International comms: meet Procre8, Dubai

Ian Saldanha Director - Client Services at Procre8OG catches up with Ian Saldanha, Senior Account Manager at Procre8, to hear about public relations in the UAE and the wider GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region. He tells us about the opportunities and challenges, and shares what’s unique about the area’s media landscape.

Tell us about your agency
Procre8 is a boutique, full-service, IT specialist, B2B public relations and social media agency based in Dubai.

With over 17 years of technology market knowledge and strong relationships with the media, we at Procre8 specialise in delivering creative, innovative and personalised end-to-end PR services for clients in the GCC region.

Fun fact: we are actually three brothers. We are grateful every day that we are able to work and enjoy our successes together.

In what circumstances should clients working on international campaigns opt for an international network, as opposed to a wholly owned agency?
In our experience, clients that work with wholly owned agencies tend to do so because of corporate imperatives. And while there are benefits to this approach, specifically from an agency management standpoint, the results don’t always support the approach. This is because, while large agencies – on paper – boast an expansive reach and guaranteed uniformity in quality and methodology, there is generally a large variation in the quality of their services, as well as outcomes, from region to region.

This is especially true in ‘second tier’ and emerging markets, like the UAE and wider GCC, which often have quite nuanced market dynamics and cultural norms. This warrants a highly tailored approach that can differ quite significantly from the tools and techniques used in mature markets.

In short, wholly owned agencies can offer the simplicity of dealing with a single entity that’s well-versed with the brand. But when it comes to delivering campaigns with truly outstanding outcomes, trusting a group that comprises of proven market leaders in each geography that have strong media relationships and understand the local market dynamics, is often the best way to go.

Can you tell us about some of the current trends in your region?
One of the biggest changes sweeping the region has been the digitisation of news media and the way businesses and individuals consume content. Of course, this hasn’t been an overnight trend, but it’s certainly been more evident in the last two years. Unlike other regions, print media such as magazines and daily newspapers remain widely read and highly respected. However, it is evident from the number of long-standing publications that have closed shop over the last two years that this is rapidly changing.

In line with this, the region’s B2B sector is now beginning to make an earnest attempt at establishing its presence on social media. Unfortunately, a lot of these efforts are misguided with ‘FOMO’ being the main motivator rather than a clearly defined, long-term digital strategy.

What communications mistakes might a foreign agency, with limited understanding of your region, make?
What foreign agencies often fail to understand is the extent to which political correctness needs to be adhered to in the region. It is rare to find publications that are willing to publish content that is even slightly controversial. Of course, it is only through living here that one can get a sense of what IS and ISN’T controversial! There are many perceptions in the West that are simply untrue whereas other areas that are taken for granted can sometimes be taboo.

Another misstep that’s often made is that organisations treat the Middle East as a single country rather than a region. This unfortunately means they overlook the stark differences in culture and even language between the countries that comprise the region. Yes, Arabic is widely spoken across these different nations, but its variations from one country to the next can be comparative to the variations in Portuguese between Portugal and Brazil.

What sets good agencies apart in your region? What do they offer?
When Procre8 was established back in 2008, it was in response to a dire need for a technology-focused agency that prioritised personalised service, and went the extra mile for its clients. Rather than an ‘agency-client’ relationship, we see ourselves as an extension of our clients, and our work and results reflect this approach. What really sets us, and other good agencies, apart is the quality of content we generate and our strong media relations. A lot of foreign companies take this for granted and try to push global announcements – customer wins, product launches, industry research etc. – in the region without any attempt to localise it or explain its value. For both traditional PR as well as social media, content is king, and this is certainly true in the Middle East.

Of course, to succeed it’s also necessary to have a keen understanding of market dynamics. For example, no matter how interesting your client’s product or service is, it won’t be of any interest to publications in Saudi Arabia unless your story has a strong local angle. In the UAE on the other hand, content that has a broader ‘Middle East’ focus will still be widely published. There are plenty such nuances that well-established agencies with their ear to the ground are in the know about!

How can we find out more?
True to the nature of business in the Middle East, all Procre8’s clients have signed on after hearing about our agency by word-of-mouth, or after working with us indirectly in some way, shape or form. Because we’re a small agency, we remain highly selective about the clients and projects we take on as this ensures that we can serve each to the high standards we have set in the market. It’s also the reason we haven’t invested heavily in our digital presence, though essential information is available on our website www.procre8.biz.

The best way to get in touch with us is by email: colin@Procre8.biz, vernon@procre8.biz or ian@procre8.biz.

In this series, we hear from ION agencies based in different international locations to find out about local opportunities and challenges in PR, as well as local news and trends. Octopus Group’s ION network is our international network of top-class PR and comms consultancies. We work together to provide our clients with local specialism in whichever region they’re targeting. We also offer management services to help you combine all activities under one, overarching campaign strategy that helps you meet your unique objectives and goals.