Journalists have their say on the failings of PR people

July 5, 2009

Standards of PR in the Middle East have long been a gripe of journalists in the region. And even as the industry grows in size and influence, a new report confirms that the same old problems remain.

The Media Source / Insight Middle East Journalist Survey 2009 canvassed the opinions of 219 journalists working for Arabic and English-language  newspapers, magazines and broadcasters in 13 countries.

When asked ‘How well  do you believe regional PR agencies undersstand your needs as a journalist?’, over 40 per cent of English-language journalists said ‘poorly’ and over 15 per cent said ‘very poorly’.

The biggest irritant is the sending of irrelevant press releases, but respondents also complained of a failure to respect deadlines and an inability to provide further information when requested. In addition, around 85 per cent said PR agencies and their clients held unnecessary press conferences ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’.

The report quotes one journalist from a magazine in the UAE saying: “I rate a handful (not more than five) people, not companies, in the entire region. The rest are utterly useless. I have worked all over and outside the region.”

And when asked to suggest  how PR agencies could improve, one respondent said: “Do your job – answer requests PROMPTLY for an interview or information, and if it isn’t going to happen tell me in a timely fashion so I can source information elsewhere.” Another added: “Do not harangue me when I publish a story with on-the-record comments from your client that you don’t approve of. They said it – and it isn’t my job to do what you want me to.”

Many of these complaints strike a chord with us at Campaign. Although there are notable exceptions who are prompt, helpful and understanding, there are many who, sadly, are not. Even in the past week, we have come up against great difficulty in getting hold of certain PR people (phones switched off, emails unanswered), refusal to supply information, requests not to print confirmed stories until after they have been announced in public, lack of understanding of deadlines and downright obstructiveness. In defence of PR practitioners, however, we are also aware that corporate and political culture in this region can put constraints on the release of information.

One thing for certain is that a better understanding of journalists’ needs would help both clients and agencies get their message across more successfully.


Performance PR launches in the Middle East

July 5, 2009

Sport and automotive public relations agency Performance PR has launched an office in Dubai.

It is the agency’s first office outside of the UK and will run under the banner of Performance PR Middle East. The Kingston-upon-Thames based outfit, which lists BMW, ExxonMobil, Tesco and Citroen amongst its UK clients, has been active in the Middle East since November. It was charged with leveraging Bahrain’s title sponsorship of Team Pindar’s Open 60 yacht in the Vendée Globe solo, non-stop, round-the-world race.

Operating out of Dubai Media City, Performance PR Middle East will seek both to secure its own clients for representation throughout the GCC and Levant, and act as a regional arm of the UK head office.

Noel Ebdon, a well-known regional automotive journalist, has been appointed managing director of the regional outfit. He said: “The media is evolving fast out here. The PR industry needs to raise its game and we are confident that our new, more tailored offering will prove compelling to businesses in the region, and those wishing to raise their profile across the Middle East.”