By Layth Dajani, Founder and CEO, The Content Factory, our PRGN affiliate based in Dubai
Know your audience – it is, with good reason, pretty much the first rule of public relations. The cardinal rule, really. And as an increasing number of international tech firms eye the Middle East’s burgeoning market – Gartner recently forecasted the region’s IT spend to grow to USD 214.7 billion in 2015, heralding a steady influx of global tech solution providers into the region – it’s this rule these firms ought to keep in mind: know your audience.
But don’t expect to accomplish this straight off the bat – for most companies knowledge comes attached with years of intimate experience with the market; the Middle East is, after all, a pretty diverse region, and the cultural mechanics that keep it ticking are complicated.
Still, there are a few tricks and tools of the PR trade that can help a new market entrant unlock the region’s enormous potential. Here are a few of the most important ones.
Understand the lay of the land
Many-a-time people living outside of the Middle East will regard it as a single unit – it’s not. While the region is clubbed together courtesy of common geo-political and socio-cultural traits, it comprises 18 distinct countries with often vastly different cultural norms. For instance, the media in one country may prefer an informal press meet to the cold efficiency of a press conference. Your modus operandi would have to be dictated by the preferences of the country you’re looking to court.
Always make time for a personal hello
One of the crucial ingredients of running a successful business in the Middle East is building strong, lasting relationships. So whether it’s clients or the media, taking the time for even the simplest in-person interaction can count for a lot.
Customise your message
Simply go the McDonalds route – the fast food giant customises its products to each of the regions it has outlets in, and this strategy can prove winning when applied to PR, especially in the Middle East. Customise all content, and if possible customise it to individual countries rather than to the region as a whole.
Cross the language barrier
If possible, develop all content in two languages – English and Arabic. If also possible, when promoting Arabic content to different countries in the Middle East, tailor the content to the specific dialect of the country. A cautionary note, though: translation agencies in the Middle East are a dime-a-dozen. Opt for one with a solid reputation.
And, of course, social media…
Blogging isn’t as big in the Middle East as it is in other parts of the world, but social media penetration rates are now at an all-time high. Local publications have reported that up to 88% of the region’s online users access social media channels daily, so make sure social media is a big part of your PR activities in the Middle East.
One last thing: transferring brand equity from one market to another can be quite challenging, so it might be an idea to initiate your PR efforts a few months before you make a formal entry into the market, allowing you to enjoy a smooth landing.
What are your PR tips for your region? Let us know with a comment below or by emailing [email protected].