In The Middle East, Public Relations is a Thing of Its Own and Yes There Are Rules

If you’re seeking to conduct some press work in the Middle East, whether you work for an agency or for a client, make sure you don’t fall into the same traps that others have. Before visiting the Middle East, there are four things you should know:

1.     Arabic language is the king.

Everyone will try to explain the dynamics of the country you’re in within your first 24 hours on the ground, and they may even try to impress you with their knowledge of their country’s monarchs, princes, and sheikhs. But what they won’t tell you is that the Arabic language is the genuine ruler of the nation and the only royalty you need to worry about in your area of employment. I keep seeing really strong PR experts come to town and design terrific communication strategies that rapidly turn into duds because the strategy and content don’t transfer well into Arabic. What’s more alarming is that I keep seeing public relations agencies create press stuff in English first, then translate it into Arabic. Then they’re dissatisfied when their material is rejected by clients and editors due to bad writing. This is something I can’t stress enough. Arabic is the official language of the country. When talking in the Middle East, Arabic is king. However, he is a decent king. If you obey him, you’ll most certainly end up rewarded.

2.     Language-wise, Middle Eastern nations are similar to the United States, and culture-wise, they are similar to Europe.

Even if they speak the same language, one thing you should learn is that while the world can portray Arab countries in one hue, the truth on the ground is that they are not all the same. Consider the Middle East as an area halfway between the United States and Europe, where practically every nation has its own culture, language, government, trends, and history. We all speak the same language as the United States. Each Arab country, like Europe, has its own culture and national objectives. This has a direct influence on how the press operates. Business editors in Kuwait for example, adore well-written market insights and thought leadership pieces. That’s because their writers are too preoccupied with covering the stock market, which is what their consumers want, to devote time to writing in-depth stories. NGO, CSR, and community-engagement tales, on the other hand, do not receive much attention. Those sorts of tales, particularly entrepreneurship stories, go a long way in Jordan and actually interest your audience. Why? This is due to the fact that each country’s national agenda differs. The same can be said for other Middle Eastern nations, such as Saudi Arabia, where stories about human development, large-scale job efforts, and women’s empowerment are on the agenda. Indeed, if you work for a firm moving into Saudi Arabia and intending to recruit and train locals, be sure to include a human development narrative in your press outreach. It will go a long way.

3.     Blogs for consumer stories, dailies for business and politic.

Because they have a de facto monopoly on political and business news, as well as the financial strength to retain opinion writers, the Middle East is the only region in the world where dailies continue to enjoy increase in circulation and advertising income. The Middle East is also likely the only region in the world where the blogosphere has yet to be properly monetized, with under-resourced but enthusiastic young bloggers who are students or have day jobs leading the charge. Despite this, they are more effective in gaining a following for consumer and lifestyle articles due to their youth. That isn’t to say they aren’t involved in political commentary because they are, but they aren’t as involved or constant as daily newspapers due to a lack of financial means. People now read daily for political and business news and commentary, and blogs for consumer and lifestyle articles, creating a really unusual dynamic. What does this imply for you personally? If you’re visiting the Middle East to promote a client’s business, political, or financial story go directly to the daily and ignore the rest of the channels, at least for now. If you’re going to the Middle East to launch a consumer product, though, you should go straight to the blogosphere and not look back.

4.     Take into consideration women discussion forums.

After search engines and email providers, what are the most popular websites in the Middle East? Is it a specific blog? Perhaps an online pan-Arab newspaper? Here is an insider’s tip that only locals are privy to. Women’s discussion forums are among the most popular internet destinations in Arab countries. Yes, women’s discussion forums compete with the Middle East’s biggest news and sports websites. So, if you’re marketing a product or service to women in our part of the world, make sure you include the top women’s discussion forums in your digital communication strategy and have a message-based social strategy that engages them.

Finally, you should know and keep in mind that the Middle East is diverse, interesting, and dynamic in every manner, and it is rapidly expanding in all fields. For your audiences, you may develop long-term online and offline communication tactics that actually link them to your business. All you have to do is speak to them in their own language, initiate a conversation, and work around their priorities.

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