RIYADH: The KSA Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) Leadership Majlis explored how communications professionals can remain relevant in a time of change for the industry.
MEPRA included speakers from the UK government, the Red Sea Development Co., the Center for Government Communication, Arab News, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) and Page.
The conference, held on Monday at the Hyatt Regency, brought together senior communications professionals to address the industry’s biggest challenges, trends and opportunities.
The 2019 KSA MEPRA Leadership Majlis covered the theme “Impact and Influence” through presentations and panel discussions on the Saudi brand and changing perceptions of the country.
Faisal Al-Zahrani, executive board member of the International Public Relations Association, discussed some of the challenges and changes in the communications field that Saudi Arabia is experiencing.
“The internet revolutionized the public relations and communications industry, traditional skills like writing, crisis management and public speaking are not adequate anymore. We need to have an enhanced expertise in social media content.”
During the panel discussion on “Shaping Perceptions of Saudi Arabia,” Sultan Al-Bazie, chairman of the Arab Network for Communications and Public Relations, said that the Vision 2030 reform plans are not presented as they should be. “There is a lack in communication and the only person who was able to convey that was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he said.
Al-Bazie added that the Saudi government’s communications are not able to convey the right message.
He argued that these entities must be more open to the audience and more able to communicate directly and professionally.
Noor Nugali, senior correspondent at Arab News, was part of the “Changing Face of Modern Media” panel discussion, where she discussed an important topic that most journalists appreciate: Speed.
“From a journalistic point of view, we have to be the first, however, most importantly we have to be accurate and this is something we pride ourselves on.
“Everybody wants to be the first. Everyone wants to have that person of information. Obviously this is important but it is not as important as accuracy and getting the full truth. It may not be easy, but it is something that we pride ourselves on,” she added.
Nugali also discussed how the quality of information is essential but challengeable, especially when spokespersons do not cooperate, she said: “This is something journalists in Saudi Arabia or around the world might complain about.”
Fahad Bahdailah, vice president of corporate communications at Saudia, discussed the power of partnership between Saudia and Formula E, and the export potential of a Saudi brand.
When Bahdailah was asked of how to reduce the lack of communication between the government and the public, he said: “A lot of people have this misperception about spokespersons. The spokesperson should not be in the media all the time. He should be in the media when there is a need for him to be in the media.”