Whether it’s due to the Arab spring or the increasing influence of Al-Jazeera, it’s definite that the public relations industry is increasingly paying attention to the Arab world. The first ever “Arab International Public Relations Conference” has just been announced and is planned for June 25-26, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. Co-sponsored by the Arab Administrative Development Organization, a “semi-independent, multifunctional organization under the umbrella of the Arab League”, and the International Public Relations association, one of the world’s most influential professional associations in the PR business, undoubtedly this conference will be tremendously effective.
The conference will discuss issues including “Reputation is Performance + Behavior + Communication”, and its stated mission “is to communicate the concept and role of public relations, as the leading force behind success or failure of any entity.” While undoubtedly this attention will teach the Arab world how to be more effective at managing the media and reputation issues one wonders if the Israel Public Relations Association will be allowed/represented at the conference.
The world’s largest PR firm, Edelman recently announced that they have a team called Arabizing Edelman which helps employees to “understand the region and Arabic culture from a business and cultural perspective.” Similarly, Sunil John, CEO of public relations agency ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, of the largest PR consultancies in the Middle East, owned by WPP Group wrote “..in the Arab world, the PR sector is expanding especially rapidly. The total value of the industry now stands at about $500 million. Within a decade, the industry will be worth $1 billion annually in the Middle East alone.”
Will the traditionally-liberal PR industry speak out about the brutal conditions Arab regimes place upon journalists or simply take advantage of the many business opportunities created as a result of the Arab Spring?
While freedom is still a foreign concept in much of the Arab media world, digital media has exploded during the “Arab Spring”, and the digital media companies have also taken notice. Twitter announced a partnership with Connect Ads and late last year Facebook and Linkedin both opened new regional advertising offices in Dubai to service much of the Middle East.
Of course, this movement can affect Israel in a major way, as Arab countries are very concerned about their Western image. The Egyptian Tourist Authority recently hired a Madison Avenue ad agency to increase tourism, and Bahrain, which tortures its own citizens (and doesn’t recognize Israel’s existence) hired ten Western public relations companies in 2012. There’s much more of that to report on as well.
The growth of these digital and public relations companies will only mean increased focus and attention on communications for Arab countries and companies. The impact this has upon the West – and the State of Israel – is a question which will start to be answered in 2013.