Gulf region accounts for over 90 per cent of $30 million Middle East PR market
Fostering the talent of Gulf Nationals is imperative for the Middle East PR industry, said Jack Pearce, vice chairman of the Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) at the recently concluded International Public Relations Associations (IPRA) Annual Conference held in Dubai.
Pearce, managing director of Matrix PR, pointed out that awareness of different cultural values played an essential part in PR practice and that expatriates will never have the same sensitivity to the mores of the GCC as Gulf Arabs. “As the Gulf accounts for over 90 per cent of the $30 million Middle East PR market, it is essential to induce more GCC Nationals into the profession, where they are currently outnumbered by about 20 to one by Arabs from the Levant,” Pearce said.
Co-panellist Professor Ken Starck, Dean of the College of Communication and Media Studies at Zayed University, echoed Pearce’s view. He emphasised that his university has developed an intensive internship programme to help ensure their graduates, who are all UAE Nationals, had the practical as well as academic skills required by the PR industry. The importance of internships was underscored by Dr. Judy Turk, director of the School of Mass Communication, Virginia Commonwealth University, who recently lead an international survey of the cooperation needed between academia and the PR industry.
Pearce, a 24-year veteran of PR in the Gulf, said that the industry has expanded exponentially over the last 10 years and was continuing to grow at over 20 per cent annually. However this still only corresponds to 1.5 per cent of the region’s advertising spend, in comparison to about three per cent in mature markets. “Awareness of PR as essential management tool has certainly grown, but there are still many organisations which do not recognise that managing their reputation is as important as managing their financial, human, inventory or any other asset,” said Pearce.
Pearce conceded there is still a need to raise the level of professionalism among PR practitioners in the region. This is one of the key goals of MEPRA, and a topic that received much attention at the annual conference. “MEPRA was founded with a mission not only to increase understanding of PR among clients but also to raise the level of PR practiced here. Colleges and Universities have an essential part to play in this. MEPRA fully supports them by frequently providing them with guest lecturers as well as providing internship opportunities,” said Pearce.
He said that the staging of the IPRA annual conference in Dubai this year and in Cairo last year was further evidence of the rapid development of the PR industry in the Middle East. MEPRA is also providing a guest speaker to attend the first ever PR conference to be held in Tehran in late January 2005.
MEPRA was founded three years ago and currently represents 18 PR consultancies, including seven of the world’s top 10 PR firms, as well as 20 Associate, Affiliate and Individual members.