heard a lot about what Brazen MENA had achieved in the region – and they had always been on my ‘radar’ for when the time was right. Under Louise’s expert guidance, the agency has absolutely flourished and its creativity and relentless ability to carve out engaging narratives for clients, is second to none. When the opportunity arose to come on board as Client Services Director, I leapt at the chance. I can’t wait to make my mark and help grow Brazen across the GCC.”





What started as a journey between two small agencies in the region has become a behemoth of a collective that is proving that the collective power of a community really can create change. The SME Rise Collective is extremely proud to announce that it has just allocated marketing and PR support to its 76th SME in the region.

With SMEs making up more than 70% of the economic landscape in the UAE, the SME Rise Collective remains committed to supporting as many SMEs as possible, through their initiative which enables individuals and companies to sponsor marketing packages which are then allocated to SME applicants.

This week alone The SME Rise Collective has helped 20 SMEs by offering them PR and marketing packages based on their needs. They have received support from over 200 sponsors and are collaborating with more than 50 agencies across different specialisms to give SMEs the support they desperately need and deserve.

Some of the newest SMEs supported and partnering agencies/freelancers include:

  1. Catch Comms will be supporting Mazmi Coffee
  2. Agency Seventeen is proud to be working the team at Earth Water
  3. Str8 Up Fitness will be supported with social media and content by freelancer Amanda Rushforth.
  4. Digitalina Marketing will be supporting Real Boxing Only Gym with lead generation.
  5. Vida Rizq will be supporting Story of Source and Warehouse 9
  6. are supporting Dreamworks Collective and Barma Auto New Spare Parts
  7. PUSH Mena ran a free Google Ads course for all SME Rise Applicants.

However, The SME Rise collective receives an average of 30 applicants EVERY DAY. This means there are still many struggling small businesses out there that need support. Only with the continued efforts and kind help of agencies looking to collaborate and individuals and companies looking to sponsor,  can the work of the SME Rise Collective continue in its mission.

To apply or support the SME Rise Collective or to just follow this amazing journey, head over to and @smerisecollective

For full details see the press release attached. For more info, images or to speak to the SME Rise Team, please get in touch.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on public relations professionals across the world. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, communications are playing an essential role connecting stakeholders and helping organisations to make sense of their new environments. Messaging and communication have never been more critical to business.

This exclusive Q&A series spotlights the communications professionals behind the organisations working the COVID-19 crisis.

This week features answering the PRCA MENA Q&A series Tariq Al Sharabi, Managing Director, Cicero & Bernay Public Relations

  • How has the COVID-19 crisis affected you and your organisation?This past phase, we collectively felt a distinct sense of togetherness at the agency that, though had always been there, was made pronounced and even stronger. Every one of us came together, and within the first few days, the true essence of our bond and sense of family was made apparent.

    Undergoing the challenges of the pandemic also granted us a unique opportunity to tackle an unprecedented situation through sheer creativity. We instantly adopted a proactive role to consult our clients and help navigate them through these uncharted waters. In the end, our team’s ingenuity was put to the test, and we are proud and humbled to be where we are today.

  • How should businesses communicate with stakeholders during the current crisis? What are the key things to bear in mind?Transparency and an open line of communication are practices that cannot be understated, let alone during crises of this nature. Businesses must consistently commit to listening to and being aware of stakeholders in an effort to underpin the need for empathy at a time when they also are not certain what tomorrow will bring.

    Additionally, a brand must be flexible in dealing with different scenarios and set aside its commercial plans to take the time to emphasise people’s benefits as well as consider the role it can play in supporting society and the nation as a whole as best as it is able to.

  • How can organisations safeguard their reputation during this period?Similar to what was covered in the preceding question, it is on organisations to support the society and be flexible to withstand any challenge in the service of its stakeholders and the nation at large; the most important values are those centred around people and their well-being.

    Being proactive and anticipating upcoming changes are the best ways for a company to pave a path of trust and loyalty with its customers. Business growth will happen over time — what’s important is that stakeholders are continuously prioritised and empathised with at all times, especially during crises that force everyone to stand their ground.

  • Do you have any thoughts on how organisations ought to communicate with employees during the present crisis? 

    Organisations should stay close to their employees by increasing the amount of time they communicate with them and involving them in the company’s day-to-day. An open dialogue, whether for work or personal reasons, must be maintained to consolidate the human element and remind them that though most of them may be working remotely, they are not alone. Empathy and understanding will nurture a much-needed sense of belonging in employees that is now more important than it ever was. 

  • Do you have any tips on how to protect and promote mental well-being amongst staff at this time?Of all the lessons I have acquired across my career on how best to build a team and empower them, the one that always rises above all in the importance of reminding them of their value and reinforcing them during their moments of doubt. Every individual team member brings something unique to the mix and is, in turn, a valuable addition; though their accomplishments are celebrated, they sometimes lose heart. When that happens, I seek ways to re-engage with them and have them take part in the formation of the agency’s bigger picture as their performance is directly proportional to their happiness and satisfaction.
  • Can you share any examples of organisations delivering positive community-led or social campaigns over the past couple of months?I believe that Amazon strengthened its influence in the market and as a brand during the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritising customers over profits during these difficult times. It even went one step further by doubling down on its CSR efforts, consolidating its customer trust and focusing on the human element at a time when people needed it the most.
  • In what ways (if any) will this crisis impact the way communications professionals work in the long-term? 

    This crisis changed everything from the way people operate to the way they communicate. Evolution happens over time, but in the face of this pandemic, we were all forced to adopt new tactics and habits and reinvent how we approach our professions. I do not anticipate any of these changes to be temporary. The business world has forever been altered, and the sooner we adapt to it, the sooner we will get back to progressing. 

  • If you could share any advice with yourself before this crisis began, what would it be? 

    Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let anything get you off-track, especially because you have a team that is standing with you and is tenacious enough to face any challenge that comes their way. Maintain your trust and faith and everything will fall in place exactly as it was designed to, no matter the circumstance.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on public relations professionals across the world. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, communications are playing an essential role connecting stakeholders and helping organisations to make sense of their new environments. Messaging and communication have never been more critical to business.

This exclusive Q&A series spotlights the communications professionals behind the organisations working the COVID-19 crisis.

This week features answering the PRCA MENA Q&A series By Louay Al-Samarrai, Managing Director, Active DMC

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected you and your organisation?

Positively in reality – as a team we have really come together at this time and learnt to appreciate each other and the support that we all give each other during this time, business wise we have been fortunate that as one of the longest leading technology and business agencies it is at times like these that technology plays a huge role and our Clients want to show that and promote that where and when relevant, from a services and solutions dynamic it has encourages us to accelerate new service offerings that are and will be relevant now and post this pandemic as the roles and ways in which we interact and work will change irrevocably in some cases. The time to focus on these has really helped us to move these to a stage where they will be online in the next two months

How should businesses communicate with stakeholders during the current crisis? What are the key things to bear in mind?

Honestly and in a way that relevant to what is happening and how people and organizations are dealing with this and being 100% authentic in that. I see media playing an important role in this given that they dictate a lot of the news agenda and what is likely to get traction and what is not and its good to see that they have helped in that way and safeguarded their audiences in what type of content is filtered out.

How can organisations safeguard their reputation during this period?

By being honest and by showing how they are playing their part in the community to ease the situation people and companies find themselves in, delivering solutions that add value and help in the present circumstances and also contribute to safeguarding people and companies at this time

Do you have any thoughts on how organisations ought to communicate with employees during the present crisis?

It’s a difficult time and we can see that its affecting the personnel across almost every industry sector and so its something that everyone is aware of and a situation that leaves people apprehensive about their futures. So being honest, being trasnaprent and straightforward is the best way to go….if the situation demands that sacrifices have to be made then the people affected would rather know that and be able to make plans and focus their efforts on finding other opportunities than being left in a limbo not knowing when the letter or call will come

Do you have any tips on how to protect and promote mental wellbeing amongst staff at this time?

Talking, communicating and being aware and watchful of your team and how they are conveying themselves – today we are very lucky to have tolls like Zoom – which is invaluable in simulating face to face contact and also a way to see how people look and sound that indicates how they are feeling as importantly as what they re doing. Talking and Zoom!


In what ways (if any) will this crisis impact the way communications professionals work in the long-term

I really don’t think this will change anything quite honestly. I think that a majority of the agencies in this sector lack any innovative or adaptive thinking outside of delivering media relations and at the same time I don’t see any Clints in this region consistently challenging their Agencies to deliver more extensive or in depth services beyond what they already do. In addition with other types of Agencies offering webinar management and creation, digital and social community management etc Clients “shop around” and fragment their comms versus consolidating budgets and delivering a consistent message to key stakeholders

If you could share any advice with yourself before this crisis began, what would it be?

Move faster on the solutions and services that we were working on and were in the pipeline but kept being pushed back to accommodate other developments and challenges and make the space to be able to focus my time and efforts in the really key areas versus getting too dragged into the day to day…

Setting up a really effective remote working model which many Agencies in the West employ but is sadly hampered by the legal requirement to have an office that carries with it a quota of visas…..


Active consists of experienced and passionate communication consultants. Active has over seventeen years of experience in running B2B and B2C integrated communications campaigns. Active serve clients from the following industries: Auto, Aviation, Fashion, Finance, Healthcare, Hospitality, Lifestyle, Real Estate, Security, Technology and Telco.

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21 June 2020 – Dubai, UAE:

A PRCA MENA survey of agency and in-house leaders reveals an industry divided on a physical return to the office.

The industry’s leading regional figures were asked “Which one of these statements, if any, best describes your feelings towards returning to the office?”, eliciting the following responses:

15% I would like to return to the office as soon as possible

10% I’m somewhat looking forward to returning to the office

38% I have mixed feelings at the moment

23% I’m reluctant to return to the office

15% I do not want to return to the office at all


PRCA MENA General Manager Hayley Clements commented:

“We see no industry consensus on a return to office life. While many companies in the region have returned to their premises, or intend doing so imminently, a great many have not and are hesitant about doing so. As general economic and societal confidence continues to grow, we can expect more offices to return. But it is clear that the working environment has changed, at least temporarily -possibly permanently for some.”




15 June 2020 – United Arab Emirates – The 20th anniversary edition of the Edelman UAE Trust Barometer reveals that trust in the UAE remains high. This year, for the UAE, government remains the most trusted of all four institutions, above businesses, NGOs and the media.

The 2020 Trust Barometer is Edelman’s 20th annual trust and credibility survey. The research is conducted by Edelman Intelligence, a global insight and analytics consultancy. This year, Edelman researchers surveyed 34,000 respondents in 28 markets, expanded to include Thailand and Kenya for the first time, sampling the general population as much as possible.

Trust in the UAE Government is evidenced by 55 per cent of respondents who believe it serves the interests of everyone equally and fairly​. The Government also ranks highest in competence and ethics, doing best at international alliances and defence, safe and modern infrastructure and regulating emerging tech.

Meanwhile societal leaders face significant challenges​ in the UAE, with 52 per cent of respondents saying they do not have confidence that our current societal leaders will be able to address our country’s challenges successfully. When asked about competence and ethics, the ranking of media has declined ten points, with many respondents indicating it serves the interests of only the few and less now have trust that it serves the interests of everyone equally and fairly.

Omar Qirem, CEO, Edelman Middle East, said: “Trust in 2020 is increasingly local, employees expect to be heard and overwhelmingly expect the opportunity to shape the future of society. As business leaders, CEOs must take a strong lead, with 94 per cent of respondents saying it is important that they speak out on key issues​, and 77 per cent saying CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for Government to impose it​. That being said, the UAE benefits from strong leadership and trust in Government – unlike other parts of the world.”

Qirem continued: “In 2020, ethical drivers are three times more ​important to company trust ​than competence, with 73 per cent in the UAE indicating a company can take actions ​that both increase profits ​and improve conditions in communities where it operates​. These findings confirm that trust is undeniably linked to doing what is right – a key consideration for business leaders looking to the future.”

The Spring Update to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, government trust surged 11 points to an all-time high of 65 per cent, making it the most trusted institution globally for the first time in our 20 years of study. Despite a four-point increase in trust in business and several high-profile actions taken by companies and CEOs to help those in need, there is marked disappointment in how the private sector has performed during the crisis.

Ed Williams, President & CEO, Edelman EMEA said: “The findings of the 2020 Trust Barometer present a vivid picture of the rapidly changing world we live in. In the short time since this report was launched in January, there has been a remarkable change in the trust landscape, captured in the 2020 Spring Update. An uncertain outlook for the future is leading people to question whether the current economic system as a whole is working – with nearly half saying that the system is failing them. The good news is that every institution has the opportunity to earn trust by focusing on just a handful of its greatest opportunities for growth.”

The 2020 Edelman UAE Trust Barometer indicates that building trust for the future requires paying fair wages, focusing on education and retraining, embracing an all-stakeholders model and fostering partnerships across institutions.

Other key findings from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer: UAE include

  • The informed public trusts all four institutions: Government (81%), Business (78%), NGOs (76%); and Media (64%)
  • 94% believe that CEOs should be vocal on issues such as training for jobs of the future, automation’s impact on jobs, technology’s impact on ethics, privacy, climate change
  • Nearly three in four believe that CEOs should be leading on change, rather than waiting for the government to step in—a nine-point increase in the last year
  • In addition to their personal economic and job loss fears (84% worry about losing their job), people report a general sense that the pace of change, particularly with technology, is happening too fast (70%)

To view the full report please visit:

Missed the live session, you can catch up with the recording in full here – 

About Edelman

Edelman is an independent global communications firm that partners with businesses and organizations — long-established and just-emerging — to evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. Our global network comprises 6,000 practitioners in more than 60 offices whose work spans brand, reputation, digital, and advisory and is powered by analytics, planning, creative and media relations. Among our many honors are the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for PR; the Holmes Report’s 2018 Global Digital Agency of the Year; Advertising Age’s “Agencies to Watch 2018;” and, five times, Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work.” Since our founding in 1952, we have remained a family-run business. Edelman also owns specialty companies Edelman Intelligence (research) and United Entertainment Group (entertainment, sports, lifestyle).

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on public relations professionals across the world. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, communications are playing an essential role connecting stakeholders and helping organisations to make sense of their new environments. Messaging and communication have never been more critical to business.

This exclusive Q&A series spotlights the communications professionals behind the organisations working the COVID-19 crisis.

This week features answering the PRCA MENA Q&A series By Louise Jacobson, Managing Partner – Brazen MENA

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected you and your organisation?

Covid-19 has affected everyone, and in ways we never thought possible. We had a fantastic start to 2020, but the pandemic has resulted in significant challenges for us and our clients. We’ve been fortunate enough to retain a significant number of clients, which is great especially given communications has never been more important. We knew from the start how brands communicated would affect consumer behavior and we ensured we navigated our clients with this strategy in mind.

A lot of clients have leaned on us from a digital perspective and for some, we have been busier than ever before. We’ve also had some significant business wins, and now we are not only surviving during these times, but now thriving and I’m feeling very grateful.

What I have also noticed, is that despite my team having to work from home and us not being sat together in the office, the way the team has come together and adapted during this period has been second to none. With things slowly starting to normalise, I’m now feeling more optimistic.

While Covid-19 has changed the way we operate, it’s also made us stronger – not only as individuals, but as a team and organisation.

How should businesses communicate with stakeholders during the current crisis? What are the key things to bear in mind?

Communication, communication, communication. Every region has been affected differently and it was imperative they knew and understood how the UAE was navigating the crisis. For me, understanding and garnering collective viewpoints was a must – and really helped me to shape my strategy to guide us through these turbulent times.

With regards to my team – honesty was crucial. Showcasing strong leadership and ensuring empathy, but also strength while being as human as possible has been key.

Businesses need to be honest, empathetic and show there is a clear strategy in place that can remain flexible as we are still in the unknown to a degree. There is a free to download guide on communicating during Covid-19 that can be downloaded from our website for further tips and advice.


How can organisations safeguard their reputation during this period?

For me, being honest, continuing to communicate and not going ‘dark’ so to speak, has enabled me to safeguard the confidence of my stakeholders and it’s something that will work for all organisations.

The positioning for organisations is also really important and should be one of safety and empathy with the human touch. Consumers want to see a brand that cares, so this should be at the heart of the communications strategy. Despite restrictions easing, and comms changing for a lot of businesses, responsibility and commitment to safety should be the number one objective.

Those brands that have added value for free, gone above and beyond to help those less fortunate and will be remembered and rewarded. If as a business you’ve not done this yet, I would advise you to help, even something like a social media post with some free advice to your immediate community would be beneficial and will create a positive impact.


Do you have any thoughts on how organisations ought to communicate with employees during the present crisis?

I have always said people work for people, and putting my team first is something I have always done. Showing empathy, being there for them not only as a leader but also an individual, a human – someone they can always turn to has made a real difference. I’ve been transparent and honest with my employees from the start, from how the business is faring to how they are also feeling. There has never been a time to be more sensitive, more kind – and I have had daily check ins with my team, video calls and even ‘social’ catch ups via Zoom. Keeping team morale high has been a key priority of mine and having seen how well my team has adapted and come together makes me incredibly proud.


Do you have any tips on how to protect and promote mental wellbeing amongst staff at this time?

Wellbeing is something that has always been incredibly important to me, and last year I launched our wellbeing initiative which is an intrinsic part of our business. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it should be that mental wellbeing should be at the top of every employee charter and a priority for every business.

I recommend managers should have daily check ins staff, and encourage work, life balance, especially many of us are still working from home for the most part, but we’re now slowly going back to office life in line with Government guidelines. Seeing each other, although at a distance has helped us enormously so I recommend taking that step forward.  We’ve also invested in training and held mindfulness seminars, and had resilience and personal branding training from outside experts to keep motivation levels up. We’ve also had social distance quiz nights in lieu of other activities we would usually do on a monthly basis.


Can you share any examples of organisations delivering positive community-led or social campaigns over the past couple of months?

I’ve seen a number of campaigns which have been incredibly positive and heart-felt. One in particular was for the app Nefsy, a dine-in app which launched a campaign with Emirates Red Crescent at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, whereby for a donation of just 12 AED, two people affected by the crisis would receive a meal. They were one of the first brands to do this, and while there have been multiple campaigns since, this was a beautifully simple and effective campaign that actually spearheaded many similar initiatives.


In what ways (if any) will this crisis impact the way communications professionals work in the long-term?

Having worked in communications for 18 years, I can safely say our job has never been 9-5, and our working week very much differs from that in other industries.  Given we still have to adhere to social distancing and the rise in digital connectivity, working in an office five days a week is unlikely to happen for some time. Yes, we are now allowed to go to the office which we are doing, but only at a 50% capacity.

I predict it will be like this for the foreseeable – and so I’ve implemented measures which still make us feel like we’re part of a team. From daily check-ins each morning to weekly team Zoom calls and care-packages (think surprise breakfasts or small gifts to congratulate my staff on great work), we might not be sat next to each other, but we are still ‘together’.

Moving forward, I would say that not just the communications industry, but in fact many industries, will allow their staff greater flexibility in how and where they work. We only have to look at global conglomerate greats such as Twitter, Amazon and Facebook who are allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely.

We are entering the phase of the ‘new normal’ – and while I don’t believe offices will ever be defunct, especially for agencies I think how we use the office will change and the 9-5 working day, perhaps even week, will continue to be a thing of the past.


If you could share any advice with yourself before this crisis began, what would it be?

I think that truly believing that everything would be ok would have been the advice I would have given myself. March was one of the toughest months ever experienced and I wish then I had been more resilient at the start. As Jon Kabat-Zin said “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” and that for me sums up my Covid-19 experience so far.