If you think you have what it takes to intern at one of the world’s most respected PR agencies – we want to hear from you!

We currently have positions available for a number of superstar interns to join our team in Dubai, UAE.

Successful candidates will work closely with teams across the consumer, healthcare, motoring, financial and technology sectors gaining experience in client servicing, media relations, research and reporting as well as supporting with internal office communications.

Taking part in the H+K Strategies Internship programme will allow candidates to gain invaluable experience at one of the Middle East’s most successful agencies. The structured programme has been developed to encourage creativity and efficiency to ensure candidates get the most out of the opportunity. It is much more than just making tea and spending time reading magazines!

From increasing your knowledge of the communications industry in the UAE, to learning about the media landscape and client servicing, interns at H+K become an integral part of the team, supporting junior and senior members in their day to day account management whilst gaining transferable life and career skills.

Our previous interns have supported us on a variety of large scale global events, to new business development and more targeted media engagement activities across a variety of local, regional and international projects.

If you think you are suited to the job and speak English and/or Arabic – please get in touch with Shadi Moazami at shadi.moazami@hkstrategies.com

Organizations invest in training mainly to develop the skills of their staff and ensure better productivity and profitability.

But as far as communications training is concerned, the advantages go beyond development and productivity. This kind of training equips the organization with the necessary tools to build and manage its reputation.

By simply reading a newspaper every morning or watching television or surfing the internet, people develop perceptions on certain organizations. Whether it is a business announcement, an interview or a response to some issue, this piece of publicity tells a story about the organization, in fact.

What your employees tell their families, friends, colleagues and the wider communities about the organization also contributes to its overall perception.

Your ‘story tellers’ are the communicators, spokespeople and staff. Understanding why to communicate, what to communicate, and how to communicate improves the quality of content communicated to the different audience group.

Equipping the ‘story tellers’ with the knowledge and experience is important and if ‘practice makes perfect’, then training for sure is the starting point!

- Tania Atallah, Account Director, H+K Strategies Dubai

H+K Strategies offer a range of training courses for executives and management involved in communications – from media relations to crisis management; executive spokesperson training to delivering presentations with impact.

Visit H+K Strategies Dubai on LinkedIn for more information on specific courses.

Last week H+K Middle East lost a leader, a great man who – in seven short years – took Hill + Knowlton’s regional business to new heights. He inspired many of us to strive beyond our expectations of ourselves, challenged our clients to new ideas and created opportunities for the organisation through his dedication and commitment to the world of communications and the region as a whole.

H+K worldwide is collecting memories and tributes to ‘the big man’, compiling the thoughts of colleagues, friends, H+K alumni, clients, partners and media into a book to share with his family and friends. If you would like to contribute, please see LinkedIn for details, and send your tribute by Tuesday 2nd October.

In the meantime, we leave you with the thoughts so eloquently expressed by our friends at The National this weekend.

http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/media/tragic-loss-leaves-a-very-big-hole-at-hill-knowlton

In part 2 of the series looking at engaging Generation Z, the ‘net gens’, H+K’s Hasan Badwan tackles’s the ‘#how?’ in marketing strategy.

In an earlier blog post, we discussed why brands should target Generation Z (also known as teenagers) in their communications strategies.  We identified that the fickleness and purchasing power of teenagers represent great opportunities for brands to create brand loyalty for years to come.  There are interesting challenges, however, that make it increasingly difficult for marketers to target this segment.  It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that teenagers have a (very) short attention-span.  Capturing their attention long enough to recognize your brand and buy your products is a major hurdle.  Furthermore, most marketers are at least two generations older/ more advanced/ (insert euphemism here) than their target.  How do we bridge the gap without sounding like we arrived 15 years too late for the prom?

When presented with these challenges, most communications professionals have a very predictable, almost knee-jerk answer – ‘social media’.  They then proceed to create a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and then shout out their messaging.  Interestingly, this tends to turn off current teenagers than to grab their attention.  The major failing of these methods is that they are not personal enough, and this feature is the secret to success with teenagers.

Take, for example, a Facebook post or a Tweet that was drafted to target thousands of fans.  By addressing so many people at once, the messaging in that post will have to be diluted, thus making it impersonal.  A closer look at teenage online information consumption reveals that they overwhelmingly rely on the company’s website to gather more information.  While this might sound counter-intuitive, access to a website allows teenagers to find the information they need, when they need it. 

Another major source that teenagers turn to for brand information is blogs.  This point cannot be stressed enough.  An effective blogger outreach program will do more to build brand awareness and loyalty than a Facebook page with really cool status updates.  Bloggers are the bridge between our messages and our target audience.  They represent a more honest voice and are therefore more highly trusted by teenagers.

All of this points to the three most important letters you need to know for your brand’s online presence – SEO.  The simple truth is that no one will find you if you can’t be found.  Getting your brand mentioned on blogs as well as online news coverage will increase the chances that your positive messages are the first things teenagers see when they search for you.

We’ve now seen why we should target teenagers and how to do it.  But once you grab the attention of this demographic, what do you tell them?  You might be surprised with the differences (and similarities) in how we address Generation Z, which will be revealed in part 3 of this Generation Zeries.

- Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

Hardly a week goes by without a news story or research report into the growing use of social media across the Middle East. However, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject was released just last week, authored by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program.

The “Arab Social Media Report” (ASMR) provides some welcome quantitative analysis in a field often dominated by anecdote and hypothesis, and delivers a host of illuminating insights – for example, that Kuwaitis are the most active tweeters in the region.

I don’t want to go into much detail but highly recommend taking a closer look at the report.

But what does all this analysis mean for us, as we look to add value and wisdom to our clients in government and business?

Let’s have a quick look at the numbers…

The youth (15-29) are embracing social media most, which is unsurprising given that over half the population falls into this category. As stated in the report, “social media now infiltrates almost every aspect of the daily lives of millions of Arabs, affecting the way they interact socially, do business, deal with government, or engage in civil society movements.

However, one of the common mistakes that brands make as they move into social communications is to treat the discipline as a broadcast medium, rather than an interactive experience. This usually stems from a failure to listen to their audience, before wading in and talking at consumers.

This is where “Smart Listening” comes in – a practice that emphasizes a tailored approach to help understand chatter in the digital sphere and filter noise in the social realm. The ultimate objective of “smart listening” is to extract the relevant signals from online conversations and build business intelligence that supports outreach and engagement. This means that social media monitoring must be customised beyond simple keyword tracking. Keywords and hash tags must be tested and spam filtered, and topics must be drilled into to uncover subtopics and conversation drivers.

Another aspect of “Smart Listening” is to identify opinion drivers, or so called “influencers” and understand the ways they participate in, and shape, online conversations about brands, products or companies.

Simply counting mentions about your company or products provides you with that – numbers without context. At the very least these should be benchmarked against competitors and tracked over time. Numbers with no context will not provide any insight which is required to build a strategy – and this is where “Smart Listening” starts. By breaking down conversations and extracting detailed product and customer feedback, feedback on your company’s corporate social responsibility activities (CSR), how people perceive your company’s (reputation) and how your messages resonate with consumers, journalists, bloggers and analysts; is an approach which doesn’t neglect quantitative data but goes beyond it by adding qualitative analyses.

By identifying relevant topics, key drivers and influencers within the online conversation prior to starting your journey into the space of social media will help avoid any pitfalls, and the continuation of a sophisticated monitoring program will provide a company with valuable insights and allow for higher levels of audience engagement and business goals to be achieved.

- Sebastian Troch, digital consultant, Hill+Knowlton AMEASCA

The latest issue of Middle East Media Educator is out today, and a great read for those in the industry looking to get under the skin of local markets, media and communications trends.

This is the second annual issue under the MEME banner, published by Alma Kadragic (@Almakad) at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, and lives up to the expectations set by the first.

Katy Branson, Head of Technology for H+K Strategies in the UAE, has contributed an article exploring ‘Technology in Media and Communications: Catalyst, Enabler, or Driver of Change?’.

Here’s a snapshot of the article…

In today’s world of always-on connectivity, convergent communications and media  pervasiveness, it would be difficult to deny the pivotal role of technology in changing the shape of society in general and communications specifically. The ‘art’ of communication is unrecognizable in comparison to what our predecessors  had to go to in order to speak with relatives, friends and business contacts. And by predecessors, we do not need to search back far– just through one generation to the world in which our parents were raised is enough to ring the changes.

The question is whether it is the technology itself that is driving evolution in our communications environment. To what extent is the rate of technological change in communications media exerting a direct influence on aspects such as the need for regulatory change in the industry, creation of new media markets and spurring quite radical social change in the region…or should we be looking at social change from a different perspective?

 

…Turn to p109 of MEME to read on!

When thinking of communications, the focus can rest on flashy PR campaigns that generate a sizeable amount of coverage. And when the impact of the first campaign withers away another campaign is formulated create another wave of recognition!

Effective communications is about sustaining a momentum that builds, elevates or maintains the organization’s profile and help it achieve its business goals. Here is an ABCD (and E!) approach to make it happen:

Step 1: Align- understand what is your organization trying to achieve (business goals), where did communications fail or succeed in the past and what could be done better.

Step 2: Build- develop your plan to take you where you want to be and set metrics. Prepare the messages, content and formalize your processes.

Step 3: Communicate- engage with your audience and convey your message in their own language using tactics that they can relate to and channels they trust!

Step 4: Discover- did your message resonate! Did it manage to shape or change perceptions? Research in the form of audits, surveys or focus groups can tell you!

Step 5: Evaluate- revisit your plan, messages and tactics to bridge any gaps identified in the previous stage and engage again.

Communication is an ongoing dialogue between an organization and its stakeholders and never a stand-alone monologue!

It should be looked at as an organic function that adapts to the organisation’s evolution, market change, stakeholders’ perceptions and community needs.

- Tania Atallah, Account Director at H+K Strategies, Dubai

The past two years has been a turning point for our generation as market prospects changed and economies deteriorated. The vicious cycle of the global economy diminished employment prospects to an all-time low in many countries which has also become increasing prevalent across the region.

Over the last year we have witnessed the rise of the “Arab Spring” and seen the youth call for improved economic conditions and better employment opportunities. This revolutionary period has also seen individuals calling for a better future for generations to come by placing governments under pressure to find solutions and fast. They want answers to their questions; will I find a job after graduation? How can my public and private sector help my employment prospects? What other avenues are available to me?

The answer is to build up entrepreneurial capacity amongst today’s youth.

By working together, governments and the private sector in the MENA region have the ability to build the skills of the future generation so that entrepreneurship becomes a viable career option as starting a new business provides an economic advantage to a community.

Over the next 10 years, the average annual growth rate in the labour force in the MENA region is an estimated two per cent per year; youth need to take matters into their own hands by taking the initiative in creating jobs for themselves and others.

Hill + Knowlton Strategies has a long standing partnership with INJAZ Al-Arab to help foster entrepreneurship across the region. INJAZ Al-Arab focuses on working with the private sector and government to educate students and provide them with the necessary skills and qualifications needed to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Recently named one of the top NGO’s in the world by Global Journal, INJAZ Al-Arab operates in 15 countries across the MENA region and is a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide. INJAZ Al-Arab programs provide middle school students with entrepreneurial mentorships; a great example of how the private sector can support and benefit the next generation of business leaders. INJAZ Al-Arab gives the Arab youth an opportunity to tackle entrepreneurship head on with no fear. Once they believe in their potential and live their dreams, they will become a key factor in benefiting the local economy and a driver of the community.

To-date, INJAZ-Al Arab has reached out to over 1 million youth and the organisation hopes to reach many more.

- Noor Ghazzi – Junior Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Close your eyes, and picture someone in their teens.  This person will, in all likelihood, possess technology it took you years (or decades!) to get your hands on.  He or she may regard the CD player as the ancient relic of a lost generation.  This person will not remember the global fears of the Y2K bug, but that’s just fine because they can read about it on their shiny new smartphone as they watch television on their laptop.  Congratulations – you’ve just met your new target audience.

In recent years, the term ‘Gen Z’ has become the industry’s new favorite catch-phrase.  While there is some debate as to who exactly falls under the category, it is largely accepted that if someone was born in the mid-nineties onwards, they belong to Generation Z.  The growing trend in the communications industry is to target this group of people, with some sports-wear brands opting to develop messaging exclusively for them.

The question at this point clearly becomes ‘why?’.  Why target a group of people who are fickle, are not independent, and do not have a regular stream of disposable income?  The answer is that brands should target Gen Z because of these traits, not in spite of them.

The indecisive and unpredictable nature of consumption among Gen Z-ers presents an opportunity for brands to reach new customers.  At such a young age, it is unlikely that teenagers have developed strong emotional ties to brands.  This means that brands have an opportunity to persuade teenagers to ditch their current preferences for new ones.

Some may argue that this generation does not have true purchasing power because they don’t have disposable income and because they must ultimately purchase through their parents.  It is crucial however to understand that possessing purchasing power does not necessarily mean one needs the money to exercise it.  By pressuring their parents, friends, and families, teenagers are able to direct money to the brands they most want to build their identities around.  Furthermore, there is a certain ‘coolness’ or nostalgia associated with the younger generation that the older counterparts crave.  By effectively selling to Gen Z, a brand can frame its communication strategies in terms that appeal to all age-groups.

We are seeing more and more brands target Generation Z in order to create a loyal customer-base for many years to come.  Of course, these arguments help us understand why brands should target Gen Z.  We will discuss how brands can carry out such a strategy with in a (near-)future post.

- Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Is it just me, or is your Facebook wall jam-packed with baby photos these days as well? Single friends are threatening to abandon ship while new parents happily post pictures and videos on a daily basis. With Gen Y beginning to join the Gen X’s  in moving on from the party lifestyle to tie the knot and start a family, Facebook seems to be turning into more of a family album than the rock ‘n’ roll collection of nights out and morning-after gossip that it used to be. What started as a college network has found itself facing adulthood.

In terms of Facebook’s mission, ‘giving people the power to share’ still makes this one of the most effective social tools for keeping in touch with family and friends, especially those spread across countries far and wide. But will it appeal to the next generation – the ‘net generation’ – in the same way?

With every generational jump comes the question of whether today’s trends and tools will endure the test of time. “Change is the only constant”, after all. Facebook, whose value is based on – amongst other things – development of user numbers, is now challenged with living up to the expectation that it is going to continue its growth path to deliver advertising audiences and opportunities for engaging a captured market way into the future.

Approximately one in thirteen people on earth are on Facebook, and today’s 35+ year old demographic represents one-third of the entire user base. Whilst the fastest growing group is currently the generation of 17-24 year olds, the percentage overall that they represent still remains less than that of people around the age of their parents. Even if the younger generation are comfortable with their parents seeing what goes on in their lives, but do they really want to be on the same social network as their grandparents? Judging by the 164 ‘likes’ for the Gen Z Facebook group, we might doubt they do!

With a global presence established, Facebook needs to continue expanding, adapting and extending its offer to appeal to new markets of consumers.  Whether this means the fragmentation of the social network we know and love remains to be seen, but watch this space because it will be interesting to see how Facebook develops in a bid to maintain the value of ‘Facebook Inc’ into the future.

- Katy Branson, Head of Technology UAE at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

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