Winners of PRCA MENA Awards 2018 announced

The PRCA MENA Awards 2018 celebrated the very best individuals, teams, and campaigns from the PR and communications industry from across the Middle East and North Africa.

Leading practitioners attended the awards at the Renaissance Downtown in Dubai on the evening of Wednesday, 21st February. The event, hosted by broadcaster and journalist Katie Fielder, saw consultancies, individuals, and in-house teams compete for awards in 15 categories.

The big winners of the night were Seven Media and Brazen, winning two awards each. Seven Media won Large Agency of the year for the second year running, and also Best Digital campaign for ‘Bring George Home’ for Barasti. Q Communications was highly commended for its work with ‘Living the Voss Lifestyle’ in the Best Digital Campaign category.

Brazen won the Media Relations category with ‘Brazen gets behind the wheel with Careem’, with Seven Media being highly commended in the same category for its work with ‘Novo Cinemas’.

Brazen also won the Small Agency of the year category. Instinctif Partners was highly commended in the same category. Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority won the in-house team of the year award.

Markettiers won the Results on a Budget award for its ‘IMG World of Adventures – Dino Time’ campaign, and Weber Shandwick picked up highly commended for the campaign ‘Children’s National’.

Lauren Brush MPRCA, Senior Communications Consultant, Active DMC, won Rising Star of the Year. David Willett MPRCA, Head of Digital/SDAM, Weber Shandwick, was highly commended for the Rising Star of the Year Award. The PR Leader of the Year was awarded to Lucy O’Brien MPRCA, General Manager and Partner, FleishmanHillard.

Best B2B Campaign was awarded to Toh for its work with ‘Boom Supersonic – Heralding the New Jet Age’ and highly commended was handed to Yardstick Marketing for its work with RSM.

Best B2C Campaign was awarded to Hill+Knowlton Strategies for its ‘Arla Brand Launch’ campaign. Weber Shandwick was highly commended for its work with McDonalds.

The Best Influencer Relations award was handed to BPG Cohn & Wolfe for its work on ‘’. Joton picked up the highly commended award in that category.

Weber Shandwick won the Best Crisis Campaign award for its ‘FAB Merger’ campaign.

Impact Porter Novelli was awarded the Best Integrated Campaign award for its ‘Centrepoint Family Clock’ campaign. Marriott was highly commended for its ‘Ramadan with Marriott’ campaign.

Regional Campaign of the Year was awarded to Matrix PR for its campaign ‘Face It All With Himalaya’. Shamal Communications was highly commended for its work with ‘Arabian Travel Market’.

The newly added Game Changer Category was won by Edelman with the campaign ‘SYFY- Channel Zero, no Ends House TV Series Launch’. Highly commended was awarded to Hill+Knowlton Strategies with the campaign ‘Music on the Fairways: Changing the Game of Golf with HSBC’.

Leanne Foy MPRCA, General Manager, PRCA MENA, said: “It is a great pleasure to announce the winners of the PRCA MENA Awards 2018. The breadth and depth of the campaigns, teams, and individuals that we’ve seen this year demonstrates the strength of communications across the region.”

The full list of winners:

Large Agency of the Year

Winner – Seven Media

Small Agency of the Year

Winner – Brazen

Highly Commended – Instinctif Partners

In-House Team of the Year

Winner – Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

PR Leader

Winner – Lucy O’ Brien

Rising Star

Winner – Lauren Brush

Highly Commended – David Willet

Best PR Campaign: Crisis Campaign

Winner – Weber Shandwick ‘FAB Merger’

Best PR Campaign: Integrated 

Winner – Impact Porter Novelli – ‘Centrepoint Family Clock’

Highly Commended – Marriott – ‘Ramadan with Marriott’

Best PR Campaign: Digital 

Winner – Seven Media – ‘Barasti #BringGeorgeHome’

Highly Commended – Q Communications – ‘Living the Voss Lifestyle’

Best PR Campaign: Regional Campaign of the Year

Winner – Matrix PR – ‘Face It All With Himalaya’

Highly Commended – Shamal Communications – ‘Arabian Travel Market’

Best PR Campaign: Results on a Budget

Winner – Markettiers – ‘IMG Worlds of Adventure – Dino Time’

Highly Commended – Weber Shandwick – ‘Childrens National’

Best PR Campaign: Game Changer 

Winner – Edelman – ‘SYFY- Channel Zero, No Ends House TV Series Launch’

Highly Commended – Hill+Knowlton Strategies – ‘Music on the Fairways: Changing the Game of Golf with HSBC’

Best PR Campaign: Business to Business 

Winner – Toh – ‘Boom Supersonic – Heralding the New Jet Age’

Highly Commended – Yardstick Marketing – ‘RSM a Tax and Auditory Firm, Prepping Itself for VAT’

Best PR Campaign: Business to Consumer

Winner – Hill+Knowlton Strategies – ‘Arla Brand Launch’

Highly Commended – Weber Shandwick – ‘Beef Nation’

Best PR Campaign: Media Relations 

Winner – Brazen – ‘Brazen Gets Behind the Wheel with Careem’

Highly Commended – Seven Media – ‘Novo Cinemas’

Best PR Campaign: Influencer Relations

Winner – BPG Cohn & Wolfe – ‘ #tasteofexploring’

Highly Commended – Joton – ‘Launch of Royal Velvet & Wonderwall’

PRCA and IABC sign agreement for cooperation across EMENA

The PRCA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for mutual cooperation with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) across the EMENA region.

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a global network of communication professionals committed to improving organisational effectiveness through strategic communications. Established in 1970, IABC serves members in more than 70 countries for networking, career development and personal growth.

The agreement between the two bodies will include the co-promotion of events where suitable to members of each organisation; engagement in each other’s events whenever appropriate; and shared discounted prices for members of either organisation for events and other activities. The organisations are also planning the provision of a rebate offering for their major events.

Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, said: “We are very pleased to forge this new relationship with IABC, an association which provides a hugely important role within the global business communications community.

“The PRCA and IABC share many values, not least the importance of raising standards in professionalism and ethics, and I look forward to working closely with them this year.”

Alex Malouf, Regional Chair, IABC EMENA, said: “The PRCA has done much to promote the importance of communications as a strategic function globally. There’s much we can achieve by collaborating on issues that we both care about, such as education, ethics and professionalism. This agreement will deliver more benefit for both our members across the region.”

PRCA MENA PR Young Lions Competition Open for Entries

PRCA MENA is pleased to announce that it has partnered with Cannes Lions for the third year running to be the Cannes Lions PR Partner for the Middle East and North Africa.

The MENA PR Young Lions competition is the pre-selection competition for the Cannes PR Young Lions competition 2018. It is open to all PRCA MENA members and non-members who wish to enter their brightest talent in the MENA version of the competition. All entrants will respond to a brief created by charity in the region, over the course of one working day (28th February). The submitted presentations and written submissions will then be judged by a jury and a shortlist of six campaigns will be invited to Dubai to deliver a five-minute presentation to the jury, explaining the campaign and the written submission.

The winners of this competition will go on represent the MENA Region in the Young Lions PR competition at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2018, where the PRCA will cover, accommodation, delegate and competition entry passes.

26 February: Registration Closes 17:00
27 February: Charity revealed
28 February: Creative Brief Issued 10:00
1 March: Entries Due by 10:00
14 March: Shortlist Announced
19 March: Finalists pitch to MENA Jury in Dubai
20 March: MENA winners announced
17-21 June: MENA winners travel to Cannes Festival of Creativity for the PR Young Lions Competition

You can find out more on this exciting opportunity and how to enter by emailing

PRCA MENA Awards Shortlist 2018

We are delighted to announce the full shortlist for the PRCA MENA Awards 2018.

Campaign Categories:

Regional Campaign of the Year

  • Brazen – Wadi shops for success
  • Matrix PR – Face It All With Himalaya
  • Seven Media – Abu Dhabi  Formula One Grand Prix
  • Seven Media – Image Nation
  • Shamal Communications – Arabian Travel Market

Crisis Communications

  • Instinctif Partners – Tadawul Brings International Crisis Management to Saudi Arabia
  • Weber Shandwick – Beef Nation
  • Weber Shandwick – FAB Merger

Results on a budget

  • Active DMC – Les Mills: Launching the Middle East’s First VR Workout
  • Fleishman Hillard – Alcatel A5 LED Launch
  • Markettiers- IMG Worlds of Adventure – ‘Dino Time’
  • Q Communications – First Emirates EVRT Drives UAE Towards Sustainability
  • Seven Media – Ras Al Khaimah Recycling
  • Weber Shandwick  – Children’s National

Media Relations

  • BPG Cohn & Wolfe -HMD Global – Nokia 8
  • Brazen – Brazen Gets Behind the Wheel with Careem
  • Edelman – Black Tap – Dubai Launch
  • Grayling – DoubleTree By Hilton – World Kindness Day
  • Jotun – Making Traditional Trendy
  • Action Global Communications & RAKTDA – Jebel Jais Via Ferrata Season Launch
  • Seven Media – Novo Cinema’s
  • Weber Shandwick – Yas Island


  • Imdaad- FMEXPO
  • Impact Porter Novelli – Centerpoint Family Clock
  • Hill+Knowlton Strategies – Arla Brand Launch
  • Jotun – Jotun Colour Trends 2017
  • Marriott – Ramadan with Marriott
  • Matrix  PR – Himalaya
  • Seven Media – Manchester City Football Club
  • Weber Shandwick – National Housing Loans ‘Our Home, Our Design’

Influencer Relations

  • BPG Cohn & Wolfe – #tasteofexploring
  • Edelman – City Walk – A Stylish Affair
  • Hill & Knowlton – #MyPorscheDXB
  • Jotun – Launch of Royal Velvet & Wonderwall
  • Matrix – #fashionblossoms Spring Summer 2017
  • Seven Media – Rolls Royce
  • Yardstick Marketing  #theglamsoiree

Game Changer

  • Edelman – SYFY- Channel Zero, No Ends House TV Series Launch
  • Hill & Knowlton – HSBC’s sponsorship and stunt launch in support of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
  • LG-One – LG Signature Launch
  • Markettiers – IMG Worlds of Adventure – Dino Time
  • Seven Media – Barasti #BringGeorgeHome
  • Weber Shandwick – Beef Nation


  • BPG Cohn & Wolfe – #tasteofexploring
  • IBM – The Rhino Internet of Things Story – A Social First PR Activation
  • Markettiers – IMG Worlds of Adventure – Dino Time
  • Q Communications – Living the VOSS Lifestyle
  • Seven Media – Barasti #BringGeorgeHome
  • Weber Shandwick – McCafe


  • Brazen – Brazen Gets Behind the Wheel with Careem
  • Edelman – Rainbow Milk Shadow Mom
  • Hill & Knowlton – Arla Brand Launch
  • Hill & Knowlton – Reebok Floatride
  • Jotun – Bring a colourful world home
  • Seven Media – Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix
  • Toh – Monte Carlo Societe Des Bain de Mer (Monte Carlo SBM)
  • Weber Shandwick – Beef Nation


  • BPG Cohn & Wolfe – Booz Allen Hamilton
  • IBM – The Rhino Internet of Things Story – A Social First PR Activation
  • In2 Consulting – The Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2017 (AHIC 2017)
  • Oracle – VAT in the GCC
  • Toh – Boom Supersonic – Heralding the new jet age
  • Yardstick Marketing – RSM a tax and auditory firm, prepping itself for VAT

Individual and Team categories:

Rising Star

  • Active DMC – Lauren Brush
  • Brazen – Jennifer Love
  • Grayling – Dhaliya Zankawi
  • Weber Shandwick – Angelina Hedra
  • Weber Shandwick – David Willett
  • Weber Shandwick – Vivianna Vilasmil

PR Leader

  • Lucy O’Brien – Fleishman Hillard
  • Matt Slater & Gregg Fray – Seven Media
  • Anishkaa S Gehani – Yardstick Marketing

In- House Communications Team

  • DTCM
  • Dubizzle
  • IBM

Small Agency of the Year

  • Brazen
  • Instincif Partners
  • Markettiers
  • Matrix
  • Plus 1 Communications
  • Yardstick Marketing

Large Agency of the Year

  • Fleishman Hillard
  • Seven Media
  • Weber Shandwick

How to write a winning award entry

I have been helping a number of clients to write award entries recently and noticed one area where everyone seems to have a block.  Passion and excitement over-rides results. It’s not that they don’t mention achievements at all, but they don’t link closely enough to what the client was trying to achieve.

As a judge, it might surprise you to know that the way most judges look at an award entry is in this order

  • What was the brief?
  • What were the results?
  • Do the results match what the brief asked?
  • Do the results look good against this?

And if the results don’t match the objectives or feel worth all the effort – we move on. It may seem brutal, but often I don’t even read ‘what we did’ and certainly don’t look at the supporting material.

So if you want to win an award, you need to spend the most time on demonstrating your results, rather than hours on making your press cuttings look pretty.

I wrote a blog on judging the CorpComms awards, 10 inside secrets to winning an award – from the judges), to give a feel for how it works to be a judge.  While every award has its own process, the principles are the same – what was this campaign meant to achieve and how well did you do against that goal?

If you want to follow up in more detail, I am delivering courses for the PRCA on How to Write a Killer Award Entry – a half day on Tuesday 24 October in Dubai and a second one later this year in London, in November.

Of course, for any award you have to have done something that stands out, is new and innovative and achieved great results.  That is a given.  But too often people who are writing the award entries get carried away with passion and excitement about a highlight eg a celebrity came to our event – and forget to write it as an AWARD ENTRY.

So what should your award entry look like? The PRCA MENA guidelines say they are looking for ‘campaigns that can demonstrate strategy, research, execution, creativity, originality, and documented results and evaluation’. An entry needs to tell the whole story and demonstrate impact.

  1. Tailor your entry to the specific awards and the category

You would not believe how many people enter exactly the same award entry into two or three different categories eg best web design and best consumer campaign.

It feels lazy and to be honest, most judges feel if you can’t be bothered to ‘answer the question’, then why should they be bothered to judge it?  Judges do these things on a voluntary basis.

You would not expect to see the same objectives for the website as a total campaign?  With a website you would probably want to see the focus of goals and evaluation on site visitors and conversion rates. With the consumer campaign you would expect to see all aspects of a campaign, from research through to the impact on the business and including media coverage, events, relationships built – and then how you helped sales or other key business indicators.

  1. Clarity of objectives

I know many clients still see media coverage as the ultimate aim of a PR campaign. But if they get loads of great coverage and no-one buys their products – is that a success?

The more you can relate your campaign to clear business objectives, the more the judges will love you!

I liked the way DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre) had a very clear objective to generate leads – this campaign was last year’s winner in PRCA MENA’s best integrated campaign. They had all sorts of activities and results but the final point in their evaluation is ‘Most critically, 798 qualified business leads were generated via report downloads’.

  1. Create an audit trail for your award entry

When you start explaining what you actually did, you want to relate these back to the problem you are solving.

Let’s imagine we are writing the entry on a campaign to recruit top IT graduates.  What I have seen too often is that the strategy might talk about targeting IT graduates from India.  And then the entry lists lots of media coverage in local media.  It may be that there are a lot of people living locally who have relatives in India and there is evidence that they will share with family back home. But you need to explain why this coverage was relevant.

For every activity, make sure it is clear how this links back to the strategy and how it achieves results.

  1. Supporting evidence

Supporting evidence needs to be clearly laid out and linked back to the goals and evaluation. Brazen PR won the PR and content marketing award last year in the PRCA MENA awards for their campaign with Wendy burgers in the Gulf region. This is a good example of laying out your evidence distinctively and making it easy for the judges.

  1. Results and evaluation

As I said, results are probably the most important part of your entry. Make sure they link back to the objectives and check – do these feel good?! Some clients are reluctant to reveal sensitive trade information – such as sales and visitor numbers.  In these cases, try and show the business impact by using percentage growth figures.  You could even get your client to say ‘This campaign helped us reach our sales targets for launch’.

If you want help with how you turn your great campaigns into killer winners, do come to one of our PRCA training sessions.  You can send me your draft entries in advance and I will include as many as possible in the training session.

Good luck!




Helsinki, ICCO Global Summit, October 6th, 2017 – Leading international networking group GWPR (Global Women in PR) revealed that although women represent two-thirds of the global PR industry, 78% of the CEOs in the top 30 PR agencies worldwide* are men and that they also occupy 62% of seats at the PR boardroom table.

The data collected from the GWPR annual survey, into the working practices of the global PR industry, highlights the fact that very few PR women make it to the top of the profession.

When it comes to salaries women are also falling behind. Comparing like for like, the average salary for men in PR is US$61,284 (£46,156) compared to women US$55,212 (£41,584) – revealing a gender pay gap of $6,072 (£4,572).

By far the biggest gender pay gap is at boardroom level. There is a staggering gap amongst the highest earners, with more than double the number of men (28%) earning over US$150,000 (£113,700) compared to 12% of women.**

The PR workplace does not appear to be more gender equal as we get older – 36% of women believe the PR industry is ageist, compared with 25% of men.

The GWPR survey also provided an important insight into the work/life balance and working practices giving clues as to why more women are not better represented at the top of a profession where they dominate.

One noticeable finding was the confidence gap. Twice as many women (26%) say they are ‘not confident’ asking for a promotion or pay rise, compared to 13% of men. And when asked if they think they will reach the top of the career ladder – 28% of men believe they will ‘definitely’ get there, whereas only 18% of women believe this.

When women were asked what was holding them back the top responses were: ‘it would be too difficult to juggle the demands of a boardroom role with my home and family commitments’ (34%) and ‘I’m not confident enough’ (30%).

Nor surprisingly, 83% of the survey respondents who were parents found balancing childcare and work commitments challenging and 2/3 of women said they took on the main responsibility for organising childcare.

Questions about the workplace clearly revealed the desire for more flexible working. Over half (56%) of the survey respondents believed they could do their job just as efficiently if they didn’t have a fixed office work space.  And a resounding 81% said they felt they would be just as efficient if they could choose the hours they worked. The global PR industry average working week was found to be 44 hours.

Commenting on the survey findings GWPR Co-founder Angela Oakes said “With 24-7 communications and the ability to stay connected anywhere in the world, why do we need to keep to the traditional 9-5 office working day? The PR industry needs to shape up to a newer, more modern way of working. This in turn will help women better manage the demands of work and family commitments so they are given the chance to reach the top of the career ladder.”

“The other clear issue raised by the survey is women’s lack of confidence. We know that gender stereotypes are determined at a very young age and there are social implications. However one solution is mentoring and training women to build confidence. Learning from other successful women that have made it to the top can help enormously in developing the right attitudes to leadership. GWPR represents senior women in the PR industry and we are committed to acting as role models to help the next generation succeed.”

ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham added, “It’s imperative that we address the gender gap, so we can retain talented women in the PR industry. A more balanced boardroom makes sound business sense. We need to work together to make this happen and to shape our industry for the future.


PR 101 Training Session

After spending four hours in this 101 session I must say I felt pretty tired toward the end, but for the better as it had been such an intense crash course in the basics of PR, which I personally had very little prior experience in. Once the group had introduced themselves a brief introduction was made and key figures in the history of PR were touched upon, inspiring quotes were discussed including one of my favorites from Bill Gates, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR…”

The first part of the session allowed the speaker to give us all a basic understanding of PR and we were asked to summarize the field into one word. What seemed like quite a trivial task actually ended up being very beneficial as cleverly the speaker returned to these words at the end of the session. We were again asked how to summarize PR in one word and all of us highlighted different factors, proving the session had somehow impacted us all.

What was also very interesting was the use of local case studies that were included in the session. We were able to see how PR affects the majority of companies today and especially those more localized ones in this particular region. Another effective strategy used to explain the basics of PR was to use the comparison of advertising. By discussing PR via an advertising vs. PR perspective allowed us to make direct comparisons and see the major points in a more concise way.

Once the basics were acquired we then moved on to move interactive tasks which allowed the delegates to apply the previously acquired knowledge. We conversed on what key tools are vital for PR professionals and finally ended the session with different groups developing different PR strategies for certain scenarios. I found this the most valuable part of the session as all the previous knowledge acquired could be put into practice and ideas could be bounced off team members with different backgrounds and expertise. Overall a very constructive, practical session which I would highly recommend for those, who like me know the basics and would like to become more informed and gain further skills in the field.

PRCA announces expulsion of Bell Pottinger

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) announced today that it has imposed its most serious sanctions on Bell Pottinger, following the industry regulator’s investigation into Bell Pottinger’s work for Oakbay Capital in South Africa. The investigation followed a complaint from the Democratic Alliance.

Bell Pottinger’s membership has been terminated with immediate effect. Bell Pottinger will not be eligible to reapply for corporate membership of the PRCA for a minimum period of five years.

Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, said: “Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions. The PRCA has never before passed down such a damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour.

“This outcome reflects the huge importance that the PRCA places on the protection of ethical standards in the business of PR and communications.”

Bell Pottinger has been found to have breached the PRCA Professional Charter and Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct, in the following respects:

  • PRCA Professional Charter clause 1.1;
  • PRCA Professional Charter clause 4;
  • PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 12;
  • PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 13.

The PRCA launched its investigation on 5th July, following a complaint from the Democratic Alliance. Bell Pottinger and Democratic Alliance were able to present written and oral evidence at a hearing of the PRCA Professional Practices Committee on 18th August.

The Professional Practices Committee was unanimous in its view that the Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct had been breached, and recommended to the PRCA Board of Management that Bell Pottinger’s membership be terminated. The Board approved that recommendation unanimously.

Bell Pottinger was given five days in which to appeal the Board’s decision, and submitted an appeal to the PRCA. The PRCA Board of Management met again on Monday, 4th September to make its final ruling.


PRCA Professional Charter clause 1.1:

Have a positive duty to observe the highest standards in the practice of Public Relations and Communications. Furthermore a member has the responsibility at all times to deal fairly and honestly with fellow members and professionals, the Public Relations and Communications profession, other professions, suppliers, intermediaries, the media of communication, colleagues, and above all else the public.

  • The Democratic Alliance alleged during the hearing that Bell Pottinger had ‘exploited racial divisions on behalf of the Gupta family’.
  • The Committee understood the burden of Bell Pottinger’s response to be that the offending element was just one component of a single workstream in a large and complex programme. Further, that the programme was essentially corporate and financial by nature. The Committee tried unsuccessfully to reconcile these assertions with what actually happened in terms of the reaction to the campaign and the level of criticism which it provoked.
  • The Committee acknowledged Bell Pottinger’s eventual response to the problems but felt that a programme designed and managed in accordance with the highest standards of practice in PR and communications could not, and should not, have caused such problems in the first place.
  • The Committee, therefore, found that Bell Pottinger had breached PRCA Professional Charter clause 1.1.

PRCA Professional Charter clause 4

A member is required to take all reasonable care that professional duties are conducted without causing offence on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability or any other form of discrimination or unacceptable reference.

  • The Committee found that the nature of the programme depicted in the documents submitted to Oakbay Capital by Bell Pottinger, and as conducted by Bell Pottinger on Oakbay Capital’s behalf, was by any reasonable standard of judgement likely to inflame racial discord in South Africa and appears to have done exactly that. The Committee did not find the suggestion that this theme of the campaign and its consequences were unintentional to be plausible. The targeting of white corporate South Africa is a material consideration here.
  • The Committee, therefore, found that Bell Pottinger had breached PRCA Professional Charter clause 4.

PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 12

PRCA members conducting Public Affairs and Lobbying services must be at all times aware of the importance of their observance of the principles and duties set out in this Code for the protection and maintenance of their own reputation, the good name and success of their organisation, and the standing of the profession as a whole.

  • Certain aspects of the manner in which the Bell Pottinger campaign was conducted on behalf of Oakbay Capital fell so far short of expected standards that an apology was issued by James Henderson, CEO, in which he described the social media campaign highlighting economic emancipation to be ‘inappropriate and offensive’: ‘these activities should never have been undertaken’. The partner in charge of the campaign was dismissed and two employees were suspended.
  • Asked by the Committee if Bell Pottinger acknowledged that work undertaken by the account team fell short of Bell Pottinger’s own standards, Henderson answered in the affirmative. Henderson agreed that the PRCA’s standards, as set out in the PRCA Professional Charter and Codes of Conduct, could not be described as lower than those of Bell Pottinger itself. Bell Pottinger failed to maintain and protect its own reputation and the standing of the profession as a whole.
  • The Committee, therefore, found that Bell Pottinger had breached PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 12.

PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 13

A member shall not act or engage in any practice or conduct in any manner detrimental to the reputation of the Association or the profession of Public Affairs and Lobbying in general.

  • The Committee formed the unanimous view that the manner in which the Oakbay Capital programme was conceived and delivered indicated a failure on the part of Bell Pottinger’s senior management to oversee and control a campaign which, in the Committee’s view, required the highest level of scrutiny and supervision, given the sensitive political and social environment in which it was activated.
  • In probing this question the Committee was not satisfied that Bell Pottinger’s explanations were fully convincing. This was not in accordance with its members’ own experience as senior managers of large consultancies implementing opinion-forming programmes in sensitive or volatile climates.
  • One outcome was a large volume of highly-critical media coverage of Bell Pottinger’s work on behalf of Oakbay Capital, both in South Africa and internationally, which – in the Committee’s view – has caused damage to the reputations of both Bell Pottinger and the profession of public affairs and lobbying.
  • The Committee, therefore, found that Bell Pottinger had breached PRCA Public Affairs and Lobbying Code of Conduct clause 13.


About the PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is a UK and MENA-based PR and communications membership body, operating in 55 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 20,000 people across the whole range of the PR and communications industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry’s behalf e.g. fighting the NLA’s digital licence.


Over-servicing – five ways to turn losses into profit

By Victoria Tomlinson


Earlier this month I delivered two courses for Dubai PR agencies through PRCA Mena – the first was on over-servicing, particularly around how to turn a loss into profit (the second was on business development techniques).  While both were tailored to the issues of PR companies, the points are relevant to any service business – lawyers, accountants, architects, bankers, marketing agencies and more.

What was interesting about this session was how everyone looked at the issue of over-servicing as being about confrontation. I hope the biggest achievement from the training was to turn around mindsets.

Managing over-servicing is about delivering the best to clients – of course, within budget – and is about finding the win:win. If one side is losing out in the deal, actually no-one is a winner.

So where are the real dangers in over-servicing and how do you tackle them?

What is over-servicing?

First, what is over-servicing?

Before the course, I had posted on LinkedIn asking for tips and stories to share on over-servicing.  Thanks to Mike Moran ceo of best&final who came back with his definition of over-servicing, “Mission creep. A failure to control the ‘Yes Gene’ that seems to be built into all service industry staff. It all amounts to the same thing. An erosion of your profits, which comes about because you are doing more for your client than they are paying you for.”

Essentially, over-servicing is delivering more than agreed for the initial fee, without agreeing an increase. I defined it as

  • Giving away your profits
  • Creating unrealistic client expectations
  • And a stressed team

How does over-servicing happen?

The typical ways for over-servicing to happen are: poor initial brief – so no-one is very clear about what was actually agreed; poor project management – lack of managing (or knowing) how many hours have been spent and managing time against the brief; or the client requesting additional bits of work and no-one saying ‘no’ or agreeing additional fees.

The first two are basic business and project management issues, so I am not covering in detail here.  I am focusing on the trickiest bit – how do you either say no to extra work or ask for more fees to cover extra work that you have done or will need to do?

Saying no – how hard is it?

There are particular cultural challenges to consider in the Middle East, especially ensuring there is no loss of face and that you are not asking a client to say ‘no’.  But to be honest, you want to avoid these in any culture.

Tip #1    Be clear about the issues and successes

Don’t go into a meeting thinking about it as tackling a problem and the client will be seriously unhappy. Start out with a mindset that you have done a great job (jot down your key successes – we often need to remind ourselves of these, let alone the client) and think through how the contract should be run in the future to deliver more great work.  What should you focus on?  What do you need to drop? You need to get your mind into a positive frame.

Tip #2    What’s in it for them?

Too often people go into sales and client management meetings without stopping to think about the client.  What are their pressures, what do they need to be successful in their job, what will be worrying them about your work/agency?  Taking time to think about ‘them’ will help you anticipate how to focus the future.

Tip #3    Prepare, prepare, prepare

Preparation will take a great deal of angst out of the meeting.  You need to look honestly at what has been delivered and if you feel, actually, we haven’t really delivered value (it happens in the best of agencies for the best of reasons) then be prepared to pre-empt this and write some or all of it off.  You need to clear this internally so you can go into the meeting with a strong negotiating position.

Think through options as to what you can offer for the next stage – refocusing the work, amortising what has been billed across the year, dropping activities that achieve little value and so on.

Tip #4    Ask questions


I was interested that in the training, everyone tackled the various scenarios and role plays in the same way.  They all started talking – how good they were, we’ve done this, this is what we propose. No-one started by asking ‘how are you and how are things going?  They didn’t try and tease out how the client was feeling, how they were seeing the problems or the future. So they didn’t know if their chat was hitting home or not.

Questions are one of the most valuable commodities in any client relationship.  Only by listening can you adapt and present your solutions to fit around their perspective and issues.  If you have prepared and have options up your sleeve, you can flex all of this in the meeting.

Tip #5    Smile and be confident

If you go into a meeting thinking of it as a confrontation, you will create the wrong atmosphere from the start, feel sick and lack confidence and nothing will feel like a solution.


However, if you walk in with a big smile and own the meeting – how are you, how’s it going, we’ve loved working with you and so pleased at what’s been achieved, but we need to rethink how we deliver what you really value and need for the next half of this contract’ then you set an upbeat tone to the meeting.  Ask about their priorities, what really matters, drop in your successes, check what is adding least value and then sum it all up.  “So, what we need to do for you in the next six months is get you into these three key media and do an absolutely fantastic launch event, with xyz attending.  We’ll drop this and we are going to put more effort into that.”

No confrontation in here. You are focusing on client service – delivering what really matters to the client.  And if they really want all the extras, then you have to package those for additional fees.  But in a helpful, understanding way.

Of all these tips, what everyone on the course found most helpful was to put themselves in the head of their client, ask questions and to prepare ahead and clear the negotiation internally.  All of them said it felt far more manageable and achievable to get good results.  They promised to let me know when they have successes with this approach!

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